With today's escalating meat prices, I thought it would be timely to share an alternative protein source that you can easily raise yourself just about anywhere, with only 10 minutes a day of effort, and at a minimal amount of expense--Rabbits!
Rabbit meat can be used in the same manner as chicken, even going so far as frying it as you could chicken. It’s also a great source of high protein and low fat, even more important in the present economic stage, rabbits are very inexpensive to raise and in addition to the food source they provide, they also have great pelts which can meet several crucial clothing and shelter needs.
As few as 4 breeding females and one breeding male will give you enough rabbit meat for two fryers per week which is plenty for a family of four, including leftovers to use for 2 other meals.
Rabbits don’t eat you out of house and home; they are relatively ordorless and quiet (except when it comes time to make them your dinner.) For those who like to push the envelope a bit in residential areas, rabbits are one of the few that you can likely produce right under the noses of the busy-body tattling neighbors or HOA voyeurs.
Meat from domesticated rabbits is high in protein and low in fat. In fact, rabbit meat has long been recommended by doctors to benefit patients with cholesterol and other coronary heart issues. Unlike cattle and chickens, rabbits are an ideal project for young children to be involved with as it teaches responsibility and helps to develop the mindset of raising livestock for the purposes of food. Unlike a new puppy, rabbit raising can require as little as a dozen hours per year or less than 10 minutes per day. (Well, other than dealing with the mean females, males throwing urine around, and cannibalism--you know, other than that it only takes 10 minutes a day. *grimace*--thanks for reminding me of the not so good stuff, Stephanie.) As a bonus benefit, the manure from rabbits is great for the garden and also attracts ideal bait worms for fishing! Even their urine (if you can capture it, that is) is great for getting citrus plants and trees to produce more abundantly. Did I mention that raising rabbits is low cost especially in consideration of the food you get in exchange for your efforts? It’s also SO easy and affordable to raise rabbits organically, leveraging the value of their food production that much more.
There’s also a great deal that can be done with the rabbit pelts. Tanning their hides is relatively simple as it requires very little time and effort. Angora rabbits have even longer hair on their pelts and provide additional uses as a result. You’ve probably heard the poem “Bye, baby Bunting. Daddy's gone a hunting, To get a little rabbit skin To wrap his baby Bunting in.” Yup, rabbit blankets are wonderful. As are rabbit slippers, hats, and bags/purses. In earlier times, rabbit pelts were use repeatedly as diapers. They also make excellent seat covers.
For those who just can’t fathom owning a firearm, you don’t need one to kill rabbits as they can be readied for dinner with a heavy hit to the back of the head.
There is one downside to rabbit meat though. You won’t be able to eat it exclusively because of its low fat content. It does not contain sufficient EFAs (essential fatty acids). Our bodies actually NEED EFAs (essential fatty acids) to function properly and rabbit meat is notably lacking in that. So each time you prepare a meal using rabbit meat, be sure that you add necessary fat into the meal and by all means try to mix and match your protein sources. In Morroco, rabbits are commonly served with raisins and almonds along with a lot of butter, coconut oil, or olive oil because of the fat content that the almonds and oils bring to the dish.
Now, having gone over thee brief Rabbit 101 course, here’s a great recipe that favored in Canada. It showed up in a Mother Earth News edition in 1977. It’s guaranteed to stick to you ribs and satisfy. I’ve also enjoyed rabbit chowder, rabbit pot pies, and rabbit sausage. Enjoy!
Canadian Rabbit and Dumplings Stew
1 large, whole rabbit
1 quart of water
2 T. cornstarch
6 sliced carrots (med.)
6 potatoes, diced (med.)
1 cup of whole kernel corn (canned, frozen, or freeze-dried is fine)
1 cup green peas (freeze-dried is preferred, but frozen or canned is fine)
1 cup wax beans or green beans, cut to about 1-2 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped (med.)
1 cup diced celery (freeze-dried is fine)
1 bay leaf
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Dumplings (see below)
Boil the rabbit in the water until its meat is tender (I love using my pressure cooker for this stage as it only requires a small fraction of the water and only requires about 10 minutes for beautifully tender rabbit meat which then makes it so easy to debone with just a couple of forks and vey little physical effort. The broth that’s created this way is sooooo hearty too so you want to make sure you end up with at least 2 cups for the rest of the recipe)
Debone the rabbit and place it into a large stew pot.
Add 2 cups of the broth to the pot and bring to a boil.
Retrieve ¼ cup of the broth and mix it in a separate bowl with the cornstarch. Once all of the lumps are gone and the cornstarch resembles a smooth cream sauce then add it to the boiling broth in the pot. Allow the contents to boil for 2 minutes and then turn down the heat to medium-high so that the stew simmers.
Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook for approximately 10 minutes.
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of cold shortening
¼ to ½ cup of milk (the less you use, the better)
Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl and then cut in the cold shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk all at once, stir lightly until the dough holds together. Gently drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture on top of the hot, simmering stew. Let the dumplings cook uncovered for ten minutes then cove and let them cook for ten minutes longer. The steam should fluff up the dumplings nicely.
I like serving this with cranberry relish on the side. It’s a beautiful balance.
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