Monday, May 31, 2010

Harvest Meal: Rabbit Stew

Our garden rabbit made a nice stew.  We used a few homemade ingredients to prepare it, though only one of them (other than the rabbit) came from the garden.

Riffing on a recipe from the The River Cottage Meat Book, I started by browning some of my homemade smoked lardo in olive oil, and put that in a slow cooker.  Then the jointed rabbit was browned on all sides in the leftover fat, and added to the slow cooker. Next, fat slices of onion were browned in the fat and put in the slow cooker.  To all that were added big chunks of peeled carrot, fennel, some bay leaves, kosher salt, white pepper, a bit of honey, thyme from our garden, and two bottles of my husband's hard cider (from our own apples) that had been aging in our cellar for two years.  I added just enough water to cover the ingredients.  The rabbit that frisked and nibbled in our garden around 8 am was in our cook pot before 9:30 am.  The cats got the liver and kidneys.

Since it was so hot on Sunday, I got an extension cord and put the slow cooker on the porch.  Because of my concerns about tularemia, I let the stew cook on low heat for a good portion of the day.  I don't know that this disease is even a concern in my area, and there were no spots on the liver, but it didn't seem problematic to cook the meat thoroughly.  (We also wore latex gloves - a recommended precaution - when butchering the rabbit.)

When the stew was cooked, I strained off the liquid, reduced it in a skillet, finished it with some cream, and added the meat and veg back in to warm again.  The reduced sauce brought everything together nicely.  If we'd had potatoes, I would have served it with mashed spuds.  Instead we had it over pasta (parboiled, of course - handy on such a hot day) with a salad of spinach, fennel, and marinated strawberries.  The meaty stew went surprisingly far as a topping for pasta.  I think the quantity of vegetables in the stew could easily have been doubled and it wouldn't have felt skimpy on the meat.  We found it quite good.

I was pleased to note that I had nary a moral pang about killing and eating this rabbit.  I know it ate well, since it was eating from my garden on a regular basis.  I also know I gave it plenty of chances to go away.  The rabbits around us are utterly brazen.  They laugh at the fencing I've used to protect the garden in past years.  They are nonchalant about being shooed or chased away.  They barely stay six feet ahead of me when I try to run them out of the yard.  I can see this working out as a viable alternative to the hassle and effort of raising rabbits for meat.  Instead, we can just shoot the wild ones, and protect our garden in the process.  There is, after all, neither a limit nor a season to rabbits, though I expect they'd be best in the fall.  My husband knows my rule - we don't kill it unless we're prepared to dress it, butcher it and eat it.  (I might make an exception for crows though; they're giving me a very hard time with my popcorn plants this year.)

I don't have to figure that there are more rabbits where this one came from.  I know it for a fact.  Which is good, because it means we'll probably be able to try out the awesome sounding grilled rabbit that Wendy mentioned in the comment section of the previous post.  Other cookbooks I own list a few other rabbit recipes I'd like to try out, including curried rabbit and a ragu of rabbit over pappardelle.  Maybe wild rabbit will become a fixture of our dinner table.  There's an indescribable satisfaction in eating a varmint that tried (to an extent successfully) to eat my garden. May this be the first of many.

22 comments:

the canned quilter said...

A woman after my own heart. We eat rabbit too. The body count this spring is up to 4. One must protect the garden and you are right there is a certain satisfaction in eating the varmints in your garden : )

Chile said...

Funny, we were just talking about this possibility yesterday, with the exception that the rabbits would be fed to the dogs.

May I ask how you dispatched said rabbit? My sweetie mentioned a coworker of his years ago used to lay in his garden with an air rifle and shoot them that way. He didn't know if he ate them, but, knowing he was frugal, my guess is he did.

A note on the crow: all non-game birds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to kill them, even if they are eating your corn. The only exceptions are the rock dove (common pigeon), house sparrow, and European starlings. Game birds are, of course, subject to your state's hunting regulations.

(If you decide to harvest the exceptions, check my old post on "Eat Your Pests" for receipes as well as links to ways to trap them.)

Frugal Life UK said...

We eat rabbit too, but we get them commerically bred from the butchers. They usually come frozen and one is big enough for two people. We can also buy minced rabbit and rabbit joints.

Walter Jeffries said...

Rabbits are a perfect homestead animal. They were our first livestock after we moved here. I always wanted to do something with the furs. The ice storm of '98 crushed our greenhouse and we lost our rabbits in that. Now we have chickens. They lay eggs but don't have that nice fur. :)

Anonymous said...

That's the rabbit recipe I'd have suggested if I'd seen your other post first :0)

I've only cooked rabbit a handful of times, and that was the last recipe
I used. We used our own cider too.

I don't know about eating crow, but I've got a recipe for Rook Pie if you need it....

Hazel

Wendy said...

The stewed rabbit sounds delicious! We have a couple of bunnies in the back who are getting close to eating age. I think I'll save your recipe, and then pressure can a couple of quarts of it. It would be really nice over potatoes or with pasta in the middle of January ;).

Kate said...

Canned quilter, impressive body count. I don't know that we'll catch up to you this year, but it's nice to have made a start.

Chile, all we have are air rifles and things that aren't legally classified as firearms. So we're allowed to use them on a residential property. Since the rabbits are so fearless of us, we can get safe shots angled into the ground by getting quite close to them. Thanks for the info on crows. A quick search indicates to me that one section of the MBTA allows states to permit the taking of crows in some cases and for a specified season each year. I'll have to look into what the case is in PA, but I'm guessing it won't do us much good. Crows are far less complacent than rabbits. They'd never sit still to be shot.

Frugal Life UK, we may put some jointed rabbits into the freezer for ourselves if we get a lot of rabbits this year. We'll see.

Walter, I'll have to take your word on rabbits as livestock as we've never kept any. Sorry to hear about your greenhouse. It sounds like quite a loss.

Hazel, aren't rooks and crows the same thing? Or prit near? I'd trust HF-W to have a recipe for crow, if anyone did. Was he the source of your recipe?

Wendy, thanks. I'm curious about pressure canning stews too. My first experiment with canning borsch put me off, unfortunately. But maybe root vegetables would stand up to canning better than cabbage. I really dislike mushy vegetables. I've been tempted a few times to just can meat without veg, but it's never happened. Please share your results if you ever do this.

Teresa/safira said...

We've been half-joking about turning our yard rabbits into stewpot rabbits, but since we live in the middle of town, we'd need to use snares.

And since my husband is the humane officer, we'd have to be stealthy about it. It's a clean kill and perfectly legal, but suburbanites just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

My recipe is in an old farmers wives cookbook from 1947, I don't remember an HFW version, but I'm sure he's made one!
Rook Pie is an old West Country (ie Somerset/Devon/Cornwall) dish, especially with figgy pastry.

I'd never thought about eating crow (a man at our local Farmers Market does occasionally sell a brace or 2 of rook) but found this:

http://www.crowbusters.com/recipes.htm

All you ever needed to know about eating crow and more! Notwithstanding the fact Chile's mentioned it's illegal...

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Your rabbits must be related to our rabbits. I can't believe how close we -- or our cars -- get to them before they hop into the woods. So far, they don't seem to be doing too much damage to the garden, but we're prepared to send them to the great bunny hutch in the sky (and from there, to the stewpot) if they prove a problem.

Your preparation sounds excellent, and just goes to prove one of my long-held cooking tenets: everything's better with preserved pork products.

Kate said...

Teresa, I hear you about the neighbors. We keep a very low profile too. I always try to make sure the neighbors aren't out in their yards whenever it's time to slaughter or butcher something. We have a fence, but it's not a total screen. And I think my neighbors are pretty laid back, but I just don't need one of them freaking out if they see me with a knife and fur or feathers all over the place.

Hazel, I'm becoming more and more intrigued by traditional cooking of the British Isles. I've never even heard of figgy pastry, but I'm going to look it up in just a second. Maybe it's something I can do with my figs? Thanks for the crowbusters link too.

Tamar, I agree: cured pork rocks. I hope your wild bunnies continue not to cause problems, but I look forward to hearing what you do with them if they get sent to the great stewpot in the sky.

timfromohio said...

Nice post - this year, one rabbit so far. I don't suppose you have a skunk recipe? I got 3 last year, 5 the year before - none so far this year. They are quite destructive and once they breached the garden perimeter, they became fair game! I use a pellet rifle rated at 1200fps with pointed "game" pellets. Very powerful for an air rifle. How about groundhog?

Gardener said...

Just a note on the legal side of this in PA... I myself love rabbit dishes but they are always a fall/winter dish for us. In PA there is a season and daily limit for rabbit.

As for crows, they are not covered by the federal migratory bird treaty. They come back into season in July with no limit.

You can read up on the season for Cottontail Rabbit and Crows in this year's digest http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/document/827988/smallgame_seasonlimits_pdf

Taking game out of season is only legal if they are damaging a commercial crop and you have tried trapping to relocate or if you apply for a special crop protection permit http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=620797&mode=2#2121

I highly doubt that you'll have the PGC knocking on your door any time soon but just wanted to float the information out there. I saw that one of your goals was to get your hunting license this year and I hope that you have a great experience with it. Rabbit hunting in our area has produced some of the best meals I've ever had.

Gardener said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gardener said...

Blogger cuts off the one link in my previous post depending if you are on the comments page or the article page... http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ has the full digest posted.

Anonymous said...

Kate,

'Figgy' means with dried fruit. It may have meant specifically figs at one point, but as with 'plum' it now covers all dried fruit. (Think of We Wish you a Merry Christmas- 'now bring us some figgy pudding' and Christmas Plum Pudding). So you could certainly add chopped (dried) figs.

Figgy pastry is unusual, and I don't supposed most Brits have heard of it (or Rook Pie, come to that.) Maybe the raisins in it sweetened the rook meat, which I think is quite strong (much of it is supposed to be bitter)? Or Rook 'n' Raisin is an early version of Duck with Cherries? Actually, it sounds like an ice cream flavour...

Kate said...

Tim, your post seriously cracked me up, and I trust that was your intention, at least with the skunk. I have no recipes for either groundhog or skunk. I know Calvin Trillin mentions a meal of polecat in Alice, Let's Eat. But he's more of an eater than a cook, so I don't know how much you'll be able to tease out of his rollicking tales. I think our air rifle is similar to yours, though my husband used only a pellet gun to bag our garden rabbit.

Gardener, thanks for the warning. My husband assured me he'd read up on the game laws of our state and we were in the clear. Perhaps he misunderstood, though I thought he found something about air rifles not being classified as firearms, and that somehow affecting our ability to take rabbits in this way. In any case, I thank you for the reference and will look into it. So far, no other rabbit has been as bold as the one we ate.

Hazel, again, I think you should have your own blog. You're clearly a wealth of information, and clearly you can write. In grammatically correct sentences - with punctuation, even. You do realize there's no timetable other than "as you're moved" when it comes to posting on a blog, right? Thanks much for the information. And I do agree, "rook n' raisin" sounds like a great name for ice cream. I can see an ice cream parlor gag around this sort of thing.

timfromohio said...

Yes, I was indeed joking about the skunks! I really don't want to waste potential food, like the rabbits, but must draw the line at skunks. Unfortunately, I was forced to rid our yard of them once they started digging in the berry patch and stinking the place up.

Anonymous said...

I generally cook our rabbit in the crock pot, most of the day. That way there is no risk of a diease being past. I have read up on Tulmeria, it can be dangerous. We raise and hunt rabbit both. I use in place of chicken mostly. I kind of like the wild rabbits better than our raised ones, I don't really know why, I think it's the texture. I have to say, that with homemade BBQ sause, I'd prefer it over chicken anyday! Where I live they get a parasite/fly kind of thing when it gets warm. So, almost all hunting is done after the first couple heavy frosts and before it gets really warm.

Kate said...

Anon, interesting to hear you prefer the texture of wild rabbit. I too am leery about tularemia. I can see the benefit of waiting until fall to hunt rabbits, but there's the confounding factor that they pose the most risk to my garden in spring and early summer. It's always something, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Yes we have the same issue here about them eating our garden. Last year they ate every one of our sweet potato plants, this year I planted 200 strawberry plants, and while I was weeding tonight I found a few little chunks off the leaves. I do have to say that we cheat a little bit once in while, if we feel we are being over run!lol
The other day I posted a picture of and recipe of rabbit and dumplings I made from an intruder on my blog! lol It was super good...

Kate said...

Anon, can't say fairer than that!