Today is the Lunar New Year for The Year of the Rabbit. To celebrate and welcome The Year of the Rabbit, I'm sharing one of my favorite rabbit recipes, though chicken can easily be substituted. I understand that not everyone wants to eat (or talk about eating) an animal commonly kept as a household pet -if that's you, STOP and read no further (and I apologize if I've offended anyone).
This is Lillian, our retired meat breeding granny doe rabbit, soaking up the sun. Admiring and appreciating her, and the process of raising rabbits in general, seems to me a fitting way to welcome The Year of the Rabbit. With our hoof to table (so to speak) lifestyle and philosophy of raising much of our own food, I first want to clarify that I will NOT be eating Lillian. Culling breeding animals that are past their prime is a common agrarian practice that makes sound economic sense. Our (maybe a bit less sound) philosophy is that any animal who has consistent bred and produced meat for us over the years, should be allowed to simply spend their old age in relative peace and comfort when they've stopped breeding, though many real farmers would see this as an unaffordable romantic attitude for raising animals. It is only by keeping our number of breeding animals quite small, that we can afford to do this.
This is Fat Charlie, our retired breeding buck rabbit, who would rather be petted than fed first thing every morning. I have to say, despite how cute baby bunnies are (click here), Fat Charlie is even more so. I just can't help but adore Fat Charlie. Fat Charlie and Lillian's last successful mating produced only one male bunny, named Sumo. As sole offspring, he was so well cared for by Lillian, that he looked like a little rotund baby-bunny-Sumo-wrestler. He was sold to a woman in Eastern Washington for breeding. Raising rabbits for meat is probably the easiest, most cost-effective, quietest, and least space demanding, of all meat raising projects. I once visited a rabbitry in a small suburban garage, where their neighbors were completely unaware that 'urban farming' was going on right next door. Though a rabbit is much smaller, the actual process is basically the same as butchering a lamb or larger animals.
We Americans, unlike the British and French, in general, do no eat much rabbit (or lamb for that matter); we don't like to think about the cute faces behind our meat. I feel a bit reluctant even talking about it, especially knowing The Dessert Queen, who loved and kept rabbits as house pets for several years, may be reading this. I really hate to offend anyone, but this is my reality of raising food and eating meat.
This recipe is what the British would call 'Proper Food' and it is good to make when you've been working like a demon in the garden or barn, or when it's chilling cold outside -or both. I absolutely love British cooking and food, and it seems that many British, or those who write cookbooks at least, are quite unabashed about eating rabbit (Nigella Lawson has a pretty good rabbit curry she calls Hot Cross Bunny). I learned this following recipe from a British book that is a delightful and picturesque read about a family's Herefordshire garden and kitchen over a year.
Rabbit with Mustard
Adapted from Monty and Sarah Don's from the Garden to the Table -Growing, Cooking and Eating Your Own Food
Put 1/2 -1 c. flour with 1 T. Lawry's Seasoning in a gallon Ziplog bag
Add jointed rabbit (or chicken) pieces, seal and shake to coat. Fry in a large skillet on medium-high in
1 T. vegetable oil
2 T. butter
Work in batches if it doesn't all fit at once. When browned all over, remove to a plate and add:
1 large red onion, cut end-to-end into crescents
When onion is browned some, add rabbit (or chicken) pieces back to the pan. Sprinkle over:
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. thyme leaves, if you have them (I didn't)
1 c. (or half a bottle) hard apple cider
This time last year for this recipe, I used the hard apple cider we'd made by pressing the apples from our tumble down orchard. Drinking the hard cider we'd made, I finally understood why the two old bachelor guys who lived here before us, kept such a large orchard of these particular apple varieties. Last fall sadly, there were hardly any apples in our orchard, so this year I've had to use Spire draft apple cider from Fish Brewing Company in Olympia instead.
1 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock or water
Cover and place in a 350-375 degree oven for 1 hour or so (I placed a dish of oiled fingerling potatoes in the oven at the same time to roast alongside).
Remove rabbit (or chicken) to a platter. Add 1 T. Dijon mustard and stir into sauce. Pour over meat pieces (or return them to the pan if you're being a bit of a slob, which I usually am). Serve with egg noodles (we've had egg noodles twice this week), or roasted or mashed potatoes, and a salad or green vegetable.