Sunday, August 12, 2012

rabbit for dinner

Yesterday's Meat Rabbit Workshop was small, but packed with information and experiences. In one day we went from the foundation stock and what to look for in your breeding animals, to housing, breeding, kit rearing, and breed types. The day was split into two halves: the morning at my farm where we went over the land of the living—and the afternoon at Livingston Brook Farm where we learned about the land of the dead (more on that later). The entire morning was spent in lecture, either in the farmhouse or out in the barn. The stars of the day were Gotcha the Silver Fox and my chunky Palomino doe who doesn't have a name, but does have eyelashes that would shame a fawn. Everyone got to see a normal mating (Gibson, the little pervert stared wide eyed at this)and we discussed the safest and best ways to bring the little ones up in the world. I tried to cover every aspect of the backyard meat rabbit herd, and what to expect in the experience. We broke for a casual lunch and then packed up into Karen and Joe's Urban Assault Vehicle and drove to Patty's!

Patty taught us all about harvesting the animals. She showed us a simple, quick, and silent way to quickly kill the rabbits using a metal rod like a broom handle behind the animals head, lifting the back legs until its neck is broken in one gentle motion. This isn't easy to explain, but if you youtube search for "broomstick rabbit method" you'll see what I mean. From there she went through her expert method of butchering the humanely killed animals. We went through the system with three rabbits and then stepped inside her beautiful farmhouse to learn about cooking methods and freezer packing. She explained her fool-proof brown and simmer method and showed us how to quarter, butterfly, and best pack the rabbit meat for storage. Patty and Mark were certainly having rabbit for dinner that night, hosting some neighbors from across the road. I bet it was amazing. In fact, I'm certain, as I've eaten rabbit at her place enough times to make the claim!

The day of rabbits covered it all, and I think the brave folks who came out to see the entire enterprise were happy they did. Everyone learned something. Some learned rabbit butchering was NOT for them, and other's got tips and ideas for their future buck and does. I know I came home to a house smelling of Drunk Rabbit Stew, a Cold Antler Farm staple crock pot dinner eaten over buttered egg noodles and it was legendary in taste and scent. My friends Ajay and Geoff came over and each had a serving along with me, both new rabbit conisuers, and both enjoyed it. (I think it is impossible not to enjoy anything with both butter and Guinness in the recipe.) Heck, even the dogs got to enjoy a taste!

I'm a fan of meat rabbits, have been for a while now. It's one of the topics I'll be talking about at the Mother Earth News Fair and will continue to teach and lecture about here at the farm. I think their the perfect backyard protein, maybe even better than chickens. They are quieter, easier to dress and cook, and more people like it than dislike it once they get the gumption to try it out. I think rabbit and venison have become my top shelf meats, my new palate's favorite flavors. I'll keep breeding and enjoying the former, and pray I get an arrow in the later. The good news is even a bad shot can come inside on a cold November night to a bowl of Drunk Rabbit, regardless of the gifts of the hunt. I don't think that's a bad consolation prize at all. In fact, with a side of crusty bread and a wedge of cheese and home brew in a stein, that might be this woman's version of heaven.


Anonymous Sarah said...

My mum served rabbit fairly regularly when I was growing up, and it's just as nice as other meats (provided you don't let it dry out). Only quibble is the bones - they break up much more easily than chicken bones which can be a bit of a pain at times.

August 12, 2012 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger aerogramme said...

Hi Jenna and all,

I hope your guest enjoyed their day. I am glad to see you promoting rabbit to your blog readers. Born and raised in France, rabbit was the usual Sunday lunch meat. Either harvested from the backyard hutch, taken out of the wild using a snare or a lucky catch from an early drive in the back roads (rabbit are the equivalent of squirrels in France, you can find them everywhere in the country). Nowadays I do consume them here in the Midwest, rarely catch them using a snare but my rabbitry provide enough of them to content me. I do raise blanc de houtot. I choose this breed because just like me they were originating from Normandy.

I am always wondering if you cook your rabbit in other way than making a stew as this almost always the way you describe it ( I might be wrong). I have to admit that I do enjoy a good stew in the winter time but do also enjoy my rabbit cooked using other methods as well. My first delicacy after butchering time is to cook the livers in butter with some shallots. “ the Sadddle of the rabbit “ is also great cooked with shallots and served with mashed potatoes and red wine, nothing wrong with adding some red wine in the sauce either. But my real treat is rabbit pate. Serve at 10 am after a hard morning or by the creek during a fishing day or at 5 pm while looking at the day coming to an end.

I hope that some of your readers will look at craigslist to find some fryers and try it next week end

August 12, 2012 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Luckily, even though watching the "broomstick" method was really difficult for me, I still value experience so much and adore the taste of rabbit. and I love the fact that it's such a good source of home-raised meat that can be adapted to small spaces. We will probably venture into meat rabbits at some point, but I'm not planning on being the one who has to kill them. :) Thanks, Jenna and Patty!

August 12, 2012 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Indio said...

Do you do anything with the pelts? It seems a shame to not use all of the rabbit. Is there any part of the rabbit that you don't eat?

August 12, 2012 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Future Farmer said...

Grâce à vous, j'ai faim. Merci.

August 12, 2012 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Jenna, just got in last night from two weeks in Spain. Every open air market my daughter took us to had rabbits among all the other assortment of meats and fish that we won't discuss! Who do you think I thought of when I saw the rabbits?

August 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger Coco said...

Jenna, I believe you´ve mentioned raising Angora rabbits. Could you go into the differences in raising rabbits for fiber as opposed to meat varieties(if any)?

Both DH and I have eaten rabbit, but don´t like it enough to raise them ourselves.

August 13, 2012 at 3:54 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Coco, I have raised Angoras, but stopped when I moved to NY. I don't think there's much different in raising animals, as far as keeping and breeding, but with angoras the care level rises into different feed and grooming requirements. Also, most pet and fiber breeders join the ARBA, and pedigree their animals which requires tattoos and such. I suggest going into their website, going to a rabbit show, or getting Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits for more info!

August 13, 2012 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Aero: I mostly crock pot rabbits (all meat that isn't grilled!) in the summer because of time! send me some new recipes!

August 13, 2012 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Indio, I do not use the pelts, no. It's just something I haven't learned to do and have not had the time for yet.

August 13, 2012 at 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like it was a great workshop! Looking forward to attending it, next time you host it. We just couldn't make it, this time.


August 13, 2012 at 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a great workshop! I now feel I have enough information to get a small backyard meat rabbit operation started next year. Now if I can just get my friends and family to stop thinking I'm the second incarnation of Hannibal Lechter...
Having the hands on experience makes such a difference. If this is the quality at all of your workshops, I would encourage readers to take a workshop at Cold Antler Farm!


August 13, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Lissa B. said...

I would love to go to one of your meat rabbit workshops one day! I just started raising French Angoras because of the fiber, but also because they are large enough that they can be used for meat. I plan on breeding them and selling them as pets and 4h animals, and eating the ones that don't sell. My pair will not be ready for their first breeding until December, so I still have a little time to prepare myself for butchering...I think this will be hard for me. But I have a desire to get over it and stock my freezer, so I am currently looking for a butcher in my area that will show me what to do. I have a big fear of doing it wrong and making my 2 little girls sick.
But I have you to thank for my rabbits! I have wanted chickens for meat and eggs, but my community won't allow them. So I am keeping indoor rabbits! I only have one breeding pair, but if I am able to get over myself and butcher their kits, then I hope to add another doe to the herd. So thanks for the inspiration! Never would have thought of rabbits had I not read Made From Scratch!

August 13, 2012 at 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna, You have come a long way. You are a success in leaving your 9 -5 job at such a young age to pursue your ambitions. Best wishes to you and your very creative skills at developing lucrative workshops and a blog with beautiful photos and prose that draw folks to a simpler time, which is really now the time to take control over our food source.

August 13, 2012 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

Question: if you get this in the year 2015 vs the year you wrote this.............

So in your day of 'here's a rabbit, and it's housing/ food/ habits' and 'butchering', do the students of your school taste the rabbit? Do they eat rabbit for dinner or do they leave with the education?

November 5, 2015 at 6:03 PM  

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