Category Archives: The Backyard Rabbit

RABBITS – THE IDEAL HOMESTEAD AND BACKYARD ANIMAL

Raising Rabbits by Ann Kanable

Raising Rabbits by Ann Kanable. With information on housing and equipment, foundation stock, breeders, nutrition and feeding, ailments, slaughtering and dressing, recipes, and more.

Rabbit Livers Are Da Bomb!

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a victorian painting of a chef surrounded by a variety of wild game in preparation for cooking. eating Rabbit Liver
Let the wild Feast Begin

Betting and odds making is not my forte, but I am willing to wager that even the most adventurous among you have not eaten a rabbit liver.

If I’m wrong, and you have partaken in the livery plate of heaven, then you may wish to stop reading now. You know what I am about to say, and I hate preaching to the choir or boring our readers.

The liver of the common domestic rabbit may be the most delectable liver in all the world. It’s not even exotic or overly pampered, and it can probably be found on a homestead or backyard just down the road. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know that it is really, really good for you too.

I know, it was a great shock to me also. I am generally not so passionate about innards, or “offal”, as it is more affectionately known. The word itself sounds much too much like “awful” to my wordsmith sensibilities, which makes me wonder if that was the intention in the first place. It doesn’t help to know that a common definition is “waste parts, especially of a butchered animal”, or that some synonyms include refuse, garbage, or rubbish”. Sounds so completely appetizing, or not. As a matter of course, I tend to favor the standard cuts and less daring fare, but hey, to each their own. And then I discovered rabbit livers.

To be more accurate, I can thank a friend for that discovery. He was the one that watched as I butchered and processed some rabbits for that night’s dinner. I knew that he liked his rabbit, and I was happy to oblige him and eager to get it in a pan. I had completely overlooked the livers, and he was absolutely not going to let that happen. As it turned out, he cared much more about them than he did about the rest of the rabbit. He rolled them in flour and flash fried them in butter and spices with a happy grin, and I tasted one and smiled too.

I don’t know why I should have been so surprised. I’ve field dressed a lot of game during my years as a hunter and pursuer of large and small game. You could say that I came to livers and other organ meats quite naturally, and I’ve had my share of venison liver, and such. I know that millions love it, but I must admit that I have always been a reluctant eater of such provisions. I was always a hunter first, but a cook, …not so much.

After all, what does one do with a pheasant gizzard, or the kidneys of a caribou. A responsible hunter uses all parts of the animal. But the wet, squishy parts?

I call it the “offal dilemma”, as all roads lead to the undesirables and inevitable actions. I always separated out the parts and pieces, and either passed them out to appreciative friends (or so they said) or made a half-hearted attempt to prepare and eat them. It really wasn’t too bad. That was until the day of rabbit livers, and my opinion of livers, and offal in general, made a hard right turn. I am a reinspired cook, so pass the onions and mustard, please.

Offal is no longer a tough sell. These livers are in a league all their own. They are mild and sweet, satisfying, and easy to prepare. In fact they are hard to ruin, short of setting off a nuclear explosion in your kitchen.

But don’t just take my word for it. Track some down today. Befriend your local rabbit raiser. Impress your friends with your culinary expertise – hell, impress yourself. You won’t regret it even a little bit.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if many more people know about this original delight than I suspected. After all, epicures can be funny that way. Sometimes they don’t let us in on all of their little favorites. They must protect their source, after all. On second thought, maybe it can be our little secret too.

By the way, rabbit livers can also keep you in shape. I’d walk a mile for a rabbit liver, because rabbit livers are Da Bomb!

Da Bomb: the best ~ simply outstanding; no comparison or greater value can be placed to another of similar type of manner”

Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom!

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Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, 4th Edition


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Rabbits Make Great Groceries

For most of us, frequent trips to the grocery store are a necessary and common activity. It’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. When we get there we expect to find rows and rows of neatly packaged food stacked high, far, and wide. Hell, we demand it! Most people believe that it will always be like that, and of course it will be, right?

Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. For the most part the supermarkets are still there. Yet, for some time now something seems terribly amiss. It  has become harder and harder to fill that shopping cart with an adequate amount of high quality, nourishing food, especially if you take a moment to read the tiny print of indecipherable contents on the label. No doubt you’ve tried, and grown increasingly uneasy.

And it doesn’t take great powers of observation to conclude that the packages grow smaller while the price climbs higher with each successive trip. It’s the terrifying tale of the incredibly shrinking dollar, and it is probably not going to get better anytime soon. The effects are devastating and cruel, and it’s a painful thing to watch. It’s quite obvious that something’s gotta give.

From our point of view it is time to think out of the proverbial box, or in this case, the shopping bag. If you agree, think rabbits. They can help, and not just a little, but a lot. They are ready, willing, and able to work on your behalf. It’s what they do. Raising rabbits might be one of the best way’s to stretch your food budget, in the midst of what can only be described as a salvage economy left for the once great middle class.

Rabbits make a lot of sense for anyone that is interested in providing some, or most of their own food, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • They are quiet, easy to raise and care for, with minimum space requirements.
  • One buck and three or four does can provide enough meat to satisfy much of a small family’s fresh meat needs for the year.
  • Rabbit meat can help keep the doctor away, too. It is high in protein, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals.
  • It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, and free of antibiotics and other chemicals. Rabbit liver is an “original” health food.
  • The meat is nutrient dense and about twice as filling as chicken. A little rabbit meat goes a long way.
  • Feed conversion rates are excellent for domestic rabbits. They convert calories to body weight much more efficiently, and cheaply, than other animals, particularly beef.
  • You can supplement their diet with your table scraps or garden wastes, or what you might have growing in your fields or about your neighborhood. In fact, many people never have to buy any type of commercial feed product.
  • They are easy to barter for other needed or desirable items, or sell as breeding stock to other people.
  • They are easy to butcher, process, and package.
  • Recipes for all parts of the rabbit abound. Stew it, grill it, bake or fry. The possibilities are endless, and it tastes great too!
  • Their droppings are fabulous for your garden, and you can sell the coveted manure. They also provide great food for your worms.
  • The rabbit skins can be made into many kinds of useful clothing.

 Now you know why the rabbit has been called the ultimate homestead animal, or even “the new urban chicken”. I agree with each and every reason just mentioned, and can add a few more.

I despise shopping as a matter of principle anyway, and I consider any opportunity to avoid a trip to the market a celebrated victory. It saves money on gas and car expenses, which add up in a big hurry these days.

Why drive a car for several miles to pick up some groceries, when you can simply walk out your back door and grab some fine ingredients for your table? We like to pick some spinach and fork a couple of potatoes on our way back from the hutch. It’s called lunch, and we didn’t have to wait in a long line of frustrated people or suffer the indignities of a surly clerk. You might guess what we think of the self-serve scanning machine.

When you finish your meal, throw all of the leftover table scraps into your worm bin under your rabbit hutch. Bend down, and stir around until you have a pile of worms for your handy coffee can. Grab your trusty fishing rod, and head for the closest lake.

Feed A Friend Today – American Robin

Have some fun, and relax. Spend a few hours in the fresh air and sun with a friend or a loved one. Catch a batch of scrappy fish for tomorrow’s meal. Save the offal and other bits from cleaning your fish, and give them to your chickens. They need some protein too, and it makes for happy and vibrant hens. Gather their bountiful eggs in the morning, add some selected produce from your garden in the backyard, and enjoy a comforting, leisurely breakfast.

Later, take a brisk walk along a quiet road to invigorate and tone. You’ll have the time, because you won’t need to shop for food. Be sure to wave at everyone else as they pass you on the way to the supermarket, and try not to flash a big, self-satisfied smile. No point in rubbing it in.

Well…, perhaps just a quick one, but not too big.

ancient rock painting of hands and fingers
Have A Great Day

 

Michael Patrick McCarty

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If You Like The Taste of Chicken, You Just Might Jump For A Rabbit Dinner

 

Why eat a rabbit, you might ask? Why, indeed?

Au Contraire, says I. Why not eat a rabbit, would be my quick and ready response? I am a great fan of this most versatile and willing animal, for several reasons. You may have a few of your own.

I’m talking here of the large domestic rabbits most commonly found in backyard hutches across the continents. Perhaps the question is moot, and you have already raised them and prepared them at home for yourself. Or maybe you have had them served up at your neighborhood bistro, or even found them on the menu of the world’s finest restaurants. The less adventurous, however, may need some gentle convincing.

I like the idea that when properly prepared each new dish can become one of the best meals that you may ever eat, while remaining quite good for you too. Rabbit meat is high in easily digestible protein, as well as B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals. It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, but high in the desireable Omega 3 fatty acids. Most wild game is lean and clean, but this is particularly true of rabbit.

In fact it is so lean, that it has been said that it’s meat has as much food value as so much cotton, and that you could eat rabbit three times a day for many weeks and never gain a pound. That may be true, but if you did you might find yourself with the same dilemma once faced by many northern peoples, who developed “extreme fat hunger”, when forced to live on rabbits alone. There is even a name for this type of acute malnutrition, called “Rabbit Starvation”. Who knew?

Of course, our modern diets tend to favor the addition of many high calorie ingredients, so not to worry. More on that in a minute.

Our domestic rabbit of today has its origins in the European Rabbit that was native to the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, the ancient Roman name for Iberia, and modern-day Spain, was Hispania, or “Land of the Rabbits”. It is believed that the Romans were the first to keep rabbits in captivity for the sole purpose of meat production, starting in the first century BC. It would appear that they truly loved their rabbit dinners, and had better things to do than run them down randomly about the wilds. After all, they had legions of mouths to fill, and vast and waiting empires to conquer.

France was naturally colonized by rabbits from Northern Spain sometime after the last glacial period, which no doubt explains that country’s well-known reputation as rabbit epicures. Historical records indicate that French Catholic Monks were the first to bring rabbits under true domestication, about 600 AD. The need to keep a steady supply of procurable meat behind the safety of solid and cloistered monastery walls created the conditions that eventually lead to the establishment of the more than 200 breeds recognized today.

Rabbits were actually one of the last animals to be domesticated, but they made up for their late arrival on the scene in a big hurry. They were transported around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians, were introduced in the British Isles and other parts of the northeast Atlantic in the middle ages, and made it to New Zealand, South America, South Africa and worldwide sometime after the 18th century.

Since then they have woven their way across a multitude of diverse regions and cultures, to become firmly enmeshed in the daily fabric of countless lives. Raising rabbits is now a big thing, with a current world-wide production of over 1 million tons. The domestic rabbit has become an important and reliable protein source, and is now considered traditional cuisine for billions of people across the globe.

Fair Trade

Just ask the people of Malta, who manage to wolf down about 20 pounds of rabbit meat per person each year. Or perhaps talk to the Spaniards, who love their well crafted “Paella”, or the Italians, who make a mean “Coniglio alla Cacciatora”. You simply haven’t lived if you have not indulged in a perfectly prepared “Hasenpfeffer” from our German friends, or broken some crusty bread to sop up the juices of an exquisite “Rabbit Normandy”, made with Calvados and cornmeal. Ah…the French, who love their “Lapin a la Provencale” and so many other rabbit dishes, prepared with style and panache as only they can do. And you thought that fried rabbit bathed in the buttermilk of the American South was to die for, which of course, it is.

Rabbit is a valuable food source for many, but it wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t taste so good. The meat is fine-grained and similar to poultry. The old adage that it “tastes” like chicken” is mostly true, but not quite. It is generally mild and faintly sweet, without a taste of gaminess. Though elusive to describe, it’s flavor profile is somehow more subtle, and complex. It speaks of the exotic, with a hint of mediterranean breezes and coastal plains, juniper berries and scrub, and soft, summer rain. Domesticated it may be, but not for too long compared to other homestead livestock. No doubt some free ranging memories and wild hopes remain.

So, give a rabbit a go. It is yet a blank canvas, daring us to be creative, humble, or bold. Wrap it in bacon, today, and drop it on an outdoor grill with a coating of bourbon and your favorite barbecue concoction. Sauce it up with butter and cream, and wine. Stew it down with beans and beer and throw it atop a plate of steaming rice. Invite some friends, and chase it with some well matched and lively spirits of your choice.

The ancestors of Hispania and the Catholic monks applaud you, and I can wholeheartedly guarantee that “rabbit starvation” will not be problem.

 

Fathers and Sons

 

Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom!

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