Yes, it’s true, people really do eat hedgehogs! According to Larousse Gastronomique, hedgehog was commonly consumed in 16th century France, but now “it is eaten only by gypsies, who either roast it or stew it.”1 Apparently the preferred method is to wrap the hedgehog in wet clay before roasting or stewing. As the clay hardens it adheres to the hedgehog’s quills, and pulls them out when removed.
Personally, I beg to differ with this revered tome of culinary knowledge. Firstly, because I believe the people in question prefer “Roma” or “Romani” to “gypsy,” and second in that the Roma people aren’t the only ones who eat hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are delicious, and everyone should try them at least once…even vegetarians can fall in love with their tender flesh and rich buttery flavor.
Wait, we were talking about fresh hedgehog mushrooms, weren’t we? That’s certainly what I was talking about…maybe Larousse had something else in mind.
In any case, hedgehog mushrooms, named for the tiny (soft, not sharp) spines that they have instead of quills, are an underappreciated wild mushroom that is in season from December to January. While they’re often used in casseroles, soups, and stews, around here we love to simply sauté them in a little butter…maybe with some very finely minced garlic and/or white wine.
That’s really all it takes to make wild hedgehogs delicious, no clay required.
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1 2001 edition, pg 602
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