Rabbits: Like Pulling Food Out of a Hat by Regina Anneler 

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When the rabbits reach butcher weight the time has come to decide if you will do the deed yourself or arrange for someone else to butcher the rabbits for you.  In my case, most often, I have a friend who does it for me in trade for some of the meat.  This works out better for me because I would rather give away some meat than clean up afterwards.  However, butchering rabbits is much easier and is far simpler than butchering poultry.

Depending on the one doing the butchering, the way to kill the rabbit is a personal preference.  Snapping the neck, slitting the throat or knocking the rabbit in the head are the most common methods used.  Remember to plan your butcher date ahead of time so you will be able to withhold feed for about 24 hours before butcher time; this saves a lot more mess when butchering. 

The tools you will need for butchering are a sharp skinning knife, a refuse bucket, a bucket or barrel of cold ice water, small pair of dikes, and plastic zipper bags.  After the rabbit is dead, it is most common to hang the deceased rabbit by the hind legs on a post or suspended in air by some manner.  At this point some butchers will spray the rabbit’s fur with water to discourage loose hair from flying around the meat when skinned.  Next, they split the skin at the back legs below the hocks cutting around the tail and simply peeling the fur right off the body.  At this point take the dikes and cut the bone of front legs off.  

Now, its time to gut or clean the rabbit; you’ll need to cut from near the anus towards the chest of the rabbit.  Try hard not nick or cut the bladder, intestines or other organs so as not to contaminate your meat.  Once the body cavity is open remove the entrails, split the chest and remove the heart, lungs, and trachea.  Last step is to split the pelvic area and remove rectum.  

Use the dikes again to cut the back leg bones above the feet.  Take the carcass and put it into the ice water while you work on the next rabbit.  When you have finished with the rabbits you are butchering, remove them from the ice water and place them into zip-tight bags.  You have just provided your family with fresh rabbit meat. 

There are lots of recipes available for preparing rabbit dishes.  Basically, any recipe you use with chicken can be used for rabbit with a few minor modifications.  Because of the lower fat levels, rabbit meat is dryer than chicken so less cooking time and a lower cooking temperature are both necessary to consider when preparing.  

I have fixed many rabbit dishes over the years but the one that my family prefers the most is a sweet-and-sour dish.  It requires a little more prep time than, say, an easier crock-pot-type meal but the taste is definitely worth the extra effort that it requires. 

If you would like to try the sweet and sour rabbit dish you will first need:

  • 2 ½ - 3 lbs of rabbit.

  • ½ tsp. Each of salt & pepper

  • ½ cup vegetable oil

  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 ¼ Tbsp cider vinegar

  • 4 Tbsp horseradish

  • ½ tsp dry mustard

  • Green pepper cut into strips

  • 1 20 oz can chunked pineapple

  • 1 11oz can mandarin oranges 

Brown the rabbit in the oil for about 10-12 minutes on each side.  Place the browned rabbit in a baking dish.  Drain the pineapple but keep the liquid, drain the oranges also.  Cover the rabbit with 1/3 of the pineapples and 1/3 of the oranges, then place the green pepper strips over the fruit.  

Add brown sugar and vinegar to the reserved pineapple liquid.  Pour the juice over the rabbit, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Puree the remaining pineapple chunks and mandarin orange slices; add horseradish and mustard, mixing well.  Pour this over the rabbit, and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes.  This is an excellent dish with rice and serves 4-6 people. 

Another recipe option that my family enjoys is barbeque rabbit fixed in the crock-pot.  This is an easy favorite as it does not require a lot of effort for me.  I simply put the whole rabbit in the crock-pot set on low for the day.  By evening the meat should be separated from the bones and you can remove them.  Pour your favorite barbeque sauce over the remaining rabbit and leave it for another hour or two.  Spoon out plates with some baked beans and you have another hearty meal.

You now have all the basics to start raising rabbits for your family table.  Rabbits are easy to raise and can be a rewarding project for the homesteader wanting to grow their food.  It takes little space and time as well as being one the most inexpensive types of livestock to raise for food production.  Rabbit is a true bargain in today’s economy and food market for those wanting to grow and produce healthy meals. 



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