A rich and delicious recipe for rabbit stewed in beer with lots of vegetables.
Have you ever eaten rabbit? It is an eligible question, most people I know have never eaten rabbit in their lives and many of them don’t even have an interest in trying it. Too bad! Because rabbit tastes great and its consumption has many benefits.
Health benefits of eating rabbit:
- Rabbit meat has a very high protein content, more than beef or poultry, 100 g/ 3.5 oz rabbit meat containing 33 g protein.
- Rabbit meat is very low in fat, the leanest meat available actually. 100 g/ 3.5 oz rabbit meat have 3.5% fat.
- Rabbit is very low in calories, making it a good choice for people trying to lose weight, only 173 calories per 100 g/ 3.5 oz.
- Rabbit is a very concentrated source of iron, there are 2.3 milligrams of iron in 100 g/ 3.5 g meat which is absorbed by the body very well.
- Rabbit has a very low cholesterol level, making it a good choice for people fighting with cholesterol.
- Rabbit is rich in minerals, mostly in phosphorus and potassium.
- Rabbit contains less sodium than other meats.
Environmental benefits of eating rabbit:
Rabbit is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to produce than other types of meat, most of all beef. For instance, rabbits produce about 2.5 kg/ 6 lbs meat on the same amount of food and water as a cow will need to produce 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs meat.
According to livestrong.com: “An environmentally friendly solution to losing resources to larger animal production is producing rabbit meat. The environmental impact from raising rabbits is low. The period from conception to harvesting maturity is only three months, and the amount of food they eat is minimal when compared to other animals. The USDA regulates the meat. Some antibiotics are used, but the animals are tested for residues. No hormones are administered.”
So, all these are good news. Rabbit is healthy, good for the planet and it actually tastes great. Rabbit has a white kind of meat, similar in taste to chicken, yet slightly different. Then why aren’t people eating more rabbit? Like in the past when rabbit was a regular and normal kind of meat to have on the menu?
For me the main reason for only eating rabbit the first time when I was already in my thirties was that I did not know rabbit meat at all, I have never had it as a child, there was never even the question there if I should try some rabbit. My grandmother never cooked rabbit, she would not even eat beef or butter or drink milk, so imagine her cooking rabbit. No way!
And then rabbits are cute, so I’ve always thought I don’t need to eat an animal that’s cute, there are enough other options out there. But that’s not fair, is it, not fair to the other animals.
Pigs are not cute, but they are way more intelligent than rabbits and we still eat them. Cows look weird, but they’re so gentle, I always feel sorry for them when I look at them. But we still eat them. Small chickens and lambs are super cute as well, but we still eat them. So, cuteness as a criteria for eating or not eating an animal is really not OK, if you ask me.
And in the end, rabbits raised for their meat are not exactly the fluffy bunnies many people keep as pets for their children around here. So pretty, but I never see the sense in actually keeping them as pets. All the children I know who have bunnies as pets (and I closely know at least 7 or 8 families, who kept sweet bunnies as pets over the years) lose interest in the bunnies after 2 weeks tops.
They’re pretty to look at, but all they do is sit in their cage munching on some leaves, the children cannot play with them, cannot really pet them because most of them byte, cannot take them for a walk and so on. And after a while they die due to some weird illness or because they manage to get out of the cage and get run by a car or killed by a cat (I have seen that, trust me, large cats kill small bunnies… it’s not pretty).
So, if you ask me, it makes more sense to raise rabbits to eat, then to keep the cute bunny sorts in a cage to look at them for 2 minutes a day. The eating sort of rabbits I know are not so pretty anyway, the first time I saw some in Romania, where my uncle and his sons raise them, I was awed. The rabbit was huge and not particularly fluffy!
It was my cousin Adi who cooked this recipe for me the first time. He was here on a prolonged visit and one day I asked him what his favorite meal was. Adi is a great costumer in my kitchen, he is very much like me, he loves food, he likes everything I cook, he would try anything no matter how exotic. And when I asked him what he would like me to cook, he said rabbit stew, the one he cooked himself at home very often, in the garden, in a large cauldron over the open fire.
Cauldron stew with rabbit, vegetables and beer. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t make the cauldron stew, mostly because I didn’t have a cauldron at the time and because this whole cauldron open air cooking is not very much my style, I am still a city girl, this kind of nature adventures are kind of intimidating for me, despite the fact that I have been living in a village in the middle of nature for over a decade now.
But I have a lovely, large stew pot and that was where Adi cooked this rabbit stew for us. My kids said from the beginning that they will not eat any rabbit, so to make things OK for everybody I said I would add some chicken legs to the stew so that they can eat those instead. So I did add some chicken legs to the stew, but only 2 of them, I thought one for each kid would be enough.
But one chicken leg was not enough for my son Bruno. After eating the chicken, he said he wanted more, so I just gave him a piece of rabbit without telling him it was rabbit. He didn’t say anything, ate his piece of meat in a flash and asked: “Mama, can I have another piece of chi… ahhm meat?” 🙂 He realized it wasn’t chicken at all, but he still liked it and wanted more. We really had to laugh.
Ever since I’ve kept making this Hearty Rabbit Stew with Beer and Vegetables regularly, it is actually the only rabbit recipe I have ever tried because everybody likes it so much. But, note to myself, you should definitely try some other rabbit recipes soon!
Notes on the Hearty Rabbit Stew with Beer and Vegetables
I buy a whole frozen rabbit for the stew, I have never seen fresh rabbits around here, but frozen are definitely good. It is not possible to buy rabbit all the time around here, so making this recipe requires a bit of preliminary planning. Actually, when I see rabbits being offered somewhere, I buy one or two and keep them in my own freezer until I get to cook them.
The rabbits I get here are very small, one only weighs 1,2 kg/ 2.6 lbs. And they weigh even less after I cut them into pieces because I don’t cook the back bone and the ribs in the stew, they don’t have enough meat on them.
So, I either buy two rabbits to feed about 6 people or I add one or two chicken legs to the stew. That would be the most common approach for me. The kids would then eat the chicken first (my daughter still doesn’t want to eat the cute rabbits and I don’t want to force her), my husband and I and Bruno (if he is still hungry after being finished with the chicken) would eat the rest.
I have to cut the rabbit into smaller pieces in order to make the stew. Because the back and the ribs of the rabbit don’t have much meat on them I usually use those to make stock. I add a few frozen chicken bones leftover from roast chicken to the pot, some soup vegetables like carrots, onions and celeriac, some spices like black pepper, juniper and all spice berries, bay leaves and cloves, some salt. I cover everything with water and let the pot simmer for several hours. The stock is perfect for soups, stews, risottos and so on. See this post on making Chicken Stock and follow the recipe to make rabbit and chicken stock.
The vegetables used in the Hearty Rabbit Stew with Beer and Vegetables are the typical vegetables you will find in most Romanian meat and vegetable stews: lots of onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots. The beer I use is regular German pils, I take whatever pils we happen to have in the house at the moment, usually a beer with a slightly bitterer taste, like Jever or Beck’s.
The dish is slowly cooked in a round Dutch oven for at least 1 ½ hours until the meat is super tender and falling off the bones.
Serve the Hearty Rabbit Stew with Beer and Vegetables with mashed potatoes or bread and pickled vegetables, for instance these wonderful Green (Unripe) Tomato Pickles. If you don’t have or don’t like pickles, any sort of roasted or boiled vegetables or a nice salad would do as well.
The dish can be reheated and it is suitable for freezing as well.
Other hearty stews:
- 1 rabbit
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 large onions
- 250-300 ml/ 1 – 1 1/3 cups water
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder
- half a bottle beer (pils)
- 125 g/ ½ cup pureed tomatoes
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 5 juniper berries
- salt and pepper
Cut the rabbit into 5 or 6 smaller pieces. I didn't use the back bone and the ribs for the stew, I made rabbit and chicken stock with them. See the blog post for more details on that.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or another heavy bottom pot and fry the rabbit pieces on both sides until golden. Remove from the pan.
Halve the onions and slice the halves thinly. Give the remaining oil to the pot, fry the onions on medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Add some of the water from time to time to prevent them from burning or drying out.
In the meantime slice the carrots and the red bell pepper. Give the vegetables to the onions and continue cooking, stirring a few times in between, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the sweet and the smoked paprika powder and stir well for about 1 minute.
Give the rabbit pieces back to the pot, add the beer and enough water to barely cover the rabbit, the meat pieces should not be completely under water. Add the bay leaves, the juniper berries, some salt and pepper. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours or until the meat is really tender, it should basically fall off the bone. Don't forget to stir from time to time and add a little more beer if the liquid reduces too much.
Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and serve with mashed potatoes or bread and pickles. Or with boiled potatoes and roasted or boiled vegetables or salad.
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