I haven't posted much lately. Two projects have taken up much of my time, and besides the garden isn't having a very good finish with the tomatoes gone.
A litter of ten bunny rabbits can take up some time. Not at first, but as they get larger they go through a lot of food, and the grow-out cage needs cleaning every few days. They eat and crap a lot. They've gone through 4 bags of feed since they were born, and I forage for them in the morning and the evening. I've managed to cut down most of the willow growing on the levee for their dinner, fed them scrap foliage from the garden as well as any deformed cucumbers (and some that weren't). A few weeks ago I found that they liked dogwood shoots, which grow at the edge of the woods. They also enjoy ragweed, whose pollen causes me much misery this time of year.
The standard time to fatten a bunny to slaughter weight is 12 weeks. That would have been September 1 for these rabbits. At 12 weeks they looked a bit thin and small for butchering, but then I don't have an experienced eye for this sort of thing. Last year I bought a litter of 8 week old weaned bunnies and raised them to 12 weeks. They cleaned out to a carcass of just over two and a half pounds on average, which is very typical.
Well I started butchering rabbits a week ago and I won't go into the details of that except I try to make it a quick death. They were 13 1/2 weeks old. I was more than a little shocked at their dressed weight - about 4 pounds on average! I finished the last of them yesterday and now have a freezer packed with rabbit meat. Next year I'll know not to trust my judgement. I'll process one or two at 9 weeks, a few more at 11 weeks then the rest at 12 weeks, nevermind how I think they look.
Rabbit is a challenge to cook. It is a very nutritious meat, high in protein and low in fat. It is the lack of fat that makes it a challenge. So what was the first dish I made from the freshly processed rabbits? Rabbit liver. Most people either like or actively dislike liver. I stopped buying liver from the store many years ago because of my concerns with the excessive amount of chemicals put into the feed of an animal raised in factory farms, which is a shame because I really like liver. The liver is the chemical processing center of an animal. If you like liver, rabbit liver is one of the best, mild, great flavor, and the rabbit liver is huge for the size of the animal. Two of them make a meal. I made liver and onions, using one of the Ruby Ring onions from the garden. The onions were just carmelized a little when the liver was ready. This is much better than any calf liver I've eaten.
The rabbit muscle meat is a bigger challenge. The preparation that has produced the best results for me is roasting the cut-up rabbit. Here's how I cooked the first rabbit: Potatoes, carrots and fennel pieces were coated with olive oil and thyme and roasted for 30 minutes in a large baking dish. The rabbit pieces were browned in rendered bacon fat and dusted with rosemary. Then onions and the rabbit pieces were added to the dish and the bacon slices laid over the rabbit. This infuses the meat with delicious bacon fat. After 30 minutes the pieces were turned over, the bacon put on the new side and roasted another 30 minutes. The dish is easy to make, very rustic and completely delicious. Now I need to find additional preparations that are as good as this one.
The other project that has taken up much of my time is a new walkway behind the house, between the flower beds. The original walkway was wood, and the frame was buried in the soil. Of course it was only a matter of time before it fell apart. The old walkway was dismantled, the posts dug out of the ground and the soil excavated. On three sides a concrete edger was made after trenching and making forms. I thought this was necessary since the ground sloped and the whole thing would try to slide down the incline if not supported properly. The walk got the standard 4 inches of crushed stone, 1 inch of sand and the pavers were set in, then the gaps filled with sand. A lot of work, requiring more patience than I have, but the results are very satisfying. The back deck is my peaceful haven.
The walkway looks great. And I can imagine that back deck must be a really nice spot to hang out.
Really nice looking walkway, Mike. Does the ground freeze there? If so, do you think you'll have problems with "frost heaves?" I like rabbit meat, but I'm one of those people who gags at liver, so I think I'll stick with the muscle meat.
I love eating rabbit, but I have never cooked it. My perception is that (as you say) it is a difficult meat to cook with. Sounds as if you got a good "crop".
We have to redo our walkway as well, but I have a feeling that it would be a bit much for us as a DIY project, so kudos to you for a job well done!
Your roasted rabbit prep sounds yummy to me. My dad grew up on a farm in Posey Co, eating a lot of wild rabbit during the Depression. He said my GM fried it first then added liquid to the skillet, covered it and let it braise until tender. I used to do that with tame rabbits when I had a good source for them. These days I might try the pressure cooker.
Haven't seen your rabbits but will look for in older posts.
This is my 3rd year with rabbits & I thought my stuff was predator proof --- until a young mink (about half grown) proved otherwise. He massacred a doe & 8 little buns after crawling through a 1 inch gap in a hinged roof. Play it safe & think small when building a hutch or letting them run in a yard enclosure. Mink & weasels can be just as deadly as the bigger critters.
As for rabbit liver --- :o( I had seen several folks post that it is really, really good stuff so I dove into it expecting something like taste-bud heaven. What I got was like a super duper mega dose of iron. Thanks but no thanks!!! I'll stick with the occasional beef or chicken livers.
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