Fred's muskrat

Yield: 4 servings

Measure Ingredient
4 Muskrats (all fat and glands removed)
½ pounds Bacon
½ Celery bunch, chopped
4 Onions, chopped
½ pounds Oleo
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Salt
Pepper
21 ounces Tomato soup (2 standard cans)

Saute bacon, celery, onions, oleo and cayenne pepper together for 10 minutes.

Put rats in bottom of a pan you can cover tightly (my mother makes a double batch and uses the roaster she cooks turkey in). Pour sauteed mixture over the rats, and then cover with tomato soup. (Don't add water to the soup.)

Bake, covered, for 2½ hours at 350 degrees F or until done.

NOTES:

* Muskrat roasted in tomato sauce -- In northwestern Ohio and downriver Detroit, we have "muskrat suppers" in the winter, sponsored by churches and volunteer fire departments to raise money, rather the way other people have chicken and ham dinners. This recipe comes from Fred Witty, via the cookbook put out by my parents' church.

Legend has it that during the depression, the Bishop of Detroit declared muskrats to be fish (since they live in the water), so they could be eaten by Catholics on Fridays.

* Muskrats are small rodents that live in swamp and build beaver-like houses out of cat-tails and mud. In New Jersey and Ohio, at least, they are trapped for their fur; I suspect that knowing a trapper is the only way you can get muskrats.

* The recipe book I have has a recipe for muskrats for a crowd, that (for 20 rats) uses the above ingredients (but quantities unspecified, except it only uses about ¼ lb oleo), plus chopped green and red peppers, garlic salt, 5 bouillon cubes and 3 bay leaves. Around Detroit, muskrats are cooked with cabbage and potatoes, and some folks at home roast them with apples and onions.

: Difficulty: easy once you have the muskrats.

: Time: 30 minutes preparation, 3 hours cooking.

: Precision: count the muskrats.

: Pat Carstensen

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