January 22 is the start of the “Year of the Rabbit”. In the Chinese culture, the rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity. The luckiest of all the 12 animals, the Rabbit is a gentle creature, known for thinking things through before acting with peaceful and patient energy.
For those of us that enjoy the many benefits of rabbit, including meat, manure, and fiber, this is an appropriate distinction for one of the most versatile homesteading animals. Here at Rabbit Hill, in the winter, our breed stock rabbits live in hutches outside the kitchen window enjoying the scraps, peelings and cores of apples, winter squash, carrots and other fruits and vegetables.
In the summer months, they produce 30 – 40 offspring, which we raise to in pens on the ground. These baby rabbits or “kits” devour pea vines, dandelion greens and other weeds, corn stalks, sunflowers, herbs and all types of greens. In about three months, these bunnies will grow to five pounds, the size known as “fryers”, all while providing a winter’s supply of protein and the garden with a bountiful supply of manure, over hundreds of pounds.
Just 100 years ago, rabbit was America’s most common white meat, and the chicken was reserved for more special occasions. In the 1950’s, when breeders developed the large breasted chickens we all eat today, chicken replaced rabbit as the source of the largest piece of white meat.
As a rabbit lover, I’m excited about the new wave of farmers, homesteaders, and even city gardeners that are learning the wonderful culinary and plant-growing benefits of raising rabbits. Our family has long enjoyed eating rabbit, which because of its low-fat content is usually best braised, stewed, or chicken-fried.
The recipe for Buttermilk Fried Rabbit is adapted from Hank Shaw’s book, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail. Shaw is an award-winning food writer, hunter and cook, and this is his latest book. If you’re a hunter, you’ll love his detailed information about different species of upland birds and small game, how to clean them and to best treat them in the kitchen. If you’re a cook, you’ll relish his information on breaking down and cutting up small animals, and his approachable, globally inspired recipes.
This recipe requires planning, as the rabbit (or chicken) meat tastes best when it has marinated for at least eight hours. The process of breading and frying the meat is simple, just be forewarned that the frying cooking process does create a mess, but the rewards are worth it. Buttermilk Fried Rabbit is addictive: perfectly seasoned, crunchy, moist, tasty and delicious.
BUTTERMILK FRIED RABBIT (CHICKEN)
- 1 3- pound rabbit cut into serving pieces
- Or may use chicken drums, wings, thighs and breast pieces
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 cups Vegetable oil for frying
- Assemble ingredients and tools. If necessary, cut the rabbit or chicken into serving pieces, leaving the bones intact.
- In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
- Coat the meat with the mixture and store in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours.
- Pour the oil into a large pan or electric skillet to a depth of about 1-inch. Set the heat to medium-high and heat the oil to 325 degrees.
- Remove the marinated meat from the refrigerator and set the pieces in a colander to drain.
- Pour the flour and salt into a large bag and shake to combine. When the oil is hot, coat a few pieces of meat with the flour.
- Set the coated meat pieces in one layer into the hot oil. Fry for about 8 – 12 minutes. Fry gently, a steady sizzle. Turn the pieces and fry for about another 10 minutes until golden.
- The inside temperature of the meat should be 165 degrees. The smaller the pieces, the more quickly they cook.
- Remove the cooked meat to a rack to drain.
- Coat some more pieces and repeat until all the meat is cooked. Keep the drained meat warm on a platter in a 200- degree oven.
- Serve and enjoy!