Squirrel Pot Pie
By: Ashley Chance, Southeast Region Coordinator
If you like squirrel or pie, you’ll love squirrel pot pie! This recipe is simple and yields welcome comfort food at the end of a long winter. You can use just about any meat; turkey and pheasant are good substitutes if no squirrel can be had. The first step is of course, to harvest some squirrels. Here in East Tennessee, grey squirrels are plentiful and two of them make a regular sized pie.
Skin the squirrels, gut and and behead them. You can clip off their feet with wire nippers or regular scissors. There are crafty methods to skinning squirrels that I encourage you to google, doing it ineptly often results in a ‘hairy’ squirrel. It’s as undesirable as it sounds. One of these squirrels took a pellet to the front leg and it was pretty bloodshot. That chunk went to the dogs.
Once you’ve gotten them skinned and cleaned you need to brown them while they’re still whole. A cast iron skillet with coconut oil, lard or some other fat that has a high smoke point is ideal. Deglaze the pan with some chicken stock (~ 1 Cup) and scrape up the brown bits.
Next you need to cook the squirrels until the meat falls off of the bones. I like to use a pressure cooker for this, and you can place the squirrels along with the pan juices into one for 20 minutes (high pressure). You can do this on the stovetop in liquid as well but it takes a lot longer.
Once time is up, remove the squirrels from the pressure cooker and pick every little piece of meat off of the carcasses that you can. The meat will be flaked, not quite shredded.
Next make the roux. Melt 1/3 cup butter. Then add some white onion, maybe a ½ cup, and cook until soft. Then add 1/3 cup flour to the pan, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Once the flour is incorporated, slowly add 1 ¾ C stock (use the liquid remaining in the instant pot) and ½ cup of milk. Keep stirring!
Then add in the squirrel flakes and some vegetables. When I’m feeling fancy I dice up 2 cups of veggies, but this time around I just used a 12oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed) that included peas, carrots, green beans and corn.
Now you need to make your pie crust. You can of course buy a pre-made version, but I grew up baking pies with my grandma and like to use her crust recipe whenever I bake. To make the pie crust put 1.5 C all purpose flour in a bowl. Mix in a ¼ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt. Next you need to cut in a ½ cup of fat. I like to use a 50/50 mix of butter and lard.
Once the mixture is nice and crumbly you’re ready to add the water. It is very important to keep the fats cold throughout this process (that’s what will help yield a flaky crust) so don’t touch it with your hands! Put some ice in a glass with water and at this point you can mix some of that very cold water into the crumbly mixture. My grandma’s recipe calls for 1/3 C of water but its different every time. This round I actually ended up using 2/3 of a cup. Stir with a wooden spoon if you have one and really try to press the dough to incorporate all the moist parts with the dryer crumbs. You want to end up with a solid mass that looks a little shaggy but isn’t sticky on dry fingers. Pie crusts can be tricky so practice often, you’ll always end up with something at least edible.
Divide the dough in half and roll it out into two circles. Use the first to line the pie dish. You may have to patch some “holes” like I did here. Just wet the edges of a missing patch with cold water and ‘glue’ on a little patch of dough, you won’t see it when the pie is done. I also encourage you to get a pie dish with a flat rim! Mine doesn’t have one and it makes sealing the pie difficult. Poke shallow holes all over the bottom crust with a fork to let air bubbles escape from the crust while baking.
Now you can dump or spoon the squirrel mixture into the pie and top it with the other crust. Trim the edges with a paring knife and do your best to seal them. Ice water between the layers works well as glue here too. I like to seal them together with the tip of a fork. Cut some vent holes in the top and put it in the oven! Bake at 425°F for 30-40 minutes. You want it to get golden brown, but the edges may brown too quickly so near the 20 minute mark you can cover the crust edge with strips of foil.
Once it’s don’t let it cool a little and enjoy! I like to save the squirrel carcasses and use them to make stock. Two squirrels don’t yield a lot of stock so I’ll put them in with whatever else I’m making stock out of at the time. Tails can be used for tying flies and of course you can eat the offal as well.
Happy squirrel hunting and let us know if you try them in a pie!