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Muskrats, known as “rats” to the real experts, have a hunting season that runs roughly from November to March, at least in Dorchester County. Rats live in huts of straw and are semi-aquatic, weighing just a few pounds as adults.
“The main rule in cooking rat,” says John Root Hopkins, Dorchester Country resident and author of Muskrat Cookin’ (3rd Edition, 2002), “is to overcook to the point where the meat can be easily removed from the bone.”
Fellow Eastern Shore resident and champion muskrat skinner Rhonda Aaron, whose 2004 performance is featured in MUSKRAT LOVELY, knows all the secrets when it comes to serving up the best that this rat can offer. As Rhonda says, “you can’t go to the grocery store and buy muskrat.” And capturing them is no easy feat. Luckily, her son Justin is a muskrat trapper, and after expertly skinning the rats he brings in, she always removes the musk for her customers.
Here are some of Rhonda’s own favorite recipes, from her mom’s “old fashioned” fare to barbeque and beyond.
2 c. water
1 c. duck sauce
2 c. fruit juice (nectarine, pear, peach or apple)
1 pinch salt
1 dash pepper
several tablespoons of raspberry or cherry jelly
Remove musk from muskrat before you start to cut it up. Cut muskrat into 4 or 5 pieces. Put in baking dish with enough liquid to cover the muskrat. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until when you stick a fork in it, it's tender. Remove muskrat from liquid and let cool. Remove the muskrat meat from the bones and then add the muskrat meat to the mixture.
Note: I usually go through the muskrat meat several times before adding to mixture because there are hundreds of little bones on a muskrat.
1 c. water
3 c. chicken broth
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 1/2 c. diced green pepper
1 c. diced red pepper
1 1/2 c. diced sweet onion
1 c. chopped celery
4-5 diced green onions (use tops too)
spicy Italian sausage (cut up into slices)
1-2 small cans of tomato paste
1 can water chestnuts (drained)
1 dash garlic powder
Cajun seasoning (to taste)
Creole seasoning spices (to taste)
1 1/2 c. rice
Cook spicy Italian sausage in skillet over medium heat. Add chicken broth and water. Simmer. Add garlic, green pepper, red pepper, sweet onions, green onions and celery. Simmer until vegetables are just getting tender. Add 1 1/2 cups of rice to vegetables and liquid. If necessary, add more chicken broth or water so rice is done. Add the water chestnuts and use the tomato paste to thicken the sauce. Season to taste with Cajun seasoning and Creole seasoning spices. Set aside. When muskrat is cooked, lay the de-boned muskrat into the mixture. next »