Slow Cooker Rabbit Stew
When did it become common to compare the taste of every meat to chicken? Is it because we all find chicken to be the most delectable meat? Is it the central, staple meat? And what do you then compare chicken with? These are the questions that keep me awake at night...
I can guarantee to you that varying, or snowshoe hare does not "taste like chicken" but it has a special taste of its own that any of us who were raised on it will immediately recognize and appreciate.
"Rabbits," as our locals call the varying hare, we're a staple food in season in our house. Once I was old enough, I did my best to contribute to keeping the stew pot (and freezer) full. I started snaring rabbits when I was old enough, and shooting them with my father and grandfather. And although I've enjoyed rabbits baked, pan-fried, or even basted in "shake-n-bake", my favourite way to prepare a rabbit is in the stew pot.
The smell of a rabbit stew brings back so many good memories for me. There always seemed to be a huge stew pot on the stove at my grandmother's house and she would always offer some (my grandmother never wanted anyone to go hungry). No other place in the world seemed as warm and welcoming as my grandparents'. As often as anything else, it was likely to be a rabbit stew (although there might be a grouse tossed in there). And to her, a stew was not a mere soup... it was a meal!
I've adopted the same attitude to making a stew now that I've grown, and in this article we will discuss how to make that stew.
A varying hare is not a large animal, and it weighs about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. Of that weight, most of the meat is on the animal's large and muscular hind legs. Those same legs that propel the hare up to 45 km/h. The meat is red and has a distinctive "rabbit" smell. Although there is a bit of meat on the front legs and along the back, there really isn't much.
When I make stew, if I do so in a large stew pot, I will put the entire rabbit carcass in, on the bones. When it is cooked it can be pulled off the bones easily with a fork.
However most of the time now I make my stews in a slow cooker. I absolutely love my slow cooker as I can put items in there and let it simmer away when I'm busy or even off at work, only to have it ready when I return. The size of our crock pot means I have to bone out the rabbit however rather than putting the whole carcass in.
In my rabbit stew, I use the following:
- 1 rabbit, boned out
- 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4-6 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/4 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 parsnips, sliced
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- ~3 cups of water (enough to reach the top of the vegetables)
- 4 Bacon Slices
- Chicken Stock or Red Wine can replace water if desired (I prefer without)
The beauty of a stew is that there aren’t a lot of advanced techniques at play here. The basis of stew direction is “Throw everything in the slow cooker and walk away”.
The point of a slow cooker is to cook things slowly, so I always cook my stew on low, which will take around six hours for this recipe. When it is cooked the vegetables should be soft and the rabbit meat should be soft and flaky and pull apart. I always shred the meat with a fork so as to spread it throughout the stew well.
The smell will fill the house and hopefully have enough nostalgia to warm your heart as much as the stew does!
Rabbit has a distinctive taste that I enjoy. However, if you are one who does not, you can get rid of much of that wild rabbit taste by deboning the rabbit and soaking it in red wine overnight in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
You may prefer to use red wine or chicken stock in the place of some of the water, which will give it a different flavour. I recommend that you try it without. Rabbit is not chicken, and that's okay!
Extremely rarely, undercooked rabbit may contain a bacteria called francisella tularensis that can cause tularemia (also known as Rabbit Fever). Because of this risk, it is very important to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked. To further assist the meat in cooking, I place all of the rabbit beneath the vegetables to start.
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