05 August 2009

Rabbit dividends

The advantage of butchering my own animals is that I have the whole animal to use. Unlike a plastic-wrapped boneless, skinless chicken breast or a single grass-fed organic bison patty, a whole animal has lots of delicious parts (which many people have never eaten - except probably in hot dogs.)
The first thing we ate after butchering our rabbits were the hearts and kidneys, sautéed in a little grapeseed oil and flavored with fresh tarragon and a dab of heavy cream. My wife protested, while still managing to spear the last stray heart with her fork,"Why didn't you cook them the way you always do?" disappointed that I used cream with organ meats. We eat them often enough to have preparations we prefer. I sometimes have difficulty make pâté, but I made a pretty good country-style one with all the livers I had. We've been eating it for lunch this week -- a thick slice with a good pickle and a glob of mustard; after that and a piece of fruit I'm ready to return to work.
Last night I made stock with the bones; a slow-cooked, peat-stained stock that looks like a lake in northern Minnesota: tea-brown but perfectly clear. That's the result of a long, slow simmer throughout the night. And for tonight's dinner I used the stock to make my first corn chowder of the season, a real treat with fresh bread and a glass of wine. And marinating in the icebox is a big batch of hasenfeffer, a sour rabbit stew we'll eat on Friday.
Without a whole animal I'd be limited in what I could make. And for the majority of people who rely only on supermarkets for their meat, these stores are reducing the varieties of meats they sell, not increasing them. If you go into a typical supermarket in Minnesota, most of the pork is from Hormel and most of it has added tenderizers and flavor "enhancers" to keep it artificially juicy. And ask in the meat department for pig feet or hocks or pork belly and they probably won't have them. You get the boneless, plastic-wrapped meat and they include a microwave recipe on the label. Additionally, when the pig that gives up its pork chops is killed, the belly and hocks and liver are in the pig. In the old days a real meat market would carry many different cuts and varieties of meat and there were recipes and traditions and budgets for every part of every animal. What happens to all of that now? Does it go into the can of dinner your cat will eat? I like eating kidneys and livers and extracting marrow from bones. I like the bony carcass as much as the meaty legs and I use all the parts in ways that maximize their flavor and value. I want to make food that tastes good and I want to use the entire animal, not just the parts that look like they don't come from one.


  1. Again, an excellent post. :) At the local stores here in Oregon, we can no longer find much in the beef aisle except ground, chuck and round steak. I'd love to have some of your recipes. Do you ever post them?

  2. Thanks for writing. Yes, I post recipes and I'll be putting up one for rabbit stew shortly. I hope you enjoy it!