In February and March 2019, you have a few opportunities to try one of Dorchester County’s more unusual delicacies — muskrat! This small rodent found in local marshlands used to be a staple on dinner tables. Now you, too, can experience it…
- Try it prepared the traditional way on Saturday, Feb. 23 during the 74th National Outdoor Show, which showcases world championship muskrat skinning as well as a muskrat cooking contest, and exhibits about the heritage of muskrats here.
- Give a taste to some less traditional preparations — from muskrat stew to muskrat tacos — at the outdoor Crawfish Boil & Muskrat Stew Fest on Sunday, Feb. 24 in Cambridge, MD. This year features the second annual Muskrat Leg Eating Contest! (If you want to brave the contest, sign up at the High Spot Gastropub, 305 High St., Cambridge, MD.)
- Keep your eyes open for muskrat and chicken dinners at some of Dorchester County’s firehouses and churches. For instance, Elliots United Methodist Church hosts a Muskrat and Chicken Dinner starting at 12pm on March 9 in Elliotts Island. (And if you’ve never been to Elliotts Island, well, that’s a whole other story!)
- Cindy’s Kitchen (3127 Aireys Road, Cambridge) also serves up some occasional muskrat dinners — which usually sell out. Watch their Facebook page for the next dinner. River View at the Point Restaurant also features occasional muskrat specials. Watch for news on their Facebook page.
- You can also pick up fresh muskrat and prepare it yourself — stop by Kool Ice & Seafood (110 Washington Street) or E.G. Webster & Son (810 Race Street), both in Cambridge. But cooking muskrat is not for the faint of heart. Read one chef’s experience with preparing muskrat — and competing in the National Outdoor Show’s muskrat cooking contest — in this Modern Farmer article.
Ewww, you say? Perhaps, but muskrats have been an important part of the life here for generations. Muskrat meat kept local families fed, and the sale of pelts kept roofs over their heads. (And no, it does not taste like chicken.. some say it tastes like liver or maybe a combination of rabbit and alligator… you decide!)
The idea of eating muskrat — long a Dorchester County staple — seems to inspire some strong reactions and curiosity. Two years ago a writer from Epicurious magazine came to experience all things muskrat at the National Outdoor Show. Read the story.
As for the National Outdoor Show, it began in 1938 as a way to celebrate the life and traditions of the people of Dorchester County’s more rural areas — trappers, hunters, watermen and waterwomen, cooks, and sportsmen and women. Today the event includes everything from oyster races to championship muskrat, raccoon, and nutria skinning. Plus corn shelling, trap setting, gun dog trials, goose and duck calling, log sawing, and more.
Maryland State folklorist Elaine Eff has said, “The Outdoor Show is a one-stop opportunity to learn a lifetime about place, people and traditions—a way of life that is absolutely one with the land and water of this fragile yet fiercely proud piece of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.”
Find out more about the National Outdoor Show, and see the schedule of events: nationaloutdoorshow.org.
Find out more about the Crawfish Boil & Muskrat Stew Fest.