Click on image for someone’s personal account of a visit to Punxsutawney

Groundhog Day — Recipe for Groundhog. Yum!

This column is reprised from a 2007 post and an old SF Examiner column.

Today is Groundhog Day. Popularized by the town of Punxsutawney, PA, the self proclaimed “weather capitol” of the world and the home of a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil.

In a nearby locale called Gobblers Knob and at about 7:30 in the morn, Phil pops out of a specially prepared burrow made into groundhog amphitheatre (dubbed the Groundhog Bowl) and says “Scokakaplee” which is some sort of groundhog greeting. He says a few words, in groundhog-ese, to the mayor, checks his shadow and then tries to escape.

If he sees his shadow, it means another six weeks of winter, otherwise it’s an early spring. After the 3000 reporters and onlookers get their fill of Phil, the Chamber of Commerce unceremoniously grabs Phil and carts the little critter back to the groundhog Zoo where he stays year-round with his cousin Barney.

Groundhog day was derived from the old German practice of watching the hibernation habits of certain animals to determine how to plan this years crop planting. The practice was brought over to Pennsylvania in the 1800’s and has somehow evolved into an annual event epitomized by Phil. The locals are irked by the imitators around the country.

Groundhog day may not be without merit. Back in 1987 when I first published this recipe I asked then KPIX weatherman, Joel Bartlett about the celebration. “I’m a big believer in watching animals to determine the weather,” he told me. “Recently we’ve seen seagulls make counterclockwise circles; common loons are observed in high flying flocks; roaches and centipedes are moving into abandoned houses and cows hoofs are breaking off earlier than expected. These are all signs of upcoming nasty weather and an extended winter. I’m betting Phil sees his shadow.”

That was then, this is now. Since then the whole scene was made all the more popular by the hilarious concept movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murry.

I’ve given this mock holiday some thought and perhaps we should celebrate groundhog day with a cozy meal of braised, roasted or deep-fat fried groundhog. According the cookbook, UNMENTIONABLE CUISINE, (Univ. or Virginia Press, 1979) many Indian tribes made a meal out of groundhog. Any recipe you have for rabbit or squirrel will work for groundhog, according to the book. Here’s my favorite recipe, specially adapted for Punxsutawney Phil. I hope the Chamber of Commerce will freely distribute this commemorative recipe at the celebration next year.

Punxsutawney Raviolis
Capture, kill, skin and debone several groundhogs. (Remember, as with any dead rodent, wear gloves when handling and skinning.) Pass the meat through the fine blade of a meat grinder. Saute it in bacon fat and garlic. Never undercook rodent meat. Add a cup of chopped cooked spinach or watercress. Salt and pepper and use the mixture as a filling for raviolis. Makes about 72 raviolis. Serve with your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce.

This meal is particularly tasty when you have to endure six more weeks of winter.

related links:
Official Site
Groundhog Song (slow load, dreadful tune)
Lesson plan for home schoolers

  1. Marc Perkel says:

    I always wanted to start a restaurant called the “Roadkill Cafe” and the slogan would be, “Where every day is Ground Hogs Day”.

  2. Dr Dodd says:

    Gobbler’s Knob seems like a more appropriate name for San Francisco.

    At least there would be truth in advertising.

  3. amodedoma says:

    I’ve eaten groundhog and racoon, while the cooking of these critters is important. Proper skinning is is much more so, these animals have lymph nodes and sweat glands that are particularly nasty. Failure to properly remove them will taint the meat with a foul odor and taste. After skinning I cut the carcass in reasonably sized pieces and braise them lightly in butter, parsley, and garlic, from there to a pot with spuds, celery, carrots, and onions, add just enough water to cover and slow cook. End result is a delicious stew.

  4. chuck says:

    Favorite line from “O brother, where art thou?”:

    Delmar: “Care for some gopher?”

  5. hhopper says:

    Somehow “rodent meat” just doesn’t sound all that appetizing.

  6. AdmFubar says:

    Asphalt Annie’s “Cooking with Roadkill” has a great groundhog recipe.

  7. Kneejerk Optimist says:

    A hunter friend once asked me over to try some venison bbq that he was putting on. I’d never had it before, so thought I’d give it a try. The resulting cuisine was sort of like trying to eat grilled sneaker.

    According to some other purportedly experienced folks in this, he hadn’t bothered to marinate it properly, which they said can take quite a while.

    Who knows? If one were hungry enough, whatever critter you could grab might actually go well with a good home grown potato salad.

    (and I’ll bet the gaunt vegans over there will be gloating at us as they munch on their raw ferns)

  8. Buzz says:

    I love the smell of fresh ground hog in the morning. It smells like… vapory!

  9. denacron says:

    # 7
    “The resulting cuisine was sort of like trying to eat grilled sneaker.”

    For over 40 years I have eaten venison. Unless its a fawn, that has always my experience too. All the animals that have to work to survive seem to me to be that way.

    Give me a tasty lazy hay fed cow any day over rodents or wild game.

  10. Animby says:

    Marc #1 – The original Roadkill Cafe is on old Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona. There’s another in Darwin, Australia.

    #5 HHopper – I worked with the Cuban rafters in Guantanamo Bay. There was a large creature they called a banana rat. Looked like rats only the big ones weighed in at 15-20 pounds! I can tell you from personal experience that banana rat roasted over and open fire is pretty damned tasty!

  11. Don Quixote says:

    Young groundhog are delicious. As they primarily eat clover, are not to be confused with aerial rats (squirrels) and Coon, both of which are omnivorous.

    Called whistle pigs, because if you whistle they will sit up and look around making a head shot possible. If you don’t get a head shot, digging a wounded critter out is a major chore. They can dig faster than you can.

    They are not only are tasty but any farmer with livestock will welcome your efforts at removing them. Cows can break a leg stepping in a groundhog hole.


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