Introduction: Braised Wild Rabbit Stew- From Field to Table

Picture of Braised Wild Rabbit Stew- From Field to Table

Here a rabbit is stalked, shot, skinned, butchered and cooked in juiced apples and home grown vegetables to make a thick and delicious stew.

When I was younger I used to eat a lot of rabbit meat mostly because I was hungry and short of cash. I kept ferrets and would catch the animals in home made nets draped carefully over the warren bolt holes. Sadly, I no longer keep ferrets, but do have a rifle and am a trained hunter/marksman and hope to pass on some really useful tips for bringing rabbits from the field to the table that will not be easily found elsewhere.

Difficulty:..........
Cost:..........
Satisfaction:..........
Hazards:..........Diseased animal, rifle safety and fleas!

Good hunting!

Step 1: Tell Tale Signs of Rabbits

Picture of Tell Tale Signs of Rabbits

The first thing is to find the rabbits, or where they can be found in reasonable numbers. The last thing that I want is to get out of my warm bed at four o'clock in the morning and walk around the fields and find no rabbits.

There are a few things to look for and the most obvious is nice fresh droppings. These should be black and shiny. If they are brown and dry they are old and may be from a rabbit that is just passing by rather than a habitual visitor. Another thing to look for is scrape marks with little tussles of white fury 'stuff' next to them (See photo above). If these signs can be seen fresh everyday for several days in succession then it's pretty likely the rabbit is either a habitual visitor or has even taken up residence in a nearby hedgerow.

Rabbits are strongly attracted to smells and will often travel for miles to investigate a freshly ploughed field for the juicy morsels that the plough may reveal. They are also attracted to freshly mowed fields as they prefer small, young plant shoots rather than big rough tufts of grass which are much harder for them to digest. It is also much easier to spot the creatures in mowed grass as there is less cover for them to hide in.

If rabbits have taken up permanent residence in a hedge, you can often smell them as you walk past on a still day - they really do stink sometimes! After a while, hollows in the undergrowth should become noticeable as they start to use regular runs to get to their feeding grounds. Sometimes they will form hopping tracks which take the form of regular patches of flattened grass at hopping intervals - for this you will have to imagine you are a rabbit - a rabbit will not push through thick grass if it can just hop over it. Lastly, rabbits may leave very distinctive tracks in mud or snow - think what a rabbit's back legs look like and what mark it would leave behind. They will also periodically urinate in the snow leaving pretty little yellow patches!

Step 2: Shooting Equipment

Picture of Shooting Equipment

Obviously some kind of rifle is required and this could be a 'firearm' or an airgun. I started off with an airgun but found it pretty unsatisfactory as it did not have the power to get clean and humane kills unless it was at really close range such as 30 metres or less. Even then, if the rabbit was paying attention, it could hear the shot and jump out of the way before the pellet made contact, it was that slow! A 0.22 calibre rifle is a much more effective option, but there are important safety aspects to be aware of.

Rabbits prefer to feed in the hours of darkness, particularly at about an hour before sunrise. A powerful lightweight spotlight mounted on the gun is essential and will cause a bright reflection in the rabbit's eyes which makes them easy to spot if they are looking sideways on.

To get a humane shot a shooting stick is a really good idea. I use a lightweight photographic tripod with a home made metal V attached. Target shooting at rabbits to test your skills is not a good idea! The shooting stick is not a cheat and will make getting a steady aim ten times easier than just holding the rifle in the air.

Step 3: Health and Safety

The best policy here would be to get some experience hunting with a trained or experienced person who can explain all the possible hazards. Shooting and eating rabbits need not be dangerous if you know what you are doing. Personally, I did a two day training course called DSC1 in the UK, which goes into detail about the diseases animals such as rabbits may carry, what the symptoms look like and who to notify if something nasty such as TB is spotted. Rifles themselves are obviously incredibly dangerous if the hunter does not know what they are doing, so training is essential.

Meat hygiene is another important aspect and again training is appropriate. There are online training courses which are helpful, but do not go into as much detail as the DSC1.

Lastly, all rabbits have fleas, who will be looking for a new host almost immediately after the rabbit dies.

If you can leave the rabbit hanging up for about 5 minutes before gutting, then the fleas will jump off into the grass rather than into your clothes!

Step 4: Stalking the Rabbits

Picture of Stalking the Rabbits

Once it has been established that rabbits are present in a location on a daily basis, the hunter can set his alarm clock for early morning, check which way the wind is blowing and approach from a downwind position if possible. Looking at the photo above, the grassy area is where I have spotted signs of rabbits and provides a safe back stop for the shot (consult your training instructor). No person or animal should be in between the rifleman and the rabbit, so the dog would normally be 'at heel',and not in the foreground as shown.

Move quietly and steadily watching out for sticks underfoot - if you are careful you can feel the sticks with the underside of your foot before treading on them - practise this beforehand or remove such obstacles from your path the day before. Never stamp your foot clumsily as this is identical to the rabbits alarm signal that it performs with it's back legs. Once in a predetermined suitable location, set up the shooting stick, rest the rifle on them/it and turn on the lamp. Strictly speaking, you should not scan the field with the gun, but in this situation there is no other option unless you have a companion to help out. If there are rabbits, they will react in several possible ways - they may just look back at the lamp in which case you will see their eyes, they may hop into cover, they may run away or may just ignore everything. If it's the last one then they may be diseased, the other behaviour is often entirely unpredictable. Rabbits are also curious, so may hide for a while and then peak their heads up to see what's going on, but in any case be prepared for a quick decision to take a shot. Never stall or the opportunity will be missed.

Don't try and seek out the rabbits by creeping up to them - it's much better to sit or even stand dead still in a corner of a field and wait for the rabbits to emerge. If you don't move they will generally ignore you. Just requires some patience!

Legal: In some countries/states 'lamping' for rabbits is illegal.

Step 5: Skinning and Butchering the Rabbit

Picture of Skinning and Butchering the Rabbit

Surprisingly, I could not find a good instructable on how to skin a rabbit, so here goes!

Use a really good sharp knife - even 'surgical' steel if you can get one. Check out the links below for seriously sharp tools:

Havalon knives for skinning

CLICKY LINKY

Tojiro Chef's Knife 180mm

CLICKY LINKY

Top Grade Double Sided Whetstone 1000 / 3000 Grit

CLICKY LINKY

The Tojiro Chef Knife has steel with a hardness value of 57 - 58 on the Rockwell scale which is very good. You'll also need a whetstone for sharpening. Foolishly, I used an 'off the shelf' kitchen knife for the butchering in the video below.

Step 6: The Recipe

Picture of The Recipe

In my mind wild rabbit is quite hard to cook without it tasting really 'gamey', which is not how I would like it. In the past I would probably be in a hurry and not cook it for long enough so it was tough or it would be in a thin, mealy, stew with a few random chunks of vegetables. Now, for once and all, I am going to meditate on the recipe for days before hand and remedy ALL my previous mistakes!

So, going through the process, I spotted really good signs of rabbits in one of the fields, I stalked the rabbit at 10pm so did not even have to get up early, I shot the rabbit (there was only one), brought the rabbit home and left it outside for the fleas to hop away, REALLY PLEASED WITH MYSELF! Got up early in the morning and .............. It was gone! The fox must have got it! Now I had to think which of my neighbours had rabbit infestations and start 'phoning round. The rabbit stew simply had to be made!

The recipe itself is based around two basic requirements: (1) Tenderise the meat and (2) Thicken the stew with flavour. The thickness will not be created with corn flour, but juiced apples, which should also have enough intensity of flavour to compliment the extremely flavoursome rabbit. I suppose I could have just wacked it with chilli powder, black pepper, turmeric etc but that felt like cheating on this occasion. There will, however, be some spice, but not too much.

Equipment:

  • 7.5 litre pan
  • Juicer (BJE410 Nutri Juicer ™) for apples

Ingredients:

  • Two wild rabbits
  • 900g apples ..................................... Lots of lovely fresh apples this time of year
  • 750g carrots ................ Fresh, Fresh, FRESH and full of flavour.
  • 600g leeks
  • 800g small onions
  • 500g potatoes
  • 800g tomatoes
  • 75g fresh garlic
  • Tarragon ........................................... My neighbour said this was great with rabbit.
  • Fresh Bay leaves x 5 of
  • 100g kale
  • Ground pepper
  • Salt

Process:

  1. Add oil/fat to a large frying pan, heat until crackling and then add the pieces of rabbit and quickly brown off on both sides.
  2. Chop and fry the onions and garlic together until caramelised (browned). This produces an utterly heavenly smell! Blink when you chop and you won't get onion juice in your eyes.
  3. Transfer to a large pot, add chopped vegetables, pepper, bay leaves, tarragon and chopped tomatoes.
  4. Juice the apples and pour into the pot to cover about 90% of the contents. (Not 100% as tomatoes are 95% liquid). Is that confusing? - Don't worry about it!
  5. Chop up and boil the potatoes in a separate pan until cooked and strain off the water.
  6. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours or as long as it takes for the meat to fall off the bone.
  7. Fork out the rabbit joints and peel off the meat, discarding the bones. Throw the meat back into the pot.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add kale chopped off the stalk, discarding the stalk. Add the boiled potatoes now.
  9. Cook for a further 10 minutes and serve with more vegetables and a tablespoon of Earwig Chutney.

Step 7: Tasting Session

Enjoy the taste of this amazing recipe as we did!

Comments

antagonizer (author)2014-10-14

Congratulations on the win. I love rabbit stew and taking it from field to table is the right way to do it.

Thanks Ant and congratulations yourself on the top hunter's prize. You got that Gopro camera you needed!

JM1999 (author)2014-10-11

And don't shoot and eat the rabbits in Australia, they have myxomatosis - it can kill you!

You can't even keep them as pets in the most of Aus, the only use the Aussie rabbits have is for dog food and even then it is questionable...

Good job on the 'ible and the win, I hope this encourages you to post more content.

diy_bloke (author)JM19992014-10-11

Myxomatosis doesnt kill people

JM1999 (author)diy_bloke2014-10-11

Try telling the Aussies that died from it that...

That is THE ONLY REASON we can't keep them as pets or keep them.

diy_bloke (author)JM19992014-10-12

believe what you want but no human ever died of myxomatosis or even contracted it.
Other than in Queensland you are allowed to keep rabbits as pets in Australia, albeit that vaccination against myxomatosis is forbidden.

JM1999 (author)diy_bloke2014-10-13

Right, I am mistaken.

Nobody has died from Mixie, they all have been seriously ill with another disease at the time of death.

The laws regarding rabbits as pets in QLD are below:

A permit to keep domestic rabbits in Queensland can only

be approved if the animal is being kept for an approved

purpose:

  • certain forms of public entertainment (e.g. magic show

    and circuses)

  • scientific and research purposes (universities only).

    Permits to breed rabbits are only issued to recognised

    scientific institutions. Breeding of rabbits for any other

    purpose is illegal.

    Permits to keep rabbits will not be issued to mobile farms

    or pet stores.

    Rabbits may be cute and cuddly but they are also a

    destructive pest in Queensland and illegal to have as a pet

    and penalties apply.

    I haven't researched this fully and I thought it was throughout Australia that you couldn't have rabbits as pets.

    Thank you for correcting me on that one and I am sorry to all those I led astray.

  • Tecwyn Twmffat (author)JM19992014-10-11

    We've got myxie in the UK too but I've never heard of anybody catching it. I've never seen or heard of a fox catching it either and they eat them all the time.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'll try and get something else up soon!

    MoTinkerGNome (author)2014-10-11

    One thing to remember that if you are in the U.S. most states require a hunters education class consisting of a Shooting portion and a written test. It covers safety and marksmanship on humanely killing your prey. Your local Conservation / Game and Wildlife department will be able to get you started.

    Here in Missouri you do not need a permit to hunt small game on your own property , but there is a inexpensive annual permit required for public land. Just make sure you observe seasons and regulations.

    Cool, thanks for that Mo.

    AngryRedhead (author)2014-09-28

    I would like to hear more about hunting with ferrets!

    Yes, this took a lot more skill than hunting with a rifle. Sometimes the ferrets would just 'lay up' in the burrows and you'd be waiting for hours wondering what they were up to and then suddenly a load of rabbits would all bolt out of the warren at the same time and you'd find yourself diving this way and that to catch them before they escaped out of the nets.

    This needs to be an Instructable!

    A friend of mine used to keep ferrets in his shirt to impress the ladies in the pub, but one night he got really drunk and clumsily fell onto the bar, squashing the ferret, which expressed it's discomfort by latching it's very sharp teeth onto one of his nipples. Needless to say, it, being a ferret, would not let go whilst the man ran around the pub screaming in agony.

    seamster (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2014-10-07

    I thoroughly enjoyed this short story, and the mental image it produced.

    Thanks!

    Tecwyn Twmffat (author)seamster2014-10-08

    Thanks Seamster. The ferrets also used to latch onto my index finger every now and again. Not quite so painful as a nipple. They need to be handled or 'cuddled' regularly to keep them tame. Some people even take them for walks on a lead like a dog!

    broncodan (author)2014-10-03

    I love rabbit, I grew up on it. We used to hunt them all the time, and there were several rabbit farms too, but I liked wild rabbit, it just tasted better. I haven't had it in years though. The farms are all gone now, and I just haven't had the time to hunt. I think I'm going to have to make some time. The weather is getting just right. This stew sounds delicious. Thanks for posting.

    Tecwyn Twmffat (author)broncodan2014-10-04

    You're very welcome. I hope you have some success.

    Mario2007 (author)2014-10-01

    I would just like to add a tip. You mentioned shining a light to get a reflection of their eyes at night, this is illegal when hunting just about every where in the states.

    Tecwyn Twmffat (author)Mario20072014-10-01

    OK, thanks Mario. I'm in Wales, UK.

    turbobug (author)2014-09-30

    somehow your apples turned into tomatoes on step 4

    Tecwyn Twmffat (author)turbobug2014-10-01

    Oh thanks for pointing that out - it was a bit confusing. Basically the whole contents of the pot don't need to be covered as tomatoes will turn to liquid when cooked. I've rephrased it as this:

    "Juice the apples and pour into the pot to cover about 90% of the contents. (Not 100% as tomatoes are 95% liquid). Is that confusing? - Don't worry about it!"

    If you can come up with a better way of phrasing it, please post a reply!

    There's one more iffy bit in this ible and that's on the video. Apart from the fact that the camera angle is rubbish, the chef's knife I was using was also rubbish so I will redo the video when my Tojiro knife arrives from Japan.

    藤次郎DPナイフラインは、エッジだけでなく、ナイフと靭性と光沢を提供するのに役立つソフト外側ステンレス鋼の外側にまで拡張し、ハード内部コアとクラッドのデザインを使用しています。最先端のコアは、VG-10鋼である。鋼はロックウェルHRC60〜61のハンドルは、ステンレス鋼の強化にと耐水性の黒staminawoodで作られていている。

    sabu.dawdy (author)2014-09-28

    wow. my uncle is a rabit hunter. but i am sure he don't really know these tips and tricks . one more thing. i have eatten a rabbit before. my grandma is a great cook. but damn i need to tell her this recipe too. can't wait to try it :D

    Thanks for your comment. I do however, think you should be careful with the grandma situation. If I were you I would cook the dish and present it to her yourself rather than giving her the recipe and suggesting her cooking's not up to scratch.

    haha ok done ..

    Cool

    boatingman (author)2014-09-28

    I love rabbit. I visited the restaurant at the Charleston Place Hotel (SC) several years ago. The chef there made an appetizer of rabbit medallions with fois gras. That was the single most amazing thing I have ever tasted. Wow. I think I'll call and see if he's still there. It's worth the five hour round trip.

    Or maybe spend the 5 hours cooking this recipe at home?

    theskashow (author)2014-09-28

    I have considered raising rabbits for meat. This recipe might just be the extra motivation I need to finally do it.

    Go for it! There's an instructable on rabbit breeding here somewhere.

    teddupuis (author)2014-09-28

    is this ur own work

    Tecwyn Twmffat (author)teddupuis2014-09-29

    Hello teddupuis. That's a really good question and no, the recipe is not 100% my idea. I got a lot of the info and inspiration from the links below but added my own take on it with apple juice rather than hard cider, using home grown vegetables - which taste 100x better than shop bought, using caramelised onions and my neighbour's suggestion of tarragon. What recipe or invention ever can be 100% original? We are constantly building or adapting from previous work and that is the most sensible way to do it!

    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/game/rabbit-in-cider.html

    http://racheleats.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/rabbit-stew/#comment-18959

    http://www.bristolbites.co.uk/2011/10/14/recipe-wild-rabbit-braised-cider/

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