Mary had a little lamb, a little beef, a little ham. Author Bob Bennett says he’ll stick with rabbit.
For a lot of us who raise rabbits, the burst of springtime production filled our hutches. In late summer, we evaluate the all the newcomers and decide which ones to retain as future breeders because we can’t keep them all.
We shouldn’t keep them all. Culling insures future success, especially if we breed on a line as most successful raisers do. In the colder climes, herd reduction may save money. Feed consumption can increase in fall and winter because calories are units of heat — when the mercury drops, rabbits need more of them. So when our hutches reach capacity, we transfer culled occupants to the kitchen.
From there, two options present themselves, both of them tasty. The first is the pot (or pan or grill or slow cooker or smoker). The second is the freezer (which eventually leads to the first). Post-slaughter and pre-processing, I put the entire carcass in the refrigerator for a few hours. This firms up the flesh for easier butchering. I like to package up the parts in accordance with my plans for cooking them. Loins go into one package, perhaps for recipes that call for medallions. Meaty hind legs will reach the grill or smoker and the front legs may land in stew. Of course, frying loins and legs or whole-roasting are also options.
“Time out,” you say. “Should I be eating rabbit at all?” You certainly should – even if you don’t raise them yourself but stock your freezer by buying or bartering. Besides being wonderfully satisfying and delicious, rabbit meat is better for you than any other in the butcher shop. It is lowest in fat, calories, and cholesterol, and highest in protein. It’s definitely heart healthy.
“Oh,” you say, “but rabbits are so cute, I can’t think of eating one.” That’s something I hear from people delighted with a chop (from Mary’s Little Lamb), a drumstick (from Henny Penny) or veal parmesan (from a dewy-eyed calf). Some of the same protesters won’t consider a lobster or a crab because they’re “too ugly.” People eat all kinds of stuff. Recently I read an article in New York magazine about celebrities at an exclusive Greenwich Village dinner party devouring bugs and even “blanched tomato hornworms.”
I prefer rabbit.
You can substitute rabbit in almost any recipe calling for poultry or veal, but I recommend some personal favorites from my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits. Other favorite recipe resources include The Complete Domestic Rabbit Cookbook (from the American Rabbit Breeders Association) and in every issue of the bimonthly magazine Domestic Rabbits, free with ARBA membership.
On the other hand, you might just build more hutches. And yes, I can recommend a book on that, too.
My wife Alice likes to serve this dish in the summer with fresh vegetables from our garden. Son Bob contributes the thyme from his herb garden near the back door. He says that’s why it tastes so good.
Serves 6 to 8
- ½ cup flour
- 1½ teaspoons thyme leaves, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion salt
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 2 rabbit fryers (about 2 pounds each), cut up
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup water
- Put flour and thyme, salt, onion salt, celery salt, and pepper in a plastic bag.
- Add rabbit pieces and toss to coat well with flour mixture.
- Heat olive oil in skillet.
- Brown the rabbit in the olive oil, turning to brown on all sides.
- Add water, cover, and simmer until rabbit is tender, for about an hour, or a little longer if the pieces are large. Test with a fork for tenderness.
You can thicken the cooking liquid with flour for a delightful gravy.