Barbecued Rabbit

Rabbits are the only animals "in season" right now for Michigan hunters. They make an excellent meal. They're tasty, leaner and healthier for you. We just have to convince Americans they're not eating Thumper.

There are two kinds of rabbits in our state: snowshoe and cottontail. The snowshoes are huge, white and they live in the northern half of the lower peninsula. Cottontails are much smaller with darker fur and the characteristic white tail. They're everywhere, too--even under my back deck. There is very little difference in taste between the two. Most hunters wait until January or February to hunt them though, because they are known to carry a bacteria. This bacteria dies when the heavy duty winter months come. They're safe to eat now.

You'll need a good beagle to hunt down your rabbits--unless it's a cloudless day. Bunnies like to come out and sun themselves, making the dog unnecessary. If you're not the Elmer Fudd type, you can buy fresh rabbits at Butcher Boy Meats in Warren. To make Barbecued Rabbit, you'll need:

1 ea.         fresh rabbit   
2 ea.         carrots, chopped
1/2 cup       flour    
pinch         thyme
to taste      salt and pepper
2 ea.         bay leaves
1/4 cup       oil    
3 cups        chicken broth
1 small       onion, chopped  
2 cups        of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 ea.         tomato    
2 TB          oil
2 stalks      celery, chopped 
1 TB          flour

It is a very easy job to remove a rabbit's fur. You make a little slit with your knife above the foot and simply peel the whole thing back. My woodsman friend, Monty, commonly calls this "taking their jammies off". You then gut the rabbit and cut it into quarters, first removing the hind quarters, then the front legs. Cut the rib cage out, then cut the back in half. This whole process only takes a few minutes.

Mix some salt and pepper in your flour, then dust the rabbit pieces in it. Brown in a little oil. Place all browned rabbit pieces in a roasting pan with all remaining ingredients except the barbecue sauce, oil and flour. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees two hours. Drain the pan drippings in to a sauce pan. Coat the rabbit with the barbecue sauce and place back in the oven for 10 minutes. You can thicken your sauce by making a roux--mix 2 TB oil with 1 TB of flour and add to the pan drippings with a little barbecue sauce. Heat and stir until thickened. Serve with grilled potatoes.

You must consider the sauce you serve with meat when choosing a wine. Most people would probably serve a white wine with rabbit, but with a spicier barbecue sauce, I would go with a sweeter wine. Try Fetzer's Gewurztraminer. (Just say: ga VERTZ for short!) And as always, a creative cook appreciates nature and what it has to offer.