Tuesday, May 29, 2012

on eating rabbit

I had never cooked rabbit before. In fact, I had never really thought about these little creatures as meat, though I had tasted it once or twice a few years ago.

But when we were asked by a friend if we wanted a few rabbits it was a definite yes. So the hunting men laid their traps and the next morning there were many rabbits to take home. We were given six. Daniel helped skin and gut the rabbits, and Luca got to skin his first rabbit. He was pretty excited. I didn't watch, but I wouldn't mind to next time around.

It's a skill that some people out here still have. That ability to hunt for our food. Which is a pretty useful skill to have when you think about it. There must be some reassurance in the knowledge of come what may, you could provide for yourself and your family if you had to. These skills weren't taught to most of us for the past generation or two. But I guess it's never too late to learn. 

I believe some butchers stock rabbit, but it would be worth asking if it is wild or farmed. To my (limited) knowledge, wild is preferable, but I'm not sure of the legality of selling it. In some urban backyards people are even raising rabbits for meat.

As for wild rabbit, when you think about it, these little foragers must be about the most sustainable (and frugal) meat you could eat. In Australia they are a pest, and in the country they're everywhere.

So what do you do with a rabbit? Well, plenty it seems. A quick look in my cookbooks revealed stews, ragu, pie and roasts.  But first you will need to clean them and we soaked ours overnight in salted water. I found two useful videos here and here. (Just a warning, they are slightly graphic).

Some we left whole, while others we jointed. Not perfectly, but we managed. No harder than jointing a chicken. In fact, probably easier. I dried them all off once soaking was done and then most were bagged and stored in the freezer. I kept one out for last nights dinner.

I decided to make a traditional Italian Rabbit Pappardelle from Angela Hartnett's Cucina. It was really quite simple. Well, simple on the ingredients list, but not that simple. Not hard though. Just one of those time involved recipes, that if you are in the right mood, can be quite satisfying to make. Fortunately I was in the right mood.

So I chopped the carrot and onion (I didn't have celery on hand) with garlic and herbs. I browned the rabbit, caramelized the vegetables and herbs, added wine and stock. I cooked it until it almost fell off the bone. I sieved the stock, just leaving the liquid and then shredded the meat. There was surprisingly a good bowlful from that one little rabbit. I then simmered and reduced the meat with stock for ten minutes or so.

Meanwhile we made pappardelle pasta. By hand again, as I don't yet have that machine.

So Daniel came home from work that night to a pretty messy, chaotic, floury kitchen. But it had been a fun, adventurous evening in the kitchen.

And the taste? I have to say I am a definite convert. It was delicious. Light in flavour and despite the overused term, it most definitely did "taste like chicken".  It was also a huge hit with the kids, whose approval does not come easily.

I think the thing with knowing the journey of your food makes you far more respectful of the animal, the meat and the unwillingness to waste any of it (next time I will ask for that liver). It makes a meal so much more that just preparing and eating. It gives a story to our food.

Have you ever eaten or cooked rabbit before? Would you try it?


  1. We are planning on eating more rabbit, as that is one thing that my husband thinks he will catch when he starts his Bowhunting (as well as other feral species, goat & deer). You can buy rabbit here from a few butchers, as well as Freshlife. I cooked it using a recipe and actually stuck to the recipe because it was my first time, but it still came out a bit tough. Next time I will do it in the slow cooker, rather than a slow oven (which our oven is not!) I wanted to try doing on the BBQ, maybe with a Cajun rub. Or Southern-style 'Fried' Rabbit pieces, like KFC!

  2. I am a vegetarian, yet as I read this, I found myself considering eating rabbit. As you said, there's no shortage of them, and rabbits in the wild here are a pest. If they must be culled (and they must) then surely it is far more respectful to hunt and eat them when possible, making sure that the death doesn't go to waste.

    I have a lot of respect for the consumption of meat in this way (preparing it from scratch, using as much of the animal as possible). I don't know if I am quite ready to come at it myself, but I know if I were to ever be comfortable with eating meat again, it would be like this.

  3. Great post!

    Yes Tania we have eaten rabbit many, many times. I was reared on a large acreage (7,500acres) farm so had plenty of rabbits. We still eat them now when we can get hold of them. I soak our rabbits in vinegar and water instead of salt. It removes the wild taste and marinates, making the meat very tender. We make rabbit stew, roast rabbit and crumbed rabbit with crumbed being our favourite :)

    As kids, we had kangaroo on regular occasions too especially when money was tight...

    You have me craving some rabbit now, might go out tonight and see if there is any around.

    Have a great day!


  4. We grew up eating rabbit. Dad would bring it home often and I remember it soaking in a big silver bowl. Dad would cut it up in small pieces, crumb and fry some for us and I still remember how delicious it was as a kid!

  5. I grew up laying traps for rabbits with my Dad in the Yorke Peninsula, SA...as a child my father lived in the Adelaide hills and went rabbiting to earn money....we also had a ferret as kids, and that was fun to take George out as well...I never ate it, most was given to my nana, and I will always remember the milky smell of gutted rabbits in the back of the car on the way home.......I have always kept rabbits as pets, so , no they are not on the dinner table list at our home... :)

  6. i have never eaten rabbit tania, and to be honest i am not so sure i could. i struggle to eat any meat other than chicken, ham & a bit of red meat. i much prefer fish & salmon. it certainly has nothing to do with the fluffy ear thing (the rabbits i mean) - i just can't get my head around it. i must say your final meal does look very delicious. i do love your homemade pasta. thanks for sharing this post. it has made me think a little. you appreciate the land so much. your adventurous spirit to try such things, far exceeds mine. xo.

  7. I quite like rabbit, though it is a bit harder to come by in the city. Most of the times that I've had it, it's been done ragu-style and served with pasta too. I quite like the sound of roast rabbit, perhaps with some nice root vegetables...

  8. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh I could never be a farmer's wife UNLESS we were vegetarian farmers of course!

    I am such a ying yang though....love eating rabbit usually slow braised with a tomato base but couldn't skin a bunny or pluck a goose unless I was plucking her eyebrows? I would find it far too traumatic.

    I buy meat that doesn't resemble a animal except whole chooks but then I need to not think about it too hard while I quickly bundle it into the oven oh and heaven for bid if I found any stray feathers on a drumstick....

    Have you been watching Two Greedy Italian's on SBS? You will love it x

  9. i'm not really into eating rabbit, which is probably a shame for my parents-in-law who grow rabbits for food on their farm in the southern highlands.

    i've eaten a lot of it, but something about the taste...i just don't like it. too game-y or 'meaty' tasting. i eat it at their house to be polite, but wouldn't choose to cook it myself.

  10. I am intrigued by rabbit meat!

    I never really gave much thought to the way we ate in NZ, I guess I took it for granted. Dad used to hunt for wild pork and as a diver we would eat fish and/or seafood for most meals during the summer months. We also used to source lamb/pork/beef straight from the farm and dad would butcher it into the cuts we wanted. Thinking about it now, knowing the journey food takes to reach our table does make such a difference to your awareness.

    I think I could be convinced to at least try rabbit :)


  11. Strange... considering 99.9% of the meat we eat is wild (deer, sheep, goat, fish & shellfish) thanks to my hunter-gathering husband, I've only had rabbit once! Definitely keen to try it again, especially done "KFC" style like my mother in law raves over.

  12. I'm not a big fan of rabbit. Just the taste Is the reason. I wish I did like it as it's so lean. There is no way I could skin one. I don't know how I would cope in a survival situation :) your meal looks yum though xxx

  13. I'm not a big fan of rabbit. Just the taste Is the reason. I wish I did like it as it's so lean. There is no way I could skin one. I don't know how I would cope in a survival situation :) your meal looks yum though xxx

  14. I have a pet rabbit so I definitely could not prepare a rabbit for eating!!

  15. I've had rabbit at a very fancy resturant once & it was lovely but i've never thought to cook it myself. Our local butcher sells them so maybe i should give it go? I'd have to disguise it as something else as hubby isn't as adventurous as me when it comes to food!

  16. Our local butcher has recently had signs up for rabbits which surprised me in downtown suburban Brisbane. Must admit would have had no idea how to go about dealing with a whole one and very impressed for you to give it ago. I think I may have eaten a rabbit ragu while travelling in italy pre children, yours looks delish. melx

  17. This is really interesting. I've been researching lately about backyard chickens for meat..and happened to borrow a book on the library on rabbits with the intention of looking at them from a fibre point of view. However! The vast majority of the book focuses on raising rabbits in a backyard situation for meat consumption, something I hadn't considered before. I've never even tried eating rabbit so would be interested in doing so..just out of curiosity.

    If your man can catch pesky rabbits for your cooking pot, I say good on you both! Knowing where your food comes from is a GOOD thing and if you are reducing pest numbers at the same time, then all the better. ;)

  18. My grandparents raised meat rabbits and we grew up eating it. I was never that crazy about wild rabbit (it's a different taste) but loved the rabbit my grandmother cooked.

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  20. Hi Tania:)
    We plan to grow meat rabbits,I did have a lot of rabbit as a child.People are amazingly precious these days,if it came down to starvation,people would eat it !! Just ask the people that lived through the depression and the world wars.....we just have no idea:(
    I'm seeing as every day goes by a return to those ways,as food is going to become more scarce in decades to come..I think people had better start learning to live outside the box!!
    Thanks for the post and have a great day:)

  21. We have never eaten rabbit but have recently begun thinking about looking into raising them for meat. At this point much more research is necessary, though.

    I appreciate your post and am in love with the beautiful meal you created. Good stuff!!!

  22. I have not eaten rabbit since I was a child. My father would often go rabbit shooting and I remember spitting the out the shotgun pellets that got missed onto the plate. I haven't thought about it but I would have no issue with eating rabbit again.
    Just like to add, I have serious rolling pin envy. :)That big one with the green handles is gorgeous!

  23. We used to have whatever roo (kangaroo) and rabbit the men could get, or whatever fish we could catch. That was meat for dinner as that was the only real options.

    I'd be keen to try it again and had considered raising rabbits for meat, at a later stage.


  24. Wow, good on Luca. I agree with sustainable ways to eat meat and think it's pretty darn good how your family did the whole skinning, gutting and cooking. That's real life, and it's such a great experience.

    I actually haven't eaten rabbit. I guess it could be because my mum never cooked it and then as soon as I turned 18 I became vegetarian. But after 10 yrs I started eating red meat for health reasons. Hmmm, I think I could try rabbit if it was in a casserole or something like that. Yep, I'm not very adventurous.

  25. Hi Tania,
    So great to read this post! Matt and I started raising rabbits for meat this year, and just butchered our first round. We are also experimenting with the best ways to cook it. I will try and write a post about it soon! The easiest way Matt discovered was to cut it into pieces, braise them in a dutch oven with onions and garlic, then add some veggie stock, sage, and rosemary and cook it all until tender. Delicious!
    Rabbits are the most efficient meat animals to grow- we calculated that raising ours only cost US$1.50 per pound! Also, rabbit meat contains exactly the ratios of various nutrients that the human body requires, so is actually one of the healthiest meats there is.

    Thanks again for this post!



  26. Hi Tania, I grew up eating the odd rabbit that dad or my brothers caught. I remember the texture being like chicken, the meat darker and a little more tastier than chicken. My relatives grow meat rabbits to eat, but I think I would prefer mine wild.

  27. My family and I live in the middle of the city in Memphis, TN and raise rabbits solely for meat. At 4 months of age they are a plump 4-5lbs and make a fine meal with leftovers. Just remember to cook them less than chicken because they are virtually fat-free and cook much more quickly. To forget this will mean tough and rubbery meat. Done properly it is fully interchangeable with chicken but tastier and healthier. They clean up garden scraps and are prolific breeders. Egg-laying chickens are next for our urban mini-homestead. We enjoy the close connection with our food (venison, rabbit, home garden, and soon-coming chickens.)


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