Recipe – Simple Gourmet: Spiced Braised Marmot (Or Other Small Game)

Marmot, squirrel, hare and other small game mammals are delicious, though they can be tough. This spiced marinade helps tenderize these tasty critters.

In the West, squirrel is not what’s for dinner. We don’t have large deciduous forests with fat grey or fox squirrels running around. There are plenty of fox squirrels in city parks and neighborhoods, but hunting them is not worth the hassle of dealing with upset neighbors. We now have a season on red squirrels in Idaho, but they are so small that it hardly seems worth the effort. The point is, squirrel recipes are not very common out here.

While at a conference in Florida the other day, I was intrigued when my server at the restaurant told me about all the tasty meals her grandmother used to make and that her favorite was squirrel. I was delighted when she promised to share the recipe with me, and I’m sharing an updated version with you.

Use this recipe to make meat, then use the meat to make your favorite dish. I used it for marmot meat, which is very tough, but this method made it juicy and tender. I pulled the meat with forks for sandwiches and enchiladas and it was very nice. I think it’ll work nicely for cottontails and jackrabbit, too. Next time, I’ll use the leftover marinade and make a sweet and sour sauce from it.

Spiced Braised Squirrel

You’ll make a spiced vinegar marinade then braise the meat. You can leave the meat in the marinade in the fridge from anywhere from three to eight days. The longer you leave it, the more it penetrates and softens tough meat. Cottontails might only need a day or two while marmots and jackrabbits benefit from the full eight days.

After you’ve braised it, the meat will have a tangy outside and juicy interior. It pairs well with sweet barbecue sauce or even this sweet and sour sauce. Shred the meat with forks for sandwiches, enchiladas, or serving with rice.

What You Need

  • 2 to 4 pounds small game with bones
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2cups vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 White onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground Allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • uncooked bacon (optional)

What You Do

Combine the water, vinegar, and all the spices in a container with a lid and add the meat. Cover and keep in the fridge for 3 to 8 days. Agitate the marinade and shift the meat for even coverage each day.

Combine all the spices and pour over the meat in a container with a lid. Marinate the meat for 3 – 8 days.

Remove the meat from the fridge. Set the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place a dutch oven or other oven-safe pot with a lid on the stove-top over medium heat–about the same setting you use for pancakes. Warm two tablespoons of oil until the top edge of the pot is hot so it maintains heat when you add the meat. Canola oil or coconut oil work well.

Brown each piece of meat and set aside. Don’t put too much meat in the pot at once or it will steam the meat instead of browning in the oil. Add more oil as needed.

Brown all the meat in a hot dutch oven and then set it aside.
Deglaze the pot with some of the marinade. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan.
Return the meat to the pan and add enough of the marinade to cover the meat about 2/3 of the way. Braise for at least two hours at 325 F.

After all the meat is browned, remove the meat from the pot and use a little bit of the marinade to deglaze the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown crusts from the bottom. Add the meat back into the pot and add marinade until the meat is 2/3 covered in liquid. Cover and place in the hot oven. Very lean meats, like squirrel and rabbit, will benefit from strips of bacon laid over the meat.

Braise in the oven for at least 2 hours. Check it now and then to make sure the liquid hasn’t boiled off. Refresh with water as needed.

The pulled and shredded meat is perfect for barbecue sandwiches, enchiladas, or with sweet and sour sauce.

Remove from the oven. Pluck a piece from the pot and use forks to pull the meat from the bones. Serve over rice with a sweet and sour sauce or with barbecue sauce in sandwiches or use in enchiladas and tacos.

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About the author: Levi Sim is an avid hunter, and an increasingly avid shooter. He strives to make delicious and simple recipes from the game he kills. He makes a living as a professional photographer, writer, and photography instructor. Check out his work and he’d love to connect on Instagram: @outdoorslevi

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Michael July 11, 2019, 4:56 pm

    Sounds & looks mighty tasty. I love squirrel pot pie & living in PA I have access to a many tree rats. I believe I will try this & possibly w/ a few changes. Such as marinating in a sweet red wine. Maybe a marinating sauce similar to what’s used to make Sauerbraten. And gravy. I’m curious to know if this would work well for a young groundhog ? I have been eyeing up a few young ones. If I could just find the time.

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