Would You Prefer Your Muskrat Broiled or Fried?

Muskrat, anyone? The aquatic rodent may not be considered haute cuisine in the citadels of fine dining, but it was scheduled to be the main course when the Lower Alloways Creek Fire Company held its annual muskrat dinner last month.

A fundraiser for the Salem County fire department for more than 50 years, the dinner draws muskrat gourmands from South Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and beyond. “We have a group of former county residents fly up from Florida each year for the dinner,” says fire chief Steve Fisher, himself a muskrat trapper.

Once the tasty critters—one local firefighter swears they taste like chicken—are skinned and gutted and their musk glands removed, they’re soaked in saltwater, then parboiled and deep-fried. All told, about 400 people were expected to consume some 1,700 muskrats at the fire department dinner. And although it may be hard to believe, this South Jersey tradition is said to be on the decline. “Very few groups still do muskrat dinners, as fewer people are trapping them,” Fisher says.

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