Muskrat on the Menu – A South Jersey Delicacy?
I could remember a time back in the early days when someone offered us a serving of bull’s testicles, which I believe you can find at some farms in Western New Jersey.
Surely not at your local Wegman’s.
But would you visit a restaurant that served muskrat and other fine delicacies from the woods not ordinarily found on the menu of your typical local diner?
For 75 years, muskrat has been the main course at this Salem County dinner.
You could say muskrat is in their blood, that their town was built on it. Whatever the case, residents of Lower Alloways Creek like their muskrat and this weekend, nearly 250 hungry people showed up to get their fix at the 75th Annual Muskrat Dinner hosted by the Lower Alloways Creek Township Fire Company.
“Muskrat identifies with our town,” said Tim Burns, assistant chief at LAC Fire Company on Saturday as the fire hall filled with diners. “It's a part of LAC history going back to 1938. It gets passed down from generation to generation.
If you live around here, chances are you know how to trap a muskrat.” Burns is the coordinator of the annual muskrat dinner that is the fire company’s biggest fundraiser. Burns said tickets usually sell out and that last year’s dinner brought in nearly $5,000 — which goes towards the fire department’s equipment and maintenance.
Volunteers from the fire company and its Ladies Auxiliary spent almost an entire month preparing the 1,100 muskrats served at the dinner. “We start in the first week of December,” Burns said.
“You got to cut them up, soak them in a salt bath, rinse them, freeze them, thaw them out, rinse them again — and then you got to cook them. We were here until 2 a.m. last night. We could not do this without the Ladies Auxiliary.”
Of course, the preparation of the muskrat came after local trappers harvested the animals from local marshes. Trapping has a long tradition in this township in southwestern New Jersey where the Delaware River and Bay meet.
The marshlands are rich in wildlife — including the valued muskrat. Spread out over rows of tables on Saturday afternoon was a cornucopia of side dishes to accompany the fried muskrat — pepper cabbage, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits and cake for desert.
Somehow I guess all those jokes about South Jersey are true.
Whiskey stills being found on some people’s property and all that.
All jokes aside, have you ever eaten anything as unusual as the elusive muskrat? I will admit to eating something that resembled beef jerky only to be told it was the dried-out bull's nether region.