Delicious Cornhog

Today is Groundhog Day. Coincidentally, it’s also the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and company. To my knowledge, no one in America has attempted to celebrate the two things concurrently. Or, at least I’m not finding anything when I Google “La Bamba + groundhog.” I’m not sure what a mash-up between the two would look like, but I’m confident that whichever community cracks it will own the next century.

A few days ago, I was sitting around a table with some neighbors, talking groundhogs. We were talking about killing them by various means and eating them, when someone suggested that we construct an annual, community-building ritual around it. I can’t remember the exact thought process, but, by the time we were done, we’d sketched out an event that, if we could pull it off, would really put Ypsi on the map. The idea is that we’d do it on Groundhog Day, and get everyone involved. (“From each according to his ability to kill, To each according to his hunger for rodent flesh.”) Every able-bodied man, woman and child would join in the hunt. Every restaurant in town, for the day, would serve groundhog exclusively. And the park would be jam-packed with families cooking groundhogs on spits, over charcoal fires. We would ceremonially wrap our youngest Ypsilantians in groundhog skins, sit them atop giant piles of bones, and regale them with stories of groundhogs past, and it would be bigger than the New Year’s ball-drop in New York City.

And before you get any big ideas, I should warn you that I already called the “cornhog” concession… Who among us, I wonder, could possibly resist battered and fried hogdogs on sticks?

And, yes, this is the kind of post you get when I completely burn out on economics, religion and politics.

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29 Comments

  1. dragon
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Mmmmm…hogdog.
    Take gun (.22 cal is good). Load with bullets and accurately fire at head [we’re assuming the groundhog’s head, not your own].
    Skin groundhog and gut him. Clean out carcass with waterhose.
    Cut critter into quarters.
    Make up a big batch of your favorite marinade (make sure it has oil and vinegar to help tenderize the groundhog).
    Throw marinade and critter pieces into plastic trash bag and marinade around 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
    Take out marinated critter pieces and throw on the grill on low heat. Cook until rare to medium rare. Do not overcook, critter will dry out.
    And no one likes their critter dry.
    Country-Style Groundhog

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Although I’m reluctant to alert local authorities who generally disapprove of unlicensed relocation of critters, I have captured (and relocated) 21 groundhogs from my yard.

    The secret to the success of this festival is cabbage. Lots of leafy cabbage. Consider it a small sacrifice to the urban farmer movement. Every great movement has its martyrs.

    Although I estimate that’s about 210 pounds of locally produced food I’ve recklessly released, I’m willing to make up for it by startingto live wisely.

  3. Posted February 2, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Punxsutawney Phil looks so cute and cuddly, though… I think I’m having second thoughts.

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I should clarify that cabbage is used to bait the groundhogs. But it would be seasonal to stuff them into it as well.

  5. Posted February 3, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    The natural division of labor that seems to fall right into place during groundhog fest discussions is the real magic.

    Not everybody has the stomach to kill and skin a groundhog, but somebody does. Not everybody knows how or is willing to try to brain tan the hide, but someone does/is. Not everyone has groundhog recipes ready to go, but someone does. Not everyone has ready made patterns for groundhog pelt Ypsipanties…

    Ideally, the fest should start small, say the size of a block party featuring one really big groundhog of some renown, so whoever traps and kills it will feel especially useful and manly. Regarding the small size of the first fest, well… there are plenty of opportunities for even this most brilliant of ideas to go embarrassingly awry the first time.

  6. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    I have friends who eat groundhogs, opposums, norway rats, field mice, ‘coons, etc.
    In fact, I know a guy who built himself a small wigwam out in the woods and moved his family into it. He neither works nor owns a car nor telephone nor blackberry nor any of that convenient modern stuff. He is a strange guy. He absolutely despises division of labor and economic development and the wheel and agriculture and domestication of animals and all those modern ideas. He is a real-life hunter-gatherer. And consequently, he strikes me as a very dangerous sort of person. I’ll ask him what he thinks of groundhog meat if I see him. He traps them with stone deadfalls. Makes his own cordage and everything.
    But, I think you might want to be cautious about how you go about eating every single groundhog in Ypsilanti. How sustainable do you suppose that venture would be? Groundhogs have a fairly long gestation period. I have seen them. They live in my basement. They don’t have many babies, they estivate and hibernate, and all that stuff that you might want to really study before you go killing them all.
    I think Norway rats would be better to kill and eat. They are rampant mostly because of the human popluation anyway, and they are a foreign invasive species. Their numbers would really dwindle without humans to feed them stray grains such as corn and rice. But groundhogs were right here in the woods and on the prairie at first contact. I have a special place in my heart for any animal that was here then and must have nourished my ancestors for many generations.
    Anyway, you can cook a Norway rat thoroughly (hair, guts, bones and all) on a spit over a fire, mash the whole thing on a metate (the bones will squish nicely), and eat it like a liver pate. The Indians tell me they are delicious.
    So you might want to run your idea about groundhog day by an environmentalist or two before you celebrate.
    Black Jake, I also knew a man who made a banjo head from a squirrel skin. Maybe groundhog skin would work also.

  7. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Forgot one thing.
    I was watching the History Channel once. There was a documentary about Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution. Because governments depend for their strength in large part on the populace having a sense of solidarity and a common enemy, Chairman Mao decided that he would whip the countryside into a frenzy over their common hatred of a particular species of little bird. I have forgotten the name of the bird.
    Anyway, the Party convinced the villagers to do whatever they could to kill this little bird because Mao considered it a weak, meek, inconsequential little animal. And governments love symbols of strength and success and competition and so forth.
    Well, the villagers completely destroyed the population of this little bird by trapping with nets and smashing it with long bamboo poles. Then, later that year, the villagers’ crops failed. In their investigation into the failure of the crops, they discovered that the little bird had fed on a bug that ate their crops. No birds, huge bug population, dead plants, no food, starving kids, government and mob violence to blame.

  8. dragon
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    I have friends who eat groundhogs
    ====who doesn’t
    I know a guy who built himself a small wigwam
    ====big wigwams are so passe
    He neither works nor owns a car nor telephone
    ===Gilligan?
    He is a strange guy
    ====really?
    he strikes me as a very dangerous sort of person
    ====but I admire him deeply
    go about eating every single groundhog in Ypsilanti
    ===and put Roy’s big squeeze out of business
    They live in my basement
    ====quit feeding them
    they estivate and hibernate, and all that stuff
    ====play loud music
    you might want to really study before you go killing them all
    ====too late (see above)
    Their numbers would really dwindle without humans to feed them stray grains
    ====whew, I thought you said grey strains
    I have a special place in my heart for any animal that was here then and must have nourished my ancestors
    ===nothing like gramps in the morning
    The Indians tell me they are delicious
    ====who’s “they”
    you might want to run your idea about groundhog day by an environmentalist
    ====hey. big Al, how ya feel rat meat?
    I also knew a man who made a banjo head from a squirrel skin
    ====I bet you did, I bet you did

  9. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    dragon wrote, “I also knew a man who made a banjo head from a squirrel skin
    ====I bet you did, I bet you did”

    Good guess.

  10. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    dragon wrote, “He is a strange guy
    ====really?
    he strikes me as a very dangerous sort of person
    ====but I admire him deeply”
    Yeah. Everybody loves a lunatic, but I could not live like him. With no computer, I couldn’t troll around late at night on Markmaynard.com.

  11. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    dragon wrote, “I know a guy who built himself a small wigwam
    ====big wigwams are so passe”
    Actually, it was more like a longhouse.
    Actually, I just made it up, but there was this guy out west……..

  12. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    dragon wrote, “The Indians tell me they are delicious
    ====who’s “they””
    Why, juvenile (not immature) homosexual men, of course.

  13. Paw
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I agree that we should cultivate a thriving population of Norway Rats in Ypsilanti for the purpose of mashing them up, bones, skin, fur and all, and eating them.

  14. Paw
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard that, depending on how an animal is killed, the meat tastes different. Maybe this is something we could put to the test during an event like the one being described.

  15. Steph's Dad
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Smoked, Ypsi-raised, cabbage-fed, hand-strangled woodchuck.

    If you market it like that, we could export through Zingerman’s.

  16. Posted February 3, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I think it’d be pretty tough to drag a wild woodchuck out of a trap and throttle it with our bare hands. Maybe such a contest would be an integral part of the festival, like catching a greased pig, but with more growling and forearm injury.

    We can’t shoot them in city limits unless they put us in imminant danger of death or grievous bodily harm, and we have to be the innocent victem of such an unprovoked attack, so this could get pretty elaborate.

    I’m starting to get the sense that this would be a lot easier discussed and accomplished behind closed doors.

  17. Patrick
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Black Jake wrote, “We can’t shoot them in city limits unless they put us in imminant danger of death or grievous bodily harm, and we have to be the innocent victem of such an unprovoked attack, so this could get pretty elaborate.”
    Even if the groundhogs have done significant damage to your personal property, you cannot shoot them in city limits? Like if they destroyed your chain link fence with their big, scary antlers and what not?

  18. Timmothy Bottoms
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    So, you can shoot unarmed drug dealers in the back (if you’ve seen video of them rapping about having guns), but you can’t shoot a gopher that’s taking food out of the mouths of your children. Do I have that right? The rules in Ypsilanti sure are confusing.

  19. Posted February 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    …how do I put this delicately…

    If the cops find a shot groundhog in your living room with a knife in its hand and smelling of liquor, the door lock’s been jimmied, and the only one left to tell their side of the story is you…

  20. Posted February 3, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I believe that it’s actually February 3rd when the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed in a field outside of Clear Lake, IA.

  21. Posted February 3, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what ordinances would have to be stricken from the books, but, as I understand it, other communities have similar events, so it’s probably possible. I can’t remember what the rat-like creature is called, but I believe there’s an annual festival in Muskegon where people eat them. We should send a delegation down to check it out.

    And thank you for the information on the Norwegian rats. I had no idea that they could be cooked in their skins, with their guts still in, and eaten like furry burritos. I can’t wait to try it.

  22. Posted February 3, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    For sooth, we need to do this groundhog fest prototype on a small scale and on the down low.

    I have to say, too, that I’m not sure you were the one who came up with cornhogs, mark. I think you were just the first to write it down on a napkin, shove it in your pocket, and leave.

  23. Posted February 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    If I were out to steal ideas, there are others that I’d take before the cornhog, which was, I am both proud and ashamed to say, my idea.

  24. Posted February 3, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Well, you seem pretty sure, I don’t have any evidence to the contrary, and you do have the napkin. My value to society is exclusively in the trapping, killing, and skinning departments.

    Patrick, I’ve heard that groundhog skin makes an ideal banjo head. I would like to have tried it with a squirrel skin, but someone very dear to me heartbreakingly disposed of their recently caught squirrel without giving me first crack at it, I’ve discovered.

  25. amused1
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Proper removal of the scent glands is more important to flavor than the method of dispatch, imo. There are 2 sets of glands, one set high up in the forelegs and another in the small of the back. Also, a good brine soaking is beneficial for both flavor and texture, especially in older whistle pigs. Best way to determine age is to inspect the teeth and claws for wear. Par boiling older hogs is also recommended for improving texture if you’re thinking of frying or roasting your hog. Braising and stewing tend to be the most fool proof ways for the beginning hog cook. My Grandmother made a hog pie that was great. She taught me to enjoy various types of liver, kidney, tripe,tongue, pigeon, pheasant, pea hen, frog’s legs and most game meats. I never developed a taste for possum though, much to her dismay.

  26. Posted February 3, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Okay, amuzed1, if that weren’t copy/pasted, how do you remove the glands properly?

  27. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Patrick,

    Having observed a litter of five in my own yard, I’ll counter your anecdote, and I’ll one up you with wikipedia:

    however, their ability to reproduce quickly has tended to mitigate the depopulating effects of sport hunting.

    Also from the wiki:

    Doug Schwartz, a zookeeper and groundhog trainer at the Staten Island Zoo, has been quoted as saying “They’re known for their aggression, so you’re starting from a hard place. [Their] natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.

    which means Black Jake’s image of a knife-wielding groundhog ain’t far off the mark.

    Speaking of Black Jake. Damn. Now where you gonna find another squirrel in these parts? (Unless you were counting on acquiring one having invaded a home as cause for justifiable homicide…)

  28. Posted February 3, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for some reason to justify killing, skinning, and eating a squirrel, yes. It has to benefit someone else, somehow. The killing, I mean, not just the eating. And I can’t just give away a pair of squirrel gloves when I’m done. The squirrel has to deserve to die. I don’t get it either, that’s just the way it is.

  29. Paw
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Surely there’s a kid in your neighborhood who is deathly allergic to squirrels and squirrel mites.

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