Groundhog for Dinner
There was a reason why I titled my blog “How Did This Happen to a City Girl?” and it had nothing to do with groundhogs. It had more to do with marrying a farm boy and learning about life on a farm. It was about adjusting to living in a house where chicken feathers mixed in with the dust bunnies. It was about touching a gun for the first time while in my mid-thirties and then nursing the bruise caused by shooting a shotgun for the first time. But most of all it was because of my decision to start hunting for food and groundhogs were not food.
My first 10 years of hunting were pretty normal. I only hunted things that most everyone else around these parts hunted like deer and turkey and rabbit. But if you trace my family tree back a few generations, you’ll run into a line of Appalachian hill folk. I think somewhere deep inside my DNA was a hillbilly wanting to come out. So I decided to start squirrel hunting. I love squirrel hunting. Well that critter was crossing the line a bit for not only my city kin but also for quite a few of my deer and turkey hunting brethren. Even so, squirrel hunting has become a bit trendy and while squirrel enchiladas for dinner raise a few eyebrows, most people have at least heard of people hunting and eating squirrels.
When my husband and I moved to the farm, I managed to avoid the job of varmint control for many years. And while we don’t subscribed to a “kill ‘em all” philosophy, we do protect our chickens and want to limit damage to the crops we grow. Somewhere along the way and by necessity, I started participating. One thing led to another and now 20 years later, I have become the chief of groundhog control.
On summer evenings, it is not uncommon for a few farmers to congregate around the tractors parked in the driveway after a day in the field. Some beer gets drank and once in awhile the conversation turns to groundhog hunting. There is always someone that brings up how their grandmother used to cook up groundhog back in the day. It is quite curious as to why our culture does not look at groundhogs as food. They eat the same things as a rabbit after all. At the end of the day though, I never paid a whole lot of attention to all the talk about eating groundhogs because well, those driveway meetings, alcohol was involved. Then one day I was talking to one of our former wildlife officers and he started telling me about these wonderful groundhog meatballs he ate one time. Here was a very normal person talking of eating groundhogs and the conversation was not even being fueled by alcohol. After this, I paid much more attention to the summer evening in the driveway conversations. I listened about which groundhogs to eat and how to dress them out. My hillbilly roots could not resist any longer. In 2015, I vowed that I would cook and eat some groundhog. Step one was acquiring a couple young groundhogs. That happened on June 20th and the story can be found in my blog post “Groundhog Trifecta”. I dressed out another young groundhog later in the summer which gave me three young groundhogs in the freezer to cook up later.
I decided to cook them as I would a squirrel. That meant covering them with chicken broth, adding a few seasonings and cooking them in the crockpot until the meat was tender and falling off the bone. The three small groundhogs gave me about 4 cups of cooked meat. I used 2 cups for a batch of white bean chili. The other 2 cups of cooked meat I froze and used later for some groundhog pot pie. (Recipes to follow.) The meat was delicious, very mild and light in texture. I could taste that I was eating a different critter more in the pot pie than in the chili but it was quite pleasant. The door is now open. I am even thinking about using a little bit older whistle pig, grinding the meat and making some of those groundhog meatballs. My hunting journey continues.
White Bean Groundhog Chili
2 cups cooked shredded groundhog meat
Chopped onion (I used about ¼ to ½ cup depending on my mood)
2 cloves of garlic
2 (15.5 oz) cans of Cannellini (white kidney) beans
1 cup of chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can of chopped green chilies
Chopped bell pepper (I probably use about the same amount as the onions)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ - ½ teaspoon black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream as toppings
I sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Then everything except the toppings goes into the crockpot on low all day. Top with shredded cheddar and sour cream and enjoy.
Easy Weeknight Groundhog Pot Pie
2 cups cooked shredded groundhog meat
1 (10 ¾ oz) can cream of chicken soup
1-2 cups of mixed vegetables of your choice (cooked or frozen)
1 cup of sour cream
Seasonings of your choice (sorry for the lack of specifics, but I do things different every time. Sometimes I add some sautéed onion and/or garlic. Or I might just add some garlic powder. Maybe some pepper. Maybe some herbs like oregano or thyme. Whatever I am feeling.)
1 (8 oz) can of refrigerated crescent rolls.
NOTE: The refrigerated rolls are enough to cover a 9 X 13 pan of pot pie mixture if you make the 2 squares into one big rectangle. That is a lot of pot pie for the two of us so I use a 7 X 11 pan with the above amounts of ingredients. If you wanted to make a full 9 X 13 pan, I would add more mixed veggies and a second can of cream of chicken (or mushroom or whatever) soup.
- Mix meat, vegetables, soup, sour cream and seasonings in a large bowl. Spread in a greased 7 X 11 pan.
- Unroll the crescent roll dough. There will be two squares. Pinch the perforated seams closed. Place the two squares over the top of the meat/veggie mixture in the pan. The squares will overlap just a bit. Press the outside edges of the dough to the edge of the baking pan.
- Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.
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