Wednesday, 26 January 2011 | Tags: ,

Though not very common on the North American menu, rabbit is a popular dish in Britain and Europe. For a cookbook review of Best British Dishes, we head to North Yorkshire in the UK to learn about rabbit, in a field-to-fork A & K Test Lab outing.

Our trip to the UK took us to London and then North Yorkshire, where we stayed at Swinton Park Castle . The Forest Ranger of the Swinton Estate, Tony Hopwood, took Anna on a rabbit hunting outing and taught her the basics. Turns out she’s a pretty good shot! 

Here’s what we learned about rabbit during our research for this episode.

The Basics

  • Rabbit is one of the best white meats available on the market today.

  • The ratio of meat to bone is high, which means there’s more edible meat on a rabbit than on other typical dinner meats, even a chicken.

  • The meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein – 30 grams per 100 gram portion.

  • It also contains the least amount of fat (8 grams) and calories (206) per 100 gram serving than all other meats.

  • Rabbit meat is almost cholesterol-free and therefore, it’s extremely heart-friendly.

  • It’s very low in sodium, and higher in calcium and phosphorus than other meats. It’s also higher in Vitamin B12 than any domestic meat.

  • Rabbit meat for the table can come from either wild or domesticated animals.

    • Wild rabbits have darker and richer tasting meat.

    • Farm-bred rabbits are somewhat fatter and blander in flavour than their free-roaming counterparts. Farmed rabbits also have a fine-textured flesh that is almost all white meat, which is similar in taste to chicken.

  • A mature rabbit ranges in size from 3 to 5 pounds.

  • More than double the size of its rabbit relative, the hare (also referred to as a jackrabbit) can weigh as much as 12 to 14 pounds. Hare meat is very dark in colour has a stronger, gamier flavour than rabbit.

Shopping Tips

  • Rabbit meat is available throughout the year but you’re more likely to find the best sized ones from July through December.

  • Rabbit is not commonly seen in the North American grocery store, but is available from many butchers and specialty markets.

  • Buy local where possible. As with any meat, the less it has to travel, the fresher and more flavourful it will be.

  • Packaged options include frozen or fresh whole rabbit, or meat that is cut into pieces, boned, and even ground.

  • 3-5 pounds of rabbit meat will feed four people.

  • If buying a whole rabbit, select according to size – it should be large enough to yield a decent amount of meat, but not too large so as to be overly gamey in taste.

  • Because wild rabbits are larger than farmed, their meat tends to be tougher, even at a young age.

  • For superior meat at its tender best, select a fresh young rabbit, or one that has been frozen less than 2 months.

  • Young rabbits are ready for the table from 8-12 weeks of age, and are usually around 2-3 pounds.

  • Larger, older rabbits have more flavour but will be less tender and therefore better suited to slower cooking.

Cooking Tips

  • Rabbit can be prepared in any method or recipe suited to a chicken.

  • Younger, smaller animals are more tender and better suited to quick cook methods such as frying, grilling, barbecuing, or roasting. They can also be stuffed and baked whole in a moderate 350°F oven.

  • Meat from an older rabbit excels when cooked slowly in a stew or from other moist-heat cooking including braising. Older rabbit is also excellent turned into a ground meat for casseroles.

  • As rabbit meat is very lean, care should be taken to prevent it from drying out during cooking.

  • The gamey taste in wild rabbit may be minimized by soaking the meat in salty water overnight in the refrigerator.

Storage Tips

  • Store rabbit in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Fresh rabbit can be refrigerated for two days. Cooked rabbit can be refrigerated for three days.

  • Freeze fresh rabbit if you do not plan to cook it within two days after purchase. Thaw uncooked rabbit in the refrigerator or in cold water. Never thaw rabbit at room temperature.


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