If you live in the Chiltern Hills you will have heard of, if not encountered Glis Glis. The mere mention of this small, grey squirrel-like creature instills terror into those of whom live in this beautiful area of the Home Counties. In mid May we Chilternites are on tenterhooks waiting for the dreaded "they're waking up" facebook post or text from local friends. Glis Glis are our homebred version of a seasonal zombie apocalypse, only problem is they are protected so we aren't allowed to harm them.
They are destructive, angry little rodents who chew through wiring, insulation, woodwork and anything else they can get their nasty little teeth through to make nests in our homes and barns. They strip the bark of fruit trees destroying them and preventing the tree from fruiting. They escaped from Lord Rothschild in 1902, he of Tring Park and Waddesdon Manor fame who we also have to blame for the muncjack deer escaping. As a famous zoologist he really wasn't very good at looking after his animals was he?
The little Glis Glis are very cute with huge bushbaby-like eyes and bushy tails, when trapped they make the most horrible noise and are vicious as anything. Oh yes, just to remind you, they are protected too so you can't kill them.
Glis Glis are nocturnal and hibernate during the winter; they are just waking up now (mid May) and from around 7pm I'll hear them scratching around in the roof space on my office barn. We caught one in a trap last week - we usually have at least one trap on a permanent basis - and called the lovely Charlie from Chiltern Pest Control to come and rescue it from starvation at 8pm on a Saturday evening. I understand that if you have a licence you are now allowed to kill them rather than release them into the wild so they COME BACK INTO YOUR HOUSE AND KEEP ON CHOMPING AWAY AT YOUR WIRING.
You're not covered by insurance either - check out the 'squirrel exclusion clause', I'm not kidding, these guys come under the same clause. We came across this when we came home from holiday thinking we'd been burgled as the living room was trashed only to find a squirrel nesting in the sofa who had gnawed all the very old sash windows causing around £4000 of damage - not covered, as it was a squirrel, grr.
My friend, Mel, who lived in Prestwood (currently she's hopped the country to live in South Africa, really it was just to get away from the Glis Glis) hated them with a vengeance. This was cemented when she woke in the middle of the night to find one dancing on the bottom of her brass bed stead (sticking it's fingers in it's ears, blowing raspberries and mooning at her).
If you know someone who has a licence to kill them then they are actually edible, very popular in Roman Times, and in this age of austerity with foraging on the uptake I thought it was a good idea to publish some Glis Glis recipes. Make sure you don't get Glis Glis confused with Hazel Dormice. Hazel Dormice are the cute hazel/brown coloured little dormice that you find in wheat fields, like the ones from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland. They are very sweet, don't do any harm and are not edible, leave them be to go about their business.
In Ancient Rome this creatures were farmed and raised in large terracotta containers, eaten as a snack or first course. They were available in tavernas in the same way we buy pickled eggs when we've had too much to drink. They were regularly served as part of a meal called the Coena. Tribunes and Triumphs website quotes Petronius (20?-66AD) "Dormice were sprinkled with poppy-seed and honey and were served with hot sausages on a silver gridiron, underneath which were damson plums and pomegranate seeds."
The Neotarama website has come great coverage 'In Calabria the local dialect has over 110 different words for dormouse. In Corsican dormouse cooking, “the animals are eviscerated and burnt but not skinned in order to protect the fat layer between the skin and the muscles. Then they are roasted on a grate and the dripping fat gathered on slices of bread. Ukrainian chefs “used the fat of the Edible Dormouse in their cookery,” while the French and some of their neighbors “ate roasted dormice after having thrown them into boiling water.'
They even have their own Facebook page - they're very clever this Glis Glis and are apparently much better for you than a McDonalds - not much that isn't really though is there?
I admit that I just clicked on a link to 'edible dormouse diet' thinking "wow, someone has actually put together a diet based on eating Glis Glis, that's amazing". Until I realised I was having a blonde moment and that article was about what the Glis Glis ate rather than the other way round, oops.
I imagine they're rather good on the barbeue, probably don't even need to skin them either, just gut them, make up a nice marinade then cook them, the tails will come in awfully handy to turn them over. They were named as the UK No.1 pest by the Daily Mail but because they are cute they've been overlooked.
So go on, get foraging for Glis Glis....Heston Blumenthal cooked dormouse lollipops on his show, here's how to make, the alternative to a chocolate mouse (not a spelling error, definitely mouse not moose. Moose are lovely large deer with antlers who live in Canada, I wouldn't eat them, they're fab and a little large to turn into a chocolate lollipop).
Disclaimer - I haven't tried this recipe, have never eaten Glis Glis and take no responsibility for anyone who is daft enough to actually try it, that would give you a 'Darwin' award, however, not sure why it wouldn't work but I'm not going there!
Crunchy Glis Glis alla Romana
4 x Glis Glis - humanely killed under licence
sunflower oil for deep frying
200g good quality sausage meat
half teaspoon oregano
1 x dried apricot, finely chopped
25g chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper
- Wash the Glis Glis well, gut it, remove the tail and rinse the cavity well. Season and put the oil on to heat up.
- Mix the sausage meat with the oregano, chopped apricot, walnuts and season well. Stuff it into the body cavity. Hold the stuffing in place with food safe cooking twine if necessary.
- Deep fry until crispy and the flesh is well cooked, drain and eat warm with nice crusty bread and a salad.