Eaten any field mice lately? I’m guessing you haven’t. Humans are probably the only meat eaters whose diet doesn’t include field mice, also known as voles. Foxes, wolves, coyotes, owls, hawks, felines and snakes are among the many creatures that eat these tiny-eared mice. Could we be missing something?
Voles are herbivores, which is a good thing if you’re a carnivore trying to eat as low on the food chain as possible. They eat a lot of grass, pretty much their weight’s worth daily. Ounce for ounce, there’s more protein in vole meat than beef, though you’d probably have to eat several voles to get a decent serving. The good thing about eating voles is that you don’t have to de-bone them. You’re actually better off eating them whole for optimum nutrition.
Years ago I came across a recipe for Souris Cordon Bleu that recommended using Deer Mice. However, due to their association with the Hanta Virus I think I’d alter that recipe and use voles instead. Though they are a bit smaller and you’d likely have to catch quite a number of them (especially if you’re cooking for guests), it’s better to be safe than sorry. That recipe involved skinning, gutting and stuffing the mice with Swiss cheese and ham prior to frying them in butter and serving them with a cream sauce.
If you don’t have time to fuss, you could simply skin them, dredge them in flour and fry in butter. Frying them in bacon fat might improve the flavour as they taste fairly bland on their own.
The Meadow Vole pictured above lives under a birch tree near my bird feeding station. I see him regularly dart around, usually when the birds aren’t present. Yesterday was the first time I managed to capture him in a photo. He’s very sensitive to sound and quickly runs into his hole if he hears me coming. He has quite a few of these little holes in the area, so there always seems to be one nearby where he can escape. In the winter he creates long tunnels under the snow.
Voles only live for about a year, though they can reproduce at an astounding rate. However, their populations are not consistent but cyclical, likely affecting the populations of their predators as well. I wonder: Could this be why they never caught on as a staple of the human diet?