Rabbits are an amazing meat which is under-utilised in the UK, it is packed full of flavour and protein. In this blog we will share some facts about rabbits and give you some tips and a delicious recipe to try at home.
Rabbits are native to Spain, Portugal and north-west Africa. The introduction into the UK is credited to the Normans. They are tremendously successful as a species, living in social groups underground in warrens. The reference to their breeding cycle coined the phrase “breeding like rabbits” is given with good reason. A doe can have up to seven litters of 6-12 young each year. They outbreed their predators and are also very successful in evading them. This leads to large numbers, in 1995 a government survey recorded 37.5 million.
We all know a rabbit likes a tasty carrot, but they don’t stop there, it is estimated they case £100 million of damage to trees, crops and grazing land. This puts them in the category of a pest species and so their numbers need to be monitored and controlled. The sad truth is most of this meat goes to waist, simply through lack of demand, when it could be landing on the dinner table.
As a pest species rabbit is available all year round and butchers will be able to provide them pre-packaged and oven ready for around £10. a cheaper option is to go straight to your game dealer, who will be happy to supply you with them in the fur for around £3. They should come paunched, where all organs below the diaphragm have been removed, this is to prevent the bacteria in the stomach rupturing the lining and tainting the meat.
Some of you may have heard that if you were to eat rabbit alone you wouldn’t survive and indeed this is true. There is recorded evidence by the Hudson Bay Company, who documented many cases of trappers dying who ate just rabbit. In fact, the more they ate the quicker they died, But why?
The science behind this truth is that although rabbit is very high in protein, it is very low in fats and vitamins. Your body requires both vitamins and minerals to process food and the more you eat, the more vitamins and minerals you secret. If you are not eating anything containing them, in the case of rabbit alone, then you eventually die of malnutrition. The sad truth is, if the trappers had only had a little veg or greens with their rabbit meal, they would have been fine.
Let us turn our attention to finding something delicious to do with it. I’ll give you some tips I’ve picked up on cooking a whole rabbit as well as my favourite recipe.
If you are getting an oven ready rabbit, then the best bit of advice I can give you is, don’t put it in the oven. Rabbits are best cooked wet. Soak the whole thing in a basin of water with a fist full of salt overnight, this helps make the meat more tender and remove the bitterness you can get. Place it in a pan and boil for 2 ½ hours, by which time the meat should be falling off the bone, ready for use.
Now for my favourite way to prepare rabbit, bunny burgers, they are delicious. We will have a look at utilising one rabbit, which should give you enough for 10 small burgers.
- 1 large rabbit
- 350g of pork belly fat
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon pepper
- 1 small handful of wild herbs (wild mint, ground elder, ground ivy), finely chopped
- Oil for frying
- Mincer (or a friendly butcher)
- Plastic bowls
Finely chop the wild herbs, you have collected, as a substitute you can always use mixed herbs from the supermarket, but it is well worth seeking out the wild ones.
Joint and debone the rabbit. The parts to focus on here are the upper back & front legs and the saddle. There isn’t much else to worry about, I generally negate the pelvis as it introduces quite a strong flavour.
Pass it through a mincer a couple of times, followed by the pork belly fat. You can get pre minced pork to make your life easier. If you do this go for the highest fat content you can, it will help with the binding of the burgers and enhance flavour coming through, but if you can, mincing the pork belly fat yourself is the best option for binding and flavour.
Add the meat to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the salt & pepper and add your wild, or shop brought herbs. Mix these all in thoroughly. Now it’s time to divide the mixture, there will be enough to make 10 small burgers with the quantities you have here. To keep them even, divide the mixture in half and then half again, repeat this until you have 10 portions. Roll the burgers into balls and then pat them out into discs to produce your burgers.
Now they are ready for the skillet, heat up the oil first so the burgers are sizzling as soon as they hit the pan and simply cook all the way through like regular burgers and enjoy.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog and it’s inspired you to get out there and utilise this amazing resource. If you’re interested in our range of courses that feature wild foods and foraging, you can find more details HERE.
Enjoy your burgers everyone!