February 2016
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

February is Rabbit Season!

Chopped cabbage with onions, salt and pepper cooked down in a skillet of butter or olive oil. Field peas simmering in a big pot on the stove top with Conecuh sausage added for flavor. Grandma’s cornbread – crunchy on the outside, but tender in the middle – still hot and waiting in a cast iron skillet. Each of these dishes could stand alone as a meal, but together they make an amazing blend of flavors that never disappoints. On New Year’s Day, our family had this combination with a pork roast. For my family, February is rabbit season and that means it is time to add some wild rabbit to the menu. 

There are so many ways to cook rabbit that you are sure to find a recipe to love. Whether wild or farm-raised, rabbit is a healthy choice, and it is as easy to cook as chicken. Although wild rabbit must be dressed, Jason says they are easy to clean and provide a lot of meat. Like wild hog meat, wild rabbit meat will be a little less tender than farm-raised because of their more active way of life. 

Jason’s favorite way to eat rabbit is cooked on the grill and basted with a barbecue sauce. A lot of home cooks already make their own barbecue sauces that are unique to the chef or the family. Using a store-bought sauce may be the easiest for some families, but you can also make a simple homemade sauce to your taste using items you already have at home: ketchup, molasses and a little lemon juice. 

Whether you make your traditional family-approved sauce or experiment with new recipes and tastes, creating or improving your barbecue baste for your next meal can be a great family activity. I know both Rolley Len and Cason love to mix and match ingredients until they find success. The time it takes to experiment with sauces, spices and cooking methods will pay off when you discover your perfect combination. 

Besides being a versatile and healthy menu option, wild rabbit is inexpensive to hunt because rabbits can be killed with pellet or bb guns. Also, unless you live within city limits, you can probably find them easily around the underbrush on your property lines without having to travel to property reserved just for hunting. 

Traditionally, rabbit hunting is allowed in many counties through the end of February; however, some areas have changed their open and close dates for the 2015-16 season, so be sure to check for your particular locale before you hunt. For more information, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

I have included a few wild rabbit recipes for you to try that are simple enough to make at home or at your hunting camp. Whether you have been at work or on a hunt, simpler is almost always better after a long day because the easier it is to prepare your next meal, the quicker you get to enjoy it with all the fixings.

Sauce Ideas for Rabbit

This is a list of ingredients that can be combined to make a sauce your own way. You may want to use them all, or just a few. The key is figuring out what tastes the best to you, and then remembering which ingredients and what amounts you used to create your special blend.

Roasted Rabbit

1 (3-pound) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces

1¾ teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon black pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

4 teaspoons sugar

1 onion, chopped

¾ cup ketchup

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon paprika

1½ Tablespoons Worcester- shire sauce

1 cup water

 
  Roasted rabbit with bacon.

Preheat oven to 350°. Season rabbit with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add rabbit pieces and brown on all sides. Put rabbit in a 9x13 baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, onion, ketchup, garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and water. Pour over the rabbit. Bake uncovered for 90 minutes, basting frequently.

Roasted Rabbit with Bacon

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly into rings

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tablespoon thyme, fresh chopped

1 boneless rabbit, in pieces

Salt

Black pepper, freshly milled

12-16 strips bacon, cut in half

Thyme sprigs

5-10 fresh sage leaves dipped in olive oil (1 for each piece of rabbit)

5 ounces dry cider (Sercial or Madeira are two inexpensive options)

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly butter a shallow tray (about 10x14). Spread onion rings in tray in a single layer. Scatter garlic and thyme on top of onions. Season rabbit meat with salt and pepper. Arrange them on onions. Place bacon strips over the rabbit pieces.

Place thyme sprigs around the rabbit. Place tray in oven on a higher shelf and cook for 20 minutes. Top each piece of rabbit with a sage leaf. Roast for another 15­-20 minutes or until bacon and sage are crispy and the rabbit is cooked. Remove meat and onions to a warmed serving dish. Place tray over direct heat and add cider to juices. Bring to a simmer until it bubbles for about 5 minutes or reduced by about 1/3. Pour sauce over rabbit in serving dish.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.