Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Wild rabbit meat, which is leaner and tastier than the farmed variety, has a fabulous subtle, gamey flavour (very different from richly flavoured hare). It is available throughout the year but you're more likely to find the best sized rabbits from July to December.
The rabbit is a member of the family Leporidae, which includes the hare. Rabbits are gregarious and nocturnal animals that feed on grasses and herbaceous plants but will also eat bark when grass is not available. Rabbits are highly efficient at converting plant proteins into animal proteins (their conversion rate is double that of cattle, for example).
Rabbit meat is relatively low in fat and high in protein. It is a good source of niacin, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.
Unlike much of Europe, rabbit is rarely seen in UK supermarkets, but is available from many butchers and food markets. It is also available by mail order from a number of suppliers, such as Graig Farm Organics or Alternative Meats.
Select rabbits by size; they should be large enough to yield a decent amount of meat, but not too large. Wild rabbits much larger than 1kg are prone to be tough. Younger, smaller animals will be more tender and better suited to quick cook methods such as roasting or barbecuing. Larger, older rabbits will have more flavour but may be less tender and so better suited to slower cooking.
Fresh rabbit will keep in the fridge for several days (or longer if vacuum packed). Freezing is not recommended as this can make the meat too dry.
To joint a rabbit: cut the hind quarters away from the body and separate the legs. Halve the leg joints. Cut the body (saddle) horizontally through the backbone into two or three portions, stopping at the rib cage. Cut lengthways through the breastbone and divide the ribcage section in half.
As rabbit meat is very lean, care should be taken to prevent it from drying out during cooking. Marinading or barding (covering in a fat or wrapping in bacon) can help moisten the flesh during roasting or barbecuing.