This is the last of three articles on my hunting adventures in Arizona. Firstly, I had described how and why I got into hunting for food. After that, I described the hunt itself, and how I find and catch a rabbit. This time, I’ll explore how I prepare the rabbit once I’ve caught it.
I’ll skip the process on field-dressing the animal. If you want that, there are sources all over the internet. Suffice it to say that there are parts of the animal that you do not want to eat, and it is best to skin and gut the rabbit before bringing it home. The first jackrabbit I caught, I took home whole, and learned that cleaning them indoors is not something you want to do. A fair warning, the inside of a rabbit does not look or smell appetizing (jackrabbits are worse) but don’t let that phase you. Don’t believe anyone who says that jackrabbit is inedible. They taste great and any disease risk (no more than any other wild animal) is negated when you cook them. Tularemia, while not as common as some people claim, can be a concern while cleaning the rabbit, so always wear disposable latex gloves when handling uncooked rabbit, especially if you have any cuts on your hands (I didn’t in these pictures, but did when I cleaned them, and checked for signs of disease in the internal organs, otherwise, “do as I say, not as I do”.).
Once I get the rabbit home, I clean it further. If I left the feet on in the field (I usually do to save time), I now remove them, and I give the entire rabbit a good rinse to clean off any leaves, gravel, and stray fur. I double check that I got all of the organs out. I should stress at this point that the heart, liver, and kidneys of a rabbit are perfectly edible, so if you want you can throw them into a freezer bag to use for gravy or stuffing later.
As I said in the last article, most of the meat on a rabbit is in the legs and back. I start removing the front legs at the shoulder. They are only loosely attached and come off with a clean cut. I remove the bones after the elbow, since they have little meat on them. The meat scraps off of these bones go in the freezer bag or in the pot, depending on what I’m making at the time. Next, the hind legs come off. Cut all around the joint at the hip. It’s a ball-and-socket joint, so once you’ve cut around it, give it a little twist and it comes right off. Again, I remove the bones below the knee, saving the little scrap of meat on the lower leg.
The meat along the back comes off pretty easy. It’s the same as fileting a fish. Make a cut just to the side of the spine along the back. Then cut down along the rib cage. The meat should come off fairly easily. Repeat on the other side.
At this point, you have a carcass with some meat still on it. I’ve tossed my carcasses in the freezer to make stock later, but you can get a bit more meat off it if you like. Just use a paring knife to slice until you’ve got it all.
Cottontail cooks like chicken. Make sure it doesn’t dry out, and that the meat is cooked through (a good idea with any wild animal). They have a very mild flavor like chicken breast, so I like to add lots of spices.
Jackrabbit needs to be stewed. They are tough critters in life, and only get tougher from there. One of my favourite recipes so far has been jackrabbit curry: In a slow cooker, add all the meat from a jackrabbit, potatoes, onions, curry spices of your choice, and coconut milk. Stew all day in the slow-cooker, and serve over rice.
Considering the rich taste and texture once it is slow cooked, I plan on making shepherd’s pie out of jackrabbit in the very near future. Maybe I’ll do a recipe post sometime in the near future. All in all, hunting has been a success! Since I’ve started hunting regularly, Ace and I have reduced our meat purchasing to next to nothing, and are still getting as much or more protein than we did before!
~The Homesteading Hippy