Unless you’re a vegetarian, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider eating rabbit instead of ham, turkey, chicken or beef for dinner. This country still has the Easter Bunny syndrome! Europeans, especially the French, Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarians and Germans eat lots of rabbit.
If we can get over our prejudices, eating rabbit makes a lot of sense. Four ounces of roasted rabbit meat has 175 calories and 7.2 grams of fat, slightly less in both categories than skinless turkey dark meat. And rabbit meat has more flavor than chicken, to which it is often compared.
Rabbit is an all white meat that’s lower in cholesterol than chicken or turkey (164 mg of cholesterol in rabbit vs. 220 mg in chicken), has just 795 calories per pound (chicken has 810 calories per pound), and has the highest percentage of protein and the lowest percentage of fat of any meat. In short, meat doesn’t get any healthier. If you want more information I have a post in the October archives on the HEALTH BENEFITS OF RABBIT MEAT check it out. Now on to cooking rabbit!
Jointing a Rabbit-
Working with rabbit is very much like working with chicken. Think of the forelegs as wings. There isn’t much breast meat but the saddle or tenderloin makes up for it. When cutting up a rabbit, remove hind legs and forelegs and the saddle (or have the butcher do it). The bony rib cage can be used for stock. A 2-1/2 pound rabbit should serve 2 people, more if you have a rich sauce or several side dishes.
Although a rabbit can be roasted whole (stuffed or unstuffed), it is most often cut into pieces and cooked slowly in a casserole or stew. Domestic rabbit, although available as saddle or legs, may still need to be cut into smaller pieces before cooking.
1. Lay the rabbit, on its back, on a chopping board and cut the legs away from the main carcass with a large chef’s knife. (To cut right through the bone, it may be necessary to tap the back of the knife with a kitchen weight or mallet, protecting the back of the knife with a cloth.)
2. Cut down the center of the legs to separate them. Then divide each leg in two, cutting through the knee joint. Cut the body into three or four pieces, making the last cut just below the ribcage
3. Cutting lengthwise through the center of the breastbone, divide the ribcage section in half. If you wish to remove small bones from the flesh around the breastbone, use pliers or pull them with your fingers.
Rabbit Cooking Hints and Tricks-
For safety, cook rabbit until it reaches 160 degrees F.
A rabbit weighing between 2.5 lbs and 3.5 lbs makes six portions: two saddles, two thighs and two front legs.
Either cooked or raw, rabbit meat freezes very well.
Rabbit meat can be grilled, roasted, braised, fried or barbecued. It also makes great terrines and pates, and the liver and kidneys are delicious.
It takes 60 to 90 minutes to cook rabbit meat at 325F (160C).
Rabbit can easily be used in recipes calling for chicken, turkey and veal.
As rabbit is a lean meat, it is important to baste it often when roasting to avoid it drying out.
Excellent rabbit seasonings include parsley, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, lemon-grass, coriander, and basil.
Rabbit may be soaked in a marinade of sugar or honey, red wine, or olive oil seasoned with herbs.
Fryer rabbit can replace chicken in almost any recipe, but if you’ve never cooked rabbit before, it’s a great idea to start with a trusted recipe.
When barbecuing rabbit, marinate the meat first or baste it with a mix of lemon juice and olive oil with herbs. Grill it first on high heat, than continue to cook it on medium heat for a further 40 to 45 minutes with the lid closed.
Fresh herbs marry very well with rabbit meat. Try basil, lemon grass, coriander, bay leaf, parsley, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and sage. It also works well with wine-based sauces and fruit sauces made with raspberry, pear and apple.
Use rabbit legs as a substitute for chicken in paella or other dishes.
Though white wine is often used to deglaze the pan that rabbit is sauteed in, you can also use grappa (the fiery Italian clear brandy) and balsamic vinegar.
Rabbit liver is unusually large and unusually delicious. Sear it on both sides in clarified butter, leaving it pink inside. Then add a few shallots to the pan with some wine, port or brandy and cook a few minutes. Process with a touch of cream, salt, pepper and a pinch of allspice or nutmeg for quick pate.
When roasting whole, buttered or lard with pork back fat, or wrap in foil to keep the flesh moist and tender. Or bone the main body and fill with a stuffing. Baste the rabbit frequently during cooking.
Marinate in wine or olive oil, with aromatic vegetables and seasonings, before cooking to help tenderize the meat.
Poach or braise young rabbits; stew or casserole older ones.
Use a rabbit to make a terrine. Grind the rabbit meat with 2 shallots and mix in 2 eggs, two-thirds cup heavy cream, 2 tbsp. shelled pistachios, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, and seasonings. Place in a pot lined with bacon slices and bake in a water bath at 350 degrees F for 2 hours. Add 1 and one-quarter cups liquid aspic after cooking. Allow to cool and refrigerate until set.
To roast a rabbit, rub it down with olive oil and chopped herbs and place it in a roasting pan. It may then be baked just like a chicken, at about 350 degrees F. (A 2 pound rabbit takes about 1 – 1 1/2 hours to cook at this temperature.)
Begin by browning the rabbit in a little olive oil. Then place the meat in a pot and cover it about a quarter of the way with water. Cover the pot and allow the meat to simmer for about an hour.
Chop the rabbit meat into small pieces (about one inch square). If desired, roll in flour or seasonings. In a preheated pan with a little olive oil added, brown the meat on every side. Place the meat in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Cover the pan with a well-fitted lid and simmer for at least two hours, or until meat is tender. Add vegetables to the last hour of cooking.
Thin cuts of rabbit (no more than one inch thick) are suitable for sauteing. First, preheat a pan and add a small amount of olive oil. Place the rabbit in the pan and brown both sides, cooking until it reaches 160 degrees F.
Shreaded rabbit–You can use either stove or crockpot to cook the rabbit ahead of time. But don’t boil it… simmer it very gently so it barely bubbles. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until meat falls of bones, Remove and allow to cool. When cool,pull meat from the bones and shred. You can freeze the meat for later use or make all kind off foods with this! I have made Rabbit Tacos,Rabbit Salad Sandwiches,so much more. I like to use apple juice for part of the liquid. I use a bay leaf or two, some herbs and some black pepper and allspice for seasonings.
Here’s a very simple but tasty grilled rabbit recipe for the outdoor barbecue. Preparation time, 15 minutes, Cooking time, 80 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.
1 fryer rabbit, cut up
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup sherry
1-1/2 tsp seasoned salt
Rub rabbit with salt and pepper; place over medium hot bed of live coals. You can use a gas grill. Make sauce by mixing oil, wine and seasoned salt together. Keep rabbit well basted with sauce, turn often while cooking 1 hour or until rabbit pieces are tender.
For More Recipes Check Out The DOMESTIC RABBIT RECIPE PAGE
I am a big fan of using every part of an animal. It’s not so much about frugality but that I feel a need to not waste anything and respecting the animal we raise and eat. It is sometimes a challenge to figure out what to do with a whole animal and using all its parts.
I have found that learning how to butcher and use all the parts of a rabbit is a good way to start. Rabbit is the best livestock to begin with butchering! It is usually easy to find readily available, small enough to handle, and its anatomy scales up to the anatomy of a pig, lamb, or goat. If you can butcher a rabbit, you can butcher the bigger animals, too! The cuts are very much the same, just a easier to handle.
I make many different dishes out of my rabbits, it is a tasty way to use the entire animal. The front legs make great buffalo wings for a great appetizers, the bones, head and ribs can be boiled for stock, and the rest of the rabbit can be roasted, baked, braised, and barbequed. There is SO much you can do with rabbit!
From a Green standpoint, if you look at the amount of land, food, and time it takes to raise large animals like lamb, pigs, cows, and goats you see that rabbit is a easy sustainable item that’s healthy, versatile, and not expensive, especially when you buy it whole or raise it yourself.
Here are the uses I have found for The Nose To Tail for the rabbit-
The rabbit head and brains are eaten in many countrys, and there are many recipes using both. For example Rabbit Head Pasta http://fxcuisine.com/default.asp?language=2&Display=159&resolution=print and Spicy Sichuan Rabbit Head http://showshanti.com/eating-rabbit-head-tu-tou/, are just a few, but heads are traditionally used in stews and stocks. Dog owners feeding their pets a raw food diet say their dogs love the heads and I have also seen them fed to pigs. The head can be crushed and fed to the chickens, the blood, bones, and meat is considered good for the laying hen, and blood mixed in the mash can be used for the same purpose. In Europe rabbits are sold with the head on, this is cooked or used for soup stock.
The brains can also be used for brain tanning the pelt. It is said that the size of every animals brain is enough to tan that animal’s pelt.
The ears of the rabbit can be dehydrated and used for dogs treats. My dogs LOVE these. There are also recipes for rabbit ears, such as deep-fried rabbit ears served with an apricot ginger chutney sauce. http://www.hungryinhogtown.com/hungry_in_hogtown/2007/03/earresistible_e.html
The pelts of the rabbit can be used to make blankets, hats, and many other assorted clothing to keep warm or as a added fur fringe to clothing for a fancy look. https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/2012/01/22/tanning-rabbit-pelts/
The heart, kidneys, and livers are very nutritious and tasty, to eat alone or used in a rabbit pot pie, or for stuffing and sausage, there are also lots of recipe’s available for these.
The Lungs though fine for human consumption, no chef, or farmer we spoke with had heard of using rabbit lungs in cuisine. But I have dried them with the ears, and sometimes the liver (cut into pieces to be dried) for dog treats! Or you could just feed them fresh to your dogs.
The blood of the rabbit can be used to make blood sausage, and blood pudding. http://www.backwoodsbound.com/zrabbit14.html Rabbit Blood Pudding Recipe
Rabbit blood can be used to thicken sauces and make charcuterie. If you do not want to eat the blood you can mix it with sawdust and it makes a great soil additive or add to the compost. You can also mix the blood in chicken feed for that extra protein.
The offal guts and other left over butchering scraps can be fed to dogs, cats, pigs, or also put in the compost pile.
Rabbit offal (the guts, internal organs, and non-flesh soft parts) are prized food in some cultures. They can be ground with a household meat grinder and used to make sausage, haggis, pate’, or other tasty tidbits.
My first choice for anything I am not going to use is to feed to carnivores. Most zoos, fur farms, hunters or even your own pets will happily take it off your hands. A pig would probably eat it. My Muscovy ducks and chickens will run to the offal piles at butchering time trying to get some scraps!
If you have a lake, pond or even raising fish in a aquaponics setup a good second choice is to put the offal in wire baskets above the surface of the water. The insects will eat the offal, then they themselves or their maggots fall into the water and feed your fish or crawfish. You could do this and collect the maggots and feed them to your chickens. You may want to do this away from the house as this will stink!http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/feeding-chickens-maggots.html
Third choice is your compost pile with some management insect nuisance, odor, and animal attraction is no problem. The problem with rabbit parts is that they decompose slowly. The moisture and the heat of a compost pile works well for the breakdown of vegetable matter, but in the case of animal parts it can attract maggots! Because of this slow decomposition this can also offers a place for unhealthy bacteria and rodents. By tossing a handful or two of lime on the rabbit parts this will help speed the decomposition. Cover the rabbit parts with a good amount of sawdust or shavings. Then compact this down tightly. This will reduce the odors. Have strong, tall sides to your compost pile (I use pallets) and cover the top with a tarp. This is further protection against animals getting into your pile. So the next time you have rabbit products to dispose of, use your compost heap.
The rabbit feet can be used with the offal or made into lucky rabbits feet by drying and adding some beads or other decorative items for some really cool looking charms. You can make these by putting some 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol in a small jar with the rabbits feet completely submerged in the alcohol, soak for 2 days this will lock in the fur. It also dehydrates the cells and kills bacteria and fungus. After the 2 days take out and rinse with water, you will need some borax this can be found in the laundry sections in most grocery stores. Using another jar or you may empty, rinse, and dry the jar you used earlier. Now mix some borax and water to about a 15 to1 mix use hot water as it will help the borax to dissolve. The borax will help to dehydrate skin and tissue helping to preserve the foot, also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Make sure to submerge the feet in this mixture for one day. After one day in the borax mix I take out a put the feet in the sun to dry. Brush clean and you are ready to decorate with beads, and a end cap there are so many ways to dress up your new lucky charm. My wife dyes fiber with Kool Aid and white vinegar I want to try this with some of the white rabbits feet.
The rabbit’s tail has been used for many centuries for pollinating flowers, by attaching the tail to a stick and going from the male flower to the female flower transferring pollen in hoop houses and greenhouses. You could also use these as charms.
These are the uses I have found for using the rabbit from Nose To Tail, if you know of any more please let me know and I will add to this post!