Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rabbit hunting.

Please note that this post contains the subject of rabbit hunting, and the use of the game. It also contains pictures of butchered rabbit. If you're of a sensitive nature, it'd be best if you stopped reading now!

Yesterday morning, I was awoken by my daughter Isabelle crying at about six in the morning. It was a lovely morning, bright and crisp, so I decided to take advantage of the fact I was up, and go hunting rabbit. 

Half an hour later, I was up the fields, rifle slung over my shoulder, keeping a keen eye out for any bunnies. I hadn't been out hunting in months, as I was focused on getting our allotment up and running.

The first wildlife I saw was a fox, who slunk into the undergrowth after spotting me. I know the fields of this particular farm very well, and know the location of each warren, so I took a path along the edge of each field in turn, starting with what is, in my experience, the most populated warren. I saw another fox or two, which didn't bode well for me, as rabbits are likely to make themselves scarce when fox are about. 

Still, it was early yet, and a joy to be out for a tramp in the fields. The flower of the elder has by now hardened into small green berries. It'll be a while before I harvest them for wine. After about an hour I still hadn't seen any sign of a rabbit, which was disappointing, so I decided to lie in wait to see if any would emerge from the hedgerow. This tactic proved to be unsuccessful too - though to be fair, it's mostly dusk that this particular strategy works for me.

After a decent wait, I told myself that I'd make one last circuit of the fields, as it was getting later in the morning. It didn't look as though I'd be getting any rabbits on this hunt. As it turn out, I was wrong. As I was walking back towards my car, I noticed a dark shape on the grass ahead of me. I brought my scope to my eye to examine it - and yes, it was a rabbit! I was delighted, but cautious at the same time. Having seen only this rabbit all morning, it would be a shame to blow my chances at bagging it. 

The rabbit was sitting close to the edge of the field, along the fence. The fence posts are spaced roughly ten yards apart, so I counted how many lay between me and it. Eleven. My scope is sighted for fifty yards, so I had to close the distance. Slowly, I crept towards the rabbit, ready to freeze in my tracks if it so much as twitched. One hundred and ten yards became ninety, then seventy. At this point I was barely breathing, fearful of making the slightest noise. When I reached sixty yards, the rabbit hopped forward. I froze. Now was the time. If I hesitated any longed, my quarry could bound away. Inch by inch I brought my rifle up to my shoulder and took aim. The cross-hairs rested on the rabbits chest. I squeezed the trigger and the gun fired. Keeping the scope to my eye, I saw the rabbit drop and lie still. 

When I reached the rabbit, I saw that my bullet had hit it in the chest, and it had died instantly. To  be sure, I broke its neck. It was a healthy male, and of a decent size. 

The rabbit.  

I was delighted at my success. Any walk in the fields is an enjoyable experience, but it's nice when you're out for a hunt to come home with something for the pot. 

Bunny burgers:
Even before I had seen a rabbit, I had decided that, if I was lucky enough to bag one, I'd make bunny burgers out of it's meat. This is in stark contrast to my usual method of preparing them, where I cook the saddle and legs of the animal whole.

When I got home, I gutted and skinned the rabbit. I've no photos of this, as it's not exactly an ideal time to be handling a camera! This process takes me about ten minutes, as care has to be taken not to perforate the bowel. 
When this is done, I joint the carcass up, removing the legs from the saddle. We we expecting guests, so I then bunged the meat into a bowl of salted water and left overnight. 

Now to describe the making of the patties. I'll include photos I took from every stage of the process. 

The best joints of a rabbit.

After the rabbit had soaked in salt water overnight, I drained it off this afternoon. The photo above shows the hind legs and saddle of the rabbit, where most of the meat on a rabbit is found (I'm not an expert butcher, as can be seen from my photos, but I'm not the worst!).

My next task is to remove as much of the meat as I can from these cuts, and dice them to make them more easily processed. When I'm doing this, I'll remove as much excess sinew as I can, but not at the cost of losing any meat.

The diced rabbit meat. 

Rabbit meat has little or no fat on it, so when cooking or roasting it, it's best to add bacon to give it that essential fat and keep the meat moist. When making burgers out of it, I use pork belly, which I also had to dice. The ratio should be about 25% pork belly, so for a kilo of rabbit meat, add 250 grams of pork. 

After I'd diced all the meat, I set up my meat grinder, which was a present from my sister-in-law a Christmas or two ago. It's a wonderful contraption, which has the added benefit of cutting up whatever sinew is left on the meat. 

 My old-fashioned meat grinder.

The grinder made short work of all the meat, even the fatty, tough pork. While I was doing this, my son wanted a "go" of turning the handle of the grinder. What I was left with was a good mix of rabbit and pork.

The ground meat.

To season the meat, I added a sprinkle of devilishly hot chilli flakes (made from last years crop), black pepper and a dollop of mixed herbs. The truth is, I'm still experimenting with the seasoning of my burgers. After these were added, I mixed them through by hand. 

Burger press.

After the seasoning was thoroughly mixed through the meat, I used our burger press (another incredibly useful tool) to shape the meat into patties. I then placed them on grease-proof paper, and placed them in a Tupperware container for freezing. 

  The finished bunny burgers.

I kept one out to sample it, and had it for dinner tonight. It was delicious, though obviously my opinion is going to be biased! 

So there it is, from the field to the plate. 

I'd be interested to hear comments on this post - maybe the idea of eating a rabbit repels you, or if you have a different recipe, I'd love to hear it.

1 comment:

sarah gill said...

I'm glad to see you're getting use out of the grinder. I'm not the biggest fan of rabbit, but that's from a taste point of view rather than a moral objection. I wouldn't mind trying these burgers though and seeing how they go.