Celebrate Groundhog Day With Groundhog Recipes

Yes, you really can eat groundhog. Check out these recipes for a different way to celebrate the end of winter.

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    Try woodchuck meat in a groundhog recipe or a recipe calling for small game.

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Come February 2, while the wind outside blows cold and sends swirls of snow skittering across the frozen Massachusetts landscape, my family, friends, and I will be basking in the sheer anticipation of warm spring breezes ... and merrily celebrating a grand holiday with song, good cheer, and a sumptuous feast.

"February 2! Why, there's nothing special about that date ... it's only Groundhog Day," you may say.

Yes, that's exactly what it is. But what to many folks marks just another wintry 24 hours, or—at the most—a peek at Pennsylvania's famed Punxsutawney Phil on the evening news, is to me and mine a festive occasion. As Pete Seeger's recording of the old Appalachian folk tune "Groundhog" sets the mood, we honor the day-a portent of spring-and the messenger who heralds it by having Old Mister Woodchuck himself to dinner ... usually in the form of a delicious meat pie and other groundhog recipes. This observance has become as traditional to us as having turkey on Thanksgiving and roast goose on Christmas.

In fact, we begin preparing for the day's festivities months in advance. We have to, since otherwise the guest of honor would be in hibernation during the five months preceding the Great Day, and—like as not—would sleep right through the party!

A Late Sleeper

As nearly everyone knows, popular tradition holds that the wily groundhog emerges from its burrow on February 2. In my neck of the woods (coastal Massachusetts), however, Mother Nature generally tells a different story. Chucks usually appear in late March or early April (the very earliest I've seen them up and about was one especially mild week at the end of February). The males come out first, and they have spring lovemaking—not the weather or shadows—on their minds. Kits, in litters of four or five, are born during April and May.

Although naturalists and outdoor photographers tend to look fondly upon the forager, most growers use every means at their disposal, from fence to force, to keep the mammalian "nuisance" off their premises. A few individuals, however — including myself — maintain a third perspective on Marmota monax: We cherish this specimen of our native fauna as a gastronomic treat.

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