By Cat, Feb 2011 (Photo, right, courtesy of N. and B. Shelt)
When I was a child, my cousins Emery and Fayrie had a small farm north of Kalispell, where they had a huge garden, a few fruit trees, and kept rabbits and chickens. I loved holding the bunnies and petting their soft fur, but I also loved eating fried or roasted rabbit, prepared the same way as chicken. My Mom didn’t understand this, as she just could not imagine eating a cute cuddly bunny. So when Mom and Dad came to collect me after a summer month staying with the cousins, Fayrie always cooked a special chicken dinner. But one summer all she had was rabbit, so she advised I should let Mom just assume it was chicken. I followed that advice while at the dinner table, but afterwards, when we were in our car for the drive home, I asked Mom how she liked the rabbit.
“What rabbit?” she asked. “The one we had for dinner,” I replied with a big grin on my face. “That was rabbit?” she choked out, her face blanching to paper-white. “Hee hee,” I chuckled, “It sure was, and wasn’t it delicious?” I teased, glancing at Daddy to see the sly grin on his face. Mom had nothing to say.
Raising & Butchering a Rabbit
I’ve not done this, but who knows, I may in the future. My sustainability group had a presentation in 2010 on just this topic, by the Shelts who sell butchered rabbit at the farm NW of Kalispell. You can read my detailed summary of the event at Gathering Summary: Raising Rabbits (pdf file).
These instructions also apply to small game such as hare and squirrel.
How to disjoint (cut up) a rabbit/hare
When I lived in Portland, my butcher always did all this for me. But I just got a 3 pound rabbit from the Shelts, and it is not cut up, so I need to learn how to do this – it is a bit different that cutting up a chicken. I found the following references on this topic:
- Fine Cooking has a photo-instruction on How to disjoint a rabbit (1).
- YouTube video on How to Cut a Rabbit (2) (chef demonstration; his English is not good and video quality is fuzzy);
- eHow video: How to Cut Rabbit for Cooking (3) (better quality video, but not complete).
Following the photos on Fine Cooking.com, I cut the rabbit into the following pieces: 2 hind legs, 2 forelegs, two loins; plus ribs and spine that can be used for making stock.
If more, smaller pieces are desired: cut each of the legs into 2 pieces, separating at the knee/elbow joints; and each of the loins into 2 pieces crosswise.
I have not yet tested brining a rabbit.
Brining Rabbit and other Small Game (Squirrels, etc.)
The brining method is the same as for brining chicken, although the time in the brine varies. Here are a few brine recipes for small game:
Carolina Sauce Company, Basic Brine (4)
This site offers a basic brine or citrus-herb brine for poultry, but it can be used for small game. A half recipe of the basic brine is as follows:
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- ½ cup sugar (I would use rapadura sugar, but you could use white or brown cane sugar)
- 2 quarts water;
- juice and pulp of 1 ½ – 2 lemons or lemon/orange combo
- 1 Tbsp seasoned pepper
Dissolve salt and sugar in water. Add juice and pulp of the citrus, and the pepper. Heat to boiling or stir vigorously to combine. If you boiled the mix, let it cool before adding the meat. You can use a glass or stainless steel bowl or pot, or a ziplock bag to contain the meat and brine. You need enough brine to totally cover the meat.
Add meat and transfer to refrigerator or a cooler chilled with ice, and brine for 24 hours up to 3 days (poultry), or 6 – 12 hours (rabbit, squirrel).
NY Times, Why We Eat Rabbit: Fried, Milk-Brined Rabbit (5)
This is a milk brine for fried rabbit.
- 1 white onion
- bit of butter
- 1 quart whole milk
- 3 Tbsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- 1 bunch fresh sage
Slice onion into ½”-thick rings, then caramelize in a bit of butter, 6 – 8 minutes per side. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add rabbit, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (6) Herb Brine
This is an herbed brine for 2 – 3 squirrels or 1 domestic rabbit:
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 1 quart water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
Dissolve salt in 1 quart water; add herbs and pepper. Bring to a boil, then off-heat. Cover and let cool to room temperature before adding squirrels or rabbit. Transfer to fridge or cold spot for 6 – 12 hours (but no longer or meat will be too salty).
- Fine Cooking has a photo-instruction on How to disjoint a rabbit (finecooking.com/item/27356/how-to-disjoint-a-rabbit)
- YouTube video on How to Cut a Rabbit (youtube.com/watch?v=a7I0YuaUFEU&NR=1);
- eHow video: How to Cut Rabbit for Cooking (ehow.com/video_2338451_cut-rabbit-cooking.html)
- Carolina Sauce Company includes a basic brine, and a citrus & herb-flavored brine, with instructions (carolinasaucecompany.blogspot.com/2007/11/brining.html)
- NY Times, Why We Eat Rabbit: Fried Rabbit with brining instructions (nytimes.com/2006/03/12/magazine/312food.htm
- Hunter Angler Gardener Cook includes a recipe for squirrel, but is not brined; brine details are in the comments to the post (honest-food.net/wild-game/rabbit-hare-squirrel-recipes/braised-squirrel-aurora-spanish-braised-squirrel)