Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Rabbit Challenge

* Viewer warning: While there are no images of dead animals in this post, if discussion of the preparation of fresh rabbits for eating disturbs you, click elsewhere. Readers from outside Australia should know that rabbits are not native to Australia and are considered a pest. Rural land holders are obliged by law to control their numbers.

Last night one of our neighbours Mr C brought round 6 freshly shot rabbits. Most were shot off our property but one was shot at Highfield after having given permission, nay begged  him to assist with our rabbit control issues. Mr C and the rabbits arrived after I had gone to bed but the Lad was up and received the shooters at the door and with esky a ready.

On asking Mr C to visit with his gun he kindly offered to 'dress' them for me once he discovered that I as former city slicker had never done it before. When I said I was willing to prepare the rabbits myself he also kindly offered to do one for me so I could see how to do it. Being the independent kind, I said, "thanks, but I have read up on 'dressing' rabbits, I'll give it a go". Was I being too confident?

I consulted two texts - Dick and James Strawbridge's Practical Self Sufficiency,

and John Seymour's The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. 

I decided that I preferred the version supplied by the Strawbridges - the first one shown - and read up before I went to bed keen to put my new found book knowledge to work in the morn.

It was about 6am when the Lad, in answer to my question, "how many?" said, "6". To be frank the number 6, startled me a little... I was a new comer to all this, 6 furry rabbits to clean seemed a challenge too far, one or two or even 3 seemed more manageable. Was this Mr C playing some sort of joke in response to my cockiness?

I decided that earlier in the morning for this sort of thing was best and  re-consulted the book with bleary eyes, grabbed some essential equipment (knives - a sharp small one and a heavy big one, a bucket, and a cutting board) and  headed outside.

What I learned
I hope that these short notes will assist any of you taking this task or similar tasks on. It was this detail that the books were missing that you might find useful. It may be a little confronting.
  • the first one was the most difficult - unsurprising you may say.
  • it is best to make two cuts to access the organs -one thru the fur and skin and then another into the 'bag' that holds the organs. The books above implied that it would happen in one go and thus I was mightily confused when with the first rabbit I couldn't see any entrails when I made my first incision!
  • once I had made a gentle and small cut into the 'bag' that holds the organs, this was easily torn with your hands - in fact I think that this is 'safer' (if not a little unnerving at first) than using a knife to open the cavity more lest you cut the organs.
  • once you have opened the organ 'bag', I find it easier (contrary to the book's instructions) to hold the rabbit by its front paws over a bucket and let gravity assist with the organs falling away.You do need to use your hands a little to scoop out the innards as they are loosely attached to the cavity by a sort of membrane. It comes away very easily.
  • the lungs and heart are in a separate cavity above the innards, you need to be more vigorous to access these and take them out but hands I think is the way to go.
  • the skin and fur are very easy to remove - just like the books say!
  • the hardest bit of getting the skin and fur off is cutting the paws off, the bone even when cut right at the joint, is quite tough - I guess its the sinews that make them bounce that make it tough.
  • it doesn't smell.
  • it's not bloody.
  • it's not hard  physically to do, I didn't find it emotionally tough either and I am a bit of a softey. In fact I feel a little proud of myself setting myself the challenge and taking it on. I had wanted to take things on like this when we moved here and I feel great that I have achieved this humble little act that our mothers and grandmothers probably did every week!
  • I wasn't being too confident.
I took the back legs off the hips and tonight I am making a Spanish inspired dish. In part it comes from this SBS recipe, which is French in style, but I have amended it to replace the bacon with chorizo and have added smoked paprika. I think that the best rabbit dish I ever ate was a dish in Spain and so I had to make a dish with Spanish flavours.

The ingredients are here but I forgot to put in the photo the wine and the stock that I had in the freezer made from lamb bones.

It's in the oven right now and I hope we get to eat it! A fire truck has just raced past to attend a fire just 3kms away. Thankfully it is a calm evening - not a hint of wind. The fire no doubt was ignited by last night's lightening storm. I will post now and add a postscript if we get to eat it. By the way, the rest of the rabbits are in the freezer awaiting cooler weather and a rabbit pie.

Stay safe everyone, Queenslanders stay dry (especially you brother), and can we have a little of your excess water please?

PS:  We ate the dish, we didn't need to vacate, and it was delicious. The meat was still a little dry but not too dry and with the light sauce it was lovely. I had already started to munch on this before I took the photo, I couldn't wait!

The fire is still there but  the fire fighters have gone home - a sign that they are comfortable leaving it. There is no wind and we will keep an active watch on the RFS website.


  1. That looks absolutely delicious and I am VERY impressed with your butchering skills. I don't think I could do it, to be honest.

    I don't think I've had rabbit since I was a kid when my parents would buy them from the local rabbiter and mum would cook up a rabbit stew. I really can't remember what it tastes like but I know it didn't look nearly as good as yours!

    1. Thank you! I am pretty pleased with myself! You could do it Nina, if you wanted. It seems like such a good use of a pest species - good lean meat, bred locally, no food miles etc etc

  2. Fabulous work. It is quite a tough job to get through 1 let alone 6! Hope you are staying safe and the rain that has come down the coast gets inland.

    1. it got easier and easier so after doing two I felt that 6 wasnt too hard at all. No rain at all!

  3. Well done! That looks absolutely delicious. I think its great that you're both getting rid of a pest and putting a good meal on the table. Have you considered doing something with the skins?

    1. It was pretty nice and left overs tonight which should taste even better I think. You are right, great getting two outcomes! Skins... yes, I am seriously considering making that my next rabbit challenge with the next lot of rabbits - one challenge at a time I think. This time the rabbit left overs went into a hole which will house a fruit tree at some point, so three benefits?

      I kind of fancy the idea of some lovely furry cushions. You know that there was quite some colour variation in the rabbits. There were rabbits that were pale grey, a darker grey and a reddish grey. Perhaps a rabbit skin rug? Like the beautiful possum skin capes that Indigenous people used to wear in the colder parts of the country? Have to get googling on how to prepare the skins. Have you ever done it?

      I guess this post might help you with your duck ambitions???

    2. Most definitely! I've never prepared skins but I remember seeing it on a tv program once and it didn't look that hard. But you have certainly helped with duck ambitions... a different animal but lots of overlap with paying respect and not wasting a thing.

  4. Excellent butchering work. I have to admit to not having eaten rabbit since i was a kid. Mum would prepare it with parsley sauce. Acutally we ate a lot of things with parsley sauce (ie white sauce with parsley in it)- tripe being the most common. Maybe I shoud try rabbit again - how meaty did it taste? I struggle with meaty meats but I'm not squeemish about eating furry vermin.

    1. I have never been fond of parsley sauce... on anything. It's too bland for me, I love big flavours. Don't let your experience of parsley or white sauce put you off rabbit. It's not very 'meaty', its much more like a dryer red meat chicken cut. If you like chicken , then I think you'd like rabbit. These ones were quite young and tender. They are hard to get in the shops and expensive.

  5. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  6. Well done! I admire your budding skills and it looks delicious. It's good to be able to prepare your own meat. It think it honours the animal we are privileged to have for food and enables us not to take it for granted too. Looks like you're enjoying your new lifestyle!

    1. We love it here! It's great to learn new skills, next challenge? - tanning skins!

    2. What about felting? Isn't rabbit fur used for that?? You could make knock-off Akubras!

      I'll put in an order for one (medium/large) thanks. :)

  7. NO! Poor rabbits.... :'( If it was me I'd be sobbing over this.



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