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Small Game Recipe
Fried Muskrat With Milk Gravy

Number of Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

Muskrat

3 to 4 Muskrats (quartered)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lard or similar fat
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Gravy

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons pan drippings
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put flour, salt and pepper in paper bag and shake up.  Place pieces of meat in bag and coat.
In heavy fry pan, melt butter and lard together.  Should be enough cooking to cover bottom of pan will (1/8 inch).  Have it hot but not smoking.
Put pieces of meat in pan and brown on both sides.  When all pieces are brown, cover and turn down heat.  Cook slowly until tender (approximately 30 minutes).  If it starts to burn turn down heat some more and add more fat.  When done remove to hot platter and make gravy.
Pour gravy over the meat and serve.

Brown Gravy

Measure pan drippings and add enough butter to get 4 plus tablespoons.  Heat to hot again and add flour.  Mix well and keep stirring fat and flour together until desired color of brown (not burned).
Should be a mixture with the consistency of thick pancake batter or paste.  Add 1/4 cup milk while stirring to get well mixed - not lumpy.  Add another 1/2 cup milk and continue stirring.  When boiling again add remaining milk stirring constantly until mixture boils and thickens.

Gray Gravy

Use same ingredients except mix flour and milk together until well blended.  Heat pan dripping to hot then slowly stir in milk and flour mixture.  Keep stirring until the gravy boils and thickens.

Notes & Variations:

Dressing the muskrat - first skin the animal, this is generally done "Case" style in which the animal is hung by the hind legs, then:
Remove the tail
Remove the front feet where fur joins hide and cut fur around hind legs where fur joins the hide.
Open hide up from hock to tail and both legs and carefully separate the skin from the carcass.
Pull down over the animal like a slip over sweater.
Remove the entrails by opening the abdominal cavity from the chest to the rear, watching that you don't puncture or cut any glands
Remove the scent and musk glands carefully along with as much fat as possible.
Musk Glands - these are fairly large and lie under the skin on the lower part of the abdomen just below the tail.  They are cream to light yellow and have a cellular or corrugated appearance.
Scent Glands - there are four pair and they resemble cream to yellow waxy looking pea shaped kernels.  One pair is located in front arm pits.  One pair in the groin region.  One pair between the shoulders and one pair in small of the back near the rump.
Notes:  In the past all of the animals were caught in leg traps set to drown them.  They had not bled out so they were soaked in salt water over night (1 tablespoon pickling salt per quart of water).  Prior to cooking, the carcass was quartered and par boiled for 40 minutes or better yet cooked for about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker then cooled before cooking.
After dressing the carcass generally weigh 1 to 2 pounds.

Contributor:  Jerry Zeitler, RRGC


Anecdotes:

This is a dish I have not had since the fall of 1951, the last year that I trapped. This dish was a frequent entree in the late fall and early winter at home during the 1930's when we lived in Colorado.  It was always referred to as marsh rabbit and as a youngster I thought it was rabbit.  We left Colorado in 1937 and moved to north California to an area where we or dad did not trap.  It wasn't until 1942 when we moved to an area in northeast California along the slope of the Sierras that the dish was revived.  It was at this time I learned that marsh rabbit was actually muskrat.

Muskrat carcasses have been marketed in the large cities and South under the names of "Marsh Hares", "Marsh Rabbits" and "Swamp Rabbits".  The reason that they adopted the name of rabbit is quite obvious in that the name "Rat" does not conjure up anything appealing.

The recipe is simple and can be used to prepare other small game or upland game birds.  It is the preparation in dressing the animal for the kitchen that is unique.  The name "Muskrat" is with good reason in that they have two musk glands that need to be removed as soon as possible - if left intact they will taint the meat.