Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

July 31, 2013

How to fry a muskrat

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that you’d really like to know how to pan fry a muskrat.

I can’t tell you where to find one, but I’ll tell you how to go about cooking it when you do catch one. I can tell you that Civil War soldiers were often happy to eat muskrat when they hadn’t much else to eat. I doubt if the public did, though.

Tom Imel, service officer for the American Legion Post # 129, received a Military Times issue about Gettysburg.

July 1, 1865, marked the day 150 years ago when that battle started. Contrary to what I had believed, the first day at Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest days in that war. I’m grateful that Tom is letting me use it as a way to honor all of those who fought in the Civil War. Off and on for the rest of the year I’ll tell you something in this column from the issue. It’s a comparison between things as used and done in the Civil War and today.

Muskrat anyone? First, you need to find and slay four muskrats. clean and quarter them making sure that the musk are cleanly removed. One small hunk of salt pork, fatback or bacon grease (if lucky enough to have some). Onions chopped up, salt and pepper.

Parboil the muskrat sections in water. Save water to use later for cooking any greens or other vegetables as may be procured. Heat the salt pork or fatback in skillet over medium fire. Add muskrat quarters and chopped onions, with a vigorous dash of salt and pepper. Cook on both sides until nice and browned.

During the Civil War, military surgeons advised against eating spoiled meat, drinking water from puddles or eating green, unripe corn, apples, peaches, or other fruit and vegetables. Hardtack was popular then. It was made from flour, water and sometimes salt and was a staple of the armies on the move because it was cheap and had a long shelf life. Adding potatoes, onions and other fresh foods helped relieve the bloody dysentery. Once in prison camps, however, dysentery killed many soldiers.

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