Learn how to cook rabbit, so it's tender and delicious every time. If you've tried rabbit in the past and don't think you like it, this post may change your mind!
I'm excited for today's Pioneering Today Podcast guests because we've discussed raising meat rabbits in the past. However, we've never really talked about the best way to eat them.
About Nate and Erin
Nate and Erin have been raising and cooking meat rabbits for their family for over two years now and are gracious enough to come on the podcast and share their tips with us.
Erin and Nate from Two Chicks Homestead live in North Central Illinois. The name Two Chicks Homestead came from having two girls and needing a name for their homeschool, and then it stuck when naming their homestead.
They live on a small ½-acre lot but make the best of it. They currently have eight egg-laying chickens in a cute red and white coop and a trio of meat rabbits in a homemade hutch. They grow two large gardens that produce a nice harvest, which they can and preserve in different ways.
This post is sponsored by Azure Standard, a company I've been using for almost a decade! I love buying my bulk grains and organic groceries that I can't find at most other grocery stores.
They partner with small farms and other small food producers in order to offer great deals straight to their customers by delivering to a “drop zone”.
Be sure to check out Azure Standard for more information. If you're a first-time customer, use code “MKN10” to get 10% off your first order of $50 or more.
How Many Rabbits?
By raising two does and one buck, Nate and Erin harvest approximately 40 rabbits annually to feed their family.
This is great because many people often think they'll start raising their own meat once they have more space, a larger homestead, the right infrastructure, etc. But Nate and Erin have jumped in with both feet and are maximizing their 1/2-acre homestead.
When it's time to cull the rabbits, Nate and Erin use a piece of rebar that's bolted to the wall and do a cervical dislocation. They then skin the rabbit, which takes about 2-3 minutes.
Nate says it's like “pulling off a wet sock.”
Rabbits are ready to butcher at 12 weeks, and they weigh about 5 pounds. Dressed out, they are about 3 pounds.
To get the best texture and flavor, be sure to remove the scent glands on the hind quarters (if you don't remove this, the meat will have a very musky flavor).
Nate also recommends having a cooler filled with half ice, and half water where you'll place the butchered rabbit for 2-3 hours.
After the rabbit rests on ice for a few hours, he'll bring them to the kitchen and vacuum seal them in individual packages.
The rabbits are then stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours before moving to the freezer.
Best Way to Store Rabbit
After the rabbits are butchered, Nate and Erin use the “cut to length” food saver rolls of plastic, wrap up each individual rabbit and then vacuum seal the bags.
Then they will mark and date the packages and store them in the freezer.
Even though a rabbit is quite small compared to many other livestock animals, there are still parts that are more tender, such as the back strap.
Nate and Erin describe rabbit meat as a combination flavor of chicken and turkey. Rabbit meat has a little greasiness, very similar to dark meat chicken and turkey.
The difference with rabbits is that there's no “white meat” and “dark meat”. The entire rabbit is similar to dark meat.
A rabbit shouldn't have a “gamey” flavor but more of a richer, meatier flavor.
How to Cook Rabbit
Erin's preferred way to cook rabbits is in the crockpot. She can fit two rabbits in a crockpot at a time and cooks them low and slow.
Once the rabbits are cooked, she then shreds the meat to use in recipes much as you would chicken (tacos, casseroles, pasta, pot pies, stews, etc.). They also like to use the rabbit meat in something they call a Sloppy Hoppy, like a Sloppy Joe.
Cooking rabbits in the crockpot yields very tender meat that's easy to pull apart and falls off the bones.
Erin also found that by shredding the meat, it would stretch further. The first time she cooked a rabbit, she roasted it in a cast iron pan with a wine sauce, and the entire rabbit was gone that same day.
Best Rabbit Recipes
Erin and Nate have used rabbit meat in many recipes (as mentioned above). Some of their other favorite ways to use rabbits are:
- Smoked rabbit
- Rabbit pasta alfredo
- Rabbit pot pie
- Rabbit pizza
Their best tip is to use the shredded rabbit meat just as you would chicken. So, think about those dishes you love using shredded chicken and just substitute rabbit.
Rabbit Bone Broth
After cooking the rabbits, Erin will use the bones the same way you would chicken bones to make a broth. She says the broth is incredibly delicious and so rich in flavor!
For the best gel in the homemade rabbit broth, Erin usually uses two-three carcasses per batch of broth.
FAQs for How to Cook Rabbit
How can I make my rabbit tender?
The best way to get tender rabbit meat is by butchering them around the 12-week mark (depending on the breed) and cooking them low and slow. A crockpot is a fantastic way of cooking rabbit for tender, fall-off-the-bone meat.
How do I make my rabbit taste good?
If you're someone who enjoys the flavors of chicken and turkey, chances are you will like the taste of rabbit.
However, raising and butchering do come into play for the end result when it comes to taste and tenderness.
How long do you boil rabbit before cooking?
It's not necessary to boil the rabbit before cooking. This may be the case for older rabbits, but if you're raising them for meat, butchering them at the 12-week mark is ideal for tender meat.
Where to Find Two Chicks Homestead
Be sure to reach out to Erin and Nate if you have any additional questions on raising or cooking rabbits.
- Two Chicks Homestead Website
- Two Chicks Homestead on Facebook
- Two Chicks Homestead on Flote
- Northern Illinois Homesteading & Preparedness Facebook Group
Melissa: Hey, pioneers. Welcome to Episode 356. On today's episode, we are going to be diving back into the world of cooking, I want to say nonconventional types and cuts of meat and today we're specifically getting into rabbit, but it's kind of sad to say that rabbit is not conventional. I mean, for most of us if you're buying your meat from the grocery store, which we raise most of our meat, rabbit doesn't happen to be one of them yet at the moment.
Melissa: But if you go to a grocery store, rabbit is not something, at least where I live and I think probably speaking for most of Western modern society, it's not something that you typically see on the menu at a restaurant, or that you're going to see available to buy at the grocery store. Now, I know country folk for a long time have been raising rabbit, and it's probably only in the last 100 years or so that it's not been something that families are used to having on the table, and are used to knowing how to cook.
Melissa: That's what we're going to be talking about in today's podcast episode. But one of the parts of the conversation that I really enjoyed with today's guests is we also talked about the butchering part. Now, if you are sensitive to that conversation, I still would actually urge you to listen to it because so are we. Those of us who are butchering our own meat and raising our own livestock to butcher to be able to harvest it for the meat, it's not an easy day. I don't think it was ever intended to be an easy day or approached callously. We dive into that as well. There's a lot of good stuff in this episode. I think that you're really going to enjoy it, especially those cooking tips on rabbit.
Melissa: Today's podcast episode is sponsored and brought to you by Azure Standard. I found Azure Standard, I wish I had found them much earlier in life, but I found Azure Standard about two and a half years ago. I had honestly never heard of them before. They are a company that has actually been around for a long time, founded by David Stelzer, let's spit that one out. But they converted their farm from conventional to all organic as they experienced radical and lasting improvements in their health, and they became convinced that organic eating was the key to healthy living.
Melissa: And that really mirrors a lot of my journey. If you've listened to this podcast for any amount of time, you know 13 years ago, that that was really the catalyst that ... We already were doing a lot of elements of homesteading, but that really pushed us to go full-on and much broader, and raising as much of our own feet, just really getting in the deep end of the pool, so to speak. And that was because of the health issues that I had and experienced healing by changing over our food.
Melissa: I love that they know that intuitively, it's something that they've experienced. And really similar to me is to be able to offer and to have more and more people be able to have food that is grown in a way that is healthy to the land, and is healthy to our bodies, and is also healthy for the animals that is producing our food sources so I found them. What makes them unique is I feel like they have got more variety and everything falls under that non-GMO. Some of it is certified organic, some of it is not, but it's all very natural-based food items and in bulk. Items that I can't find at Costco, I actually can't find some of these items anywhere else except through Azure.
Melissa: They also partner with other small farms and small food producers. I love that I'm getting to support that. And how it works, how they're able to offer really great deals, companies, and products, et cetera, and these bulk is you have a drop zone. You'll go to the website. It's melissaknorris.com/azure, which is A as in apple, Z as in zebra, U-R-E. So melissaknorris.com/azure. You will put in your zip code and it will show you drop zones, so you place your order online, and then it all gets packed on a truck, and most of the drop zones have a minimum order because that makes it viable if they're bringing a bunch of orders to one spot.
Melissa: And so you'll be what your drop zone, where it is, the pickup day and time. And then you place your order, there's a cutoff time, and it's a little bit different. They're all across the country now and it is a little bit different for drop zones. My particular drop zone I can get weekly. Some of your drop zones will be monthly and some of them are every other week. So you'll see that the options will all come up when you pop in your zip code, but you place your order and then you go and pick it up. And it is just been really, really wonderful.
Melissa: Like I said, there's items that I can't find and source anywhere else. And it's also great because you're picking up your drop items and other people in your community who want food just like you do with those same, I want to say high-quality, but it shouldn't be considered high-quality to have food that is grown without synthetic pesticides, and is done in a truly good manner. That should not be considered high-quality. That should be just the way that food is done.
Melissa: But my whole point with that is you will meet people as well in your community that have those same food values and goals that you do, and likely other values and goals as well. So it can actually be a way to find others around you in your community. So again, you could go and find out about them at melissaknorris.com/azure.
Melissa: And the other great thing is if you are a brand new customer with a $50 minimum order, you can use coupon code MKN10, MKN10, and get 10% off your first order. So we will have all of the links that I'm referencing and the coupon codes and everything in today's blog post that accompanies this episode. And you can always find that at melissaknorris.com/356, just the number 356 because it's episode number 356.
Melissa: Now straight to today's episode, I have on today Erin and Nate from Two Chicks Homestead, which is out of North Central Illinois, and really fun story about the name of their homestead that you'll get to hear in this episode. They live on a small half acre lot, but they are making the best of it and, actually producing a lot of their own food. They have eight Eggland chickens. They also have their meat rabbits, which you'll be hearing more about. They have two large gardens that produce a nice amount of harvest that they can can and preserve in many different ways.
Melissa: And you'll also hear they have a homestead, obviously they have a homestead. I'm meant to say they have a podcast where they talk about homesteading and living on a small piece of land. And they are both amateur radio operators. I think you are really going to enjoy them so let's get straight to it.
Melissa: Well, Nate and Erin, welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Nate: Well, thank you for having us. We've been looking forward to this interview with you. Erin and I, we have a half acre land in Illinois. We raise rabbits, chickens. We also homeschool our girls. We play a little bit of Hand Radio. So we're kind of into all the fun stuff.
Melissa: That does sound fun. Now I have to say when I first saw the name of your guys' homestead and it said Two Chicks Homestead, I immediately thought two chicks like women. And then I read the name and I'm like, "I don't think I have that quite right." So I would love to hear a little bit about how you guys ended up getting the name for your homestead.
Erin: Yeah. We had just moved into our current homestead. We have two daughters and so we needed to sign up for something with our homeschool, and we needed to have a name, and we had just gotten our chickens and it was like, "Okay, Two Chicks Homeschool." And it just worked out perfect and then it just kind of evolved from there. And we've kind of hit some bumps in the road along the way with the name that we kind of have to explain, but you know what? People remember it so it works.
Nate: Yep, exactly. It's one of those funny stories that we can now explain and branding might have not have been 100 percent on point, but it's still fun to talk about.
Melissa: Well, it's a conversation starter. Like you said, whenever there's a story behind something, that's what we remember is we learned so well by stories. So yes, it'll be very memorable now and we won't make the mistake of giving it the wrong connotation there. So literally two chick, chickens is how it started homestead, very fun.
Nate: Yeah, the two daughters, it's named in honor them so. And then we just had the chickens roaming around. It is what it is so.
Melissa: I love it. Yeah. Awesome. So one of the things that I really wanted to talk with you guys about today is raising rabbits for meat, but more specifically on cooking rabbit. We've been doing a little bit of series with some of the like using offal, and organ meat, and some other types of wild game. And although you guys are raising rabbits, they're not wild rabbits for wild game.
Melissa: I'm finding that for a lot of folks who were raised in modern society as it were, rabbit is not something that a lot of people come in contact with either eating it, being served it. I've never seen it for sale at the grocery store, I should say. And so the most of the time, they just have no experience with actually eating rabbit, let alone even cooking rabbit. But you guys do raise meat rabbits. So how long have you guys had the meat rabbits?
Nate: We've had them for about two years now. We're on still the original. So we have a trio of breeders. We have one buck and two does. Our buck is still our original buck along with one of the does, but we ended up replacing one of the does earlier this year. We currently do, what is it? About 40 rabbits a year maybe, somewhere around there. It's really like chicken. I mean, everybody hears you say that, but it really is like chicken. So that's kind of the nice thing about them.
Melissa: Now with rabbit out of curiosity because I have eaten rabbit. When I was a little girl, my uncle actually raised rabbits. He was a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but because the hutches were elevated, that was their livestock that he could still do, and he could access, and he could butcher it, and all of that. I was pretty little and so I ate rabbit because they would bring rabbit to all like Easter and any get-togethers that we would have as a larger extended family.
Melissa: But as far as cooking it or harvesting it, I don't recall any of those things. So are there parts on the rabbit like a chicken where you've got the breast meat that's white, and then, of course you've got the ... Well, I should say if it's a heritage bred chicken, but you have dark meat. Is that the case with rabbit or is it just all one or the other?
Erin: I would say that there's parts on that are definitely more tender. Like the back meat, you can tell is like really tender if that's the right word.
Nate: Yeah, the back straps.
Erin: But really it's mostly all the same, I think.
Nate: Yeah. The best way to describe it, I would say would be between a chicken and a turkey.
Erin: Yeah, it's got that grease to it.
Nate: Right. But it's not overly greasy. So it's kind of like a good mix between the two. If you like turkey and you like chicken, you're going to like all of rabbit because it's kind of a really good mix between the two.
Melissa: Okay. So when you are processing the rabbits, like the butcher part, are you skinning them? Is there a way to remove the fur and leave the skin on, or is it always something where you're just skinning them out?
Nate: Sure. So what we do when we go to call, we use something called a Hopper Popper. It's a piece of rebar bolted [inaudible 00:12:56] and we do cervical dislocation. And then we go through and we actually skin the rabbit. And skinning a rabbit is a lot easier than actually doing a chicken. Like plucking a chicken, and dealing with all that it takes probably two or three minutes to skin a rabbit it out. The best way to describe it is like pulling off a wet sock.
Melissa: Okay. That gave me a very good visual and I actually felt my foot was a wet sock when you said that. So yeah, and that is pretty fast. So then I'm going to sound silly though. So when I had rabbit and again, this is going back actually quite a few years now to my childhood. It was like a fried chicken and it was crispy, but it must have had the skin removed, would've just been the batter. Like you can still get that crispy flavor on it even though it's been skinned, right?
Erin: You can still part it out and fry or do anything with those separate pieces.
Nate: Yeah, whenever we do rabbit, we always skin them so there's no skin on it. It's just easier that way for us.
Melissa: Yeah. And then do you like tan the fur? Do you do anything with the fur?
Nate: We actually have about 16 to 20 pelts in the freezer, and that was on our list to do this year, and we just haven't got around to it yet. So it is on our list to learn how to do it. We've been saving pelts of some of the prettier colors that we get. So that is definitely on our list of things to do.
Erin: Same with the rabbit feet [inaudible 00:14:35] we want to do that.
Melissa: Oh yes. Yeah. And I know there's only so many hours in a day and with homesteaders, we have so many goals and interest. It is so hard to pick which ones we have to focus on. So with the rabbits for you guys, at about what age are you generally butchering them, and then what's the approximate weight on one rabbit at butcher time?
Nate: So live weight, they're about five pounds and that's at 12 weeks. So they go really quick. It's almost same cycle as doing a chicken at eight weeks. It's really quick. Dressed out, they're about three pounds I would say. And that really depends on your breeds. Like a California, or a New Zealand, or a silver fox is going to be about that size.
Nate: If you get into like a Flemish Giant, they're going to be a little bit slower growers, but they're going to be heavier. And their bone to meat ratio is also going to be higher, so they're going to have more bones in them than they will meat.
Melissa: Okay. So after you guys have butchered them and skin them, then do you leave them whole and roast it whole, or do you generally just cut it, and part it out, or a combination?
Erin: We leave them whole and then I usually end up either steaming them or in the Crockpot I do a lot. My majority of how I cook it is by cooking and then shredding and adding it to recipes or we do what we call Sloppy hoppy, which is like a sloppy joe, or barbecue chicken, or a barbecue sandwich-type meat.
Melissa: Okay. That is like going down in history. Sloppy hoppy. I'm sorry, that just is cracking me up. Oh my gosh, that is funny. I love it. So because of their size, you could get a whole rabbit probably pretty easy in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot [inaudible 00:16:37].
Erin: [inaudible 00:16:38] I've gotten two in them if they're thawed out and able to move around.
Melissa: Okay. And then similar to when like if cooking a whole chicken, I'll save that carcass, and then make bone broth out of it. Do you do the same thing with the rabbit carcasses?
Erin: Yes, and it is amazing. It's very, very good.
Nate: Mm-hmm. Yeah. We've done that a couple times. We just did a batch so.
Melissa: Curiosity because usually with the chickens, at least for me, I either need to do two carcasses in order to get a good gel or throw in some of the chicken feet. So with the rabbit carcasses, do you find that you get a good gel in a lot of collagen with just one carcass, or do you usually do two, or what's that like?
Erin: I usually do at least two. I'll put them in the freezer and just mark it as for broth. And then once I have enough then I'll do two or three depending on how many I have ready to go [inaudible 00:17:37].
Melissa: Okay. And they do produce a pretty good gel too?
Nate: Oh yeah.
Melissa: Okay. Awesome. You can tell, I have not ever cooked with rabbit at all.
Nate: No, it's fine. I mean, up until two years ago we were new to this. So we're city kids. I grew up downtown Aurora or sorry, downtown Chicago in Illinois. Some of the bigger cities is where I grew up and for us to come out here and do this has always been like a new thing. This was like our big learning thing was getting out here and starting to play with rabbits.
Melissa: Okay. So I'm intrigued that without coming from this background, what made you decide to go with rabbits or did you just learn from like watching YouTube videos, or how did you learn how to actually go ahead, butcher them out, and do all the processing?
Nate: Well, we moved out here in our spot right now, we're out in Hinckley, Illinois. It's a real small town, about 2200 people. And we moved out here about four years ago just to kind of get our girls away from the bigger cities and let them grow up in more of a country setting. And we got the chickens and then two years ago, Erin got a really bright idea that she wanted to try doing some Cornish Crosses.
Nate: So we decided we'd go hunt for some Cornish Crosses. Well, we couldn't find any at the store and it was taking a couple of months we were going and not being able to find them. So I went down the YouTube University route, and through several other podcasters, and heard about rabbits. And that's when I decided to bring it to Erin and go, "Let's try this instead and see how it works." And that's kind of how we got into it.
Erin: And I said, no at first.
Nate: Yes, you did say no at first.
Melissa: You know, it's funny like I have to say it's going to sound really silly because I was raised on a cattle ranch from the time I was a young girl. If my dad couldn't get the day off work when the butchers were coming, I was actually the one at nine, 10 years old that would meet the butchers, and point out the cows that we would be butchering that day, and then they would do the kill shots. And so I'm very used to raising livestock as a meat source and doing everything as ethically as possible, but still being a part of that process, and knowing where my food came from from a very, very young age.
Melissa: And then we do the meat birds and have done them for a number of years now, along with pork. But rabbits, Erin, I'm with you. Rabbits are the one thing I'm like, "I don't know." If I had to, yes. In a survival situation, I know I could, but right now I'm like I think I would have a harder time butchering the rabbits than I would the meat birds. I think it's the cute factor. Like to me, a meat bird was a little tiny chick that;s cute. But by the time it's ready to butcher, they ain't cute no more. But I feel like the rabbits even as adults are still cute. So Erin specifically, did you struggle with that a little bit at first or not really?
Erin: I did, I definitely did. And I think it's you go to the store and you see chicken all over the place. You don't see rabbit, like you said before, anywhere. And really we didn't know anybody that was doing rabbit. And I remember telling Nate, I said, "Okay, fine, we can do it, but don't tell anybody. We're going to seem like weirdos out here butchering fuzzy, cute pets."
Nate: Yeah, exactly.
Erin: So it took a long time to get used to it.
Nate: Yeah. And it's still takes time for me to get used to doing it. Like the butcher day is not an easy day. It never is. And if it ever is an easy day, there's a problem. It's reality. And the way I look at it we have our two girls, one is nine and one is five, and they spoil these rabbits like their pets and really they have one bad day. That's kind of how we look at it.
Nate: But the girls are out there giving them treats, picking leaves, dandelion leaves going through our little garden that we have outside of the house and picking stuff for them, and taking it out to the cages to give to them. Yeah, the girls are used to it by now, honestly.
Melissa: Yeah. And do the girls, do they help at all during the butchering process?
Nate: Our oldest who's nine is really apprehensive towards blood and her tipping point I think is going to be this year.
Erin: Mm-hmm. [inaudible 00:22:35] something she's more and more interested. Where the little one is like, "Oh, we're butchering today."
Nate: Yeah, yeah. I mean, our little one is the one when we processed our first hog was sitting in a chair next to the table watching us process the hog while eating popcorn. So yeah, it's that way.
Melissa: Yeah. I'm glad you brought it up because, like I said, I've been raised raising and processing to different degrees my own food for my whole life. And then, of course, my husband and I we've been married 23 years and butchering our own, like with the chickens, and all of that. Oh gosh, for, well, probably close to a decade now, and then our beef cattle even longer. And I'm with you though, butcher day is never easy. And I think sometimes there's a bit of a misconception.
Melissa: Like I've had people come to me because they know that we've been doing this for so long and they're like, "I get upset on butcher day. I'm doing it because I believe if I'm going to eat meat, that this is the most ethical way to do it, and I'm taking personal responsibility, and self-sustainability." And giving the animals their best care they're born or raised from a very young age in one spot. They're not being trucked to processing plants, et cetera. But I still have an emotional time on butcher day even though I get through it.
Melissa: And I'm not sure I think sometimes people are like, "Is there something wrong with me that I'm still emotional?" I think sometimes they think it just becomes something that you just kind of do and it is just kind of blase like, "Oh, it's butcher day," but I'm with you guys. I still get emotional. In fact, we butchered some meat birds just a couple of months ago. And we had one, we generally do all male meat birds just because they get to size a little bit faster, and we just can process them all on one day. But we ended up getting a female it's hard to sex them when they are that tiny.
Melissa: We ended up getting a female and so she was growing slower and I think she may have had some other health issues as well. Long story short, I had to separate her out and then we got some baby ducklings in. And so she was in the brooder with the baby ducklings, even though she was like three weeks older than them, but she acted like a mama hen to these little baby ducklings. She would let them come in and and snuggle up underneath her. She never pecked on them. Anyways, she was really great, but she was a Cornish Cross meat bird. And as she got closer to what would be butcher time, you know how it goes. Like they don't walk so well, you can't let them.
Melissa: In most cases, I've heard a few anomalies, but in most cases you can't let them grow out. That's not how they have been selectively bred. So when butcher day came and I kept telling myself, "Do not get attached to this bird," but when butcher day came, I knew we had to dispatch her, but I had gotten attached, and so I cried. I'm holding her feet as the dispatch is happening in the cones and I'm looking at my husband, and I'm just sobbing and I'm like, "I'm so sorry I'm crying."
Melissa: I laugh about it, not really laugh about it, but like, it was really hard, but I knew that we could not keep her alive. So even being very well-seasoned, I think it's important that people understand that, no, like it still is a very emotional time. And also like very respectful, which sounds odd to someone who's never butchered animals I think. I don't think until you've experienced it, you can really understand it like really how deep of an emotional level is involved.
Erin: Right. And I know that we have friends and, "Why are you doing this? Like how can we be so mean to do this?" And yet, they're eating meat from the grocery store that was probably raised in some factory, and not cared for like [inaudible 00:26:27] anything that you can just buy.
Nate: Right. Absolutely. Our girls take really good care of the animals that we have here. And if there's any problems, they know about it. And they also are the ones to go around and show everybody how we do things here. Like they're not afraid to go walk around and show their friends the rabbits. And if their friends have questions, they're on top of it, and explain it to them exactly what we're doing. I mean, we've had to go down to some of the neighbors' parents and say, "We're really sorry that our daughters told your kids that we process animals here at home and eat them."
Melissa: How have been the reception when that happens from other parents?
Erin: It was actually really good.
Melissa: Was it good? Yeah, yeah.
Nate: Yeah, we have a couple families here that definitely know everything we're doing here, and actually are very interested in what we are doing. So it's kind of a nice icebreaker to be able to sit down and talk with them about it.
Melissa: Yeah. And it's interesting, too, with the girls, because like you said, the one isn't quite ready to help yet. And we kind of always approached it from the way with my kids that they always knew even when they were little that the cows were for meat and when we were eating. We haven't pushed them to actually do that part. Like they may have to help with actually packing the meat, or packaging it up, and putting it in the freezer, et cetera. They've actually always been fine with it.
Melissa: And the same thing, like they have a deep respect and if one of the animals get sick or something before actual processing day, like they take care of those animals so good. But they understand what their purpose for and they're fine with helping. And so I think it's really great that your girls, like you said, they know where their food is coming from. And then when they're old enough to decide if they're going to help or not, you're kind of letting them make that decision with how they feel.
Melissa: But I think where I'm going with this is I think that as a society we do a really big disservice when we hide reality from children. There's kids that literally don't know where, which sounds crazy, but they don't understand that the chicken on their plate actually came from a chicken. They think it comes from the grocery store. They don't have that connection.
Nate: Right. I remember a couple years ago, Erin mentioned that somebody she knew said it was the eggs, thought they came from a cow because they're in the dairy section. I mean, I'm like, "Are you kidding me?"
Erin: This was an adult.
Melissa: Oh, it was an adult. Okay. It's a kid, it's cute. It's an adult, that's kind of concerning.
Nate: Yes, yes. I mean, this was like a 30, 35-year-old adult. This was not like an 18-year-old adult so.
Melissa: Yeah. I think that just goes to show how far removed most of modern American or modern society, Western society, et cetera, really has become from their food.
Nate: Right, right.
Melissa: Yeah. I know we went off on a little bit of a tangent there, but I always like to have these discussions with other families who are butchering and do have young kids. And especially for people like you who have come into this not being raised in that lifestyle, I think is really, really good.
Melissa: So with the rabbits so when you're going to package them in the freezer, I know you said you guys usually do them whole, which is usually how we do our meat birds as well. Are you vacuum selling them? Are you just wrapping them up really well with butcher paper or what's your process for the freezer?
Erin: Yep, we vacuum seal them in the plastic.
Nate: Yeah. It's the cut to length rules that we get and then we have the FoodSaver. I think it's a 4800 series that we use. [inaudible 00:30:18] pretty good. I think we've had one bag break over the couple years we've done it so.
Melissa: Okay. I know you said a lot of times that you are using the Instant Pot or a slow cooker to kind of give it that nice long slow cook so that you can shred it, and then mix it in with stuff. Do you ever roast it or do you find it just the textures and tenderness is so much better doing those other methods that that's just how you typically tend to rely, and only use that way when you're cooking it?
Erin: The first one we ever made, we roasted it in like a wine broth in our cast iron just so that we knew this is what ... I don't think I'd ever had rabbit before. So we wanted to know like just so that we could kind of have a base. And I didn't really care for it and I feel like it didn't stretch as much. We ate that whole rabbit that night where then when I shred it, I can add it [inaudible 00:31:21] three meals instead of one.
Nate: Absolutely. Like we can use it in like in pasta dishes, something like that.
Erin: Pot pies.
Nate: Yeah. Pot pies. Like that is one of the favorite things that we do is the pot pies even for our neighbor. We'll trade some stuff out for him and make him like a rabbit pot pie or something. And then the girls seem to like it a little bit better because it's in their favorite meals.
Melissa: Yeah, I totally understand that. It's a little bit different when it's a shredded meat versus still in the whole form.
Nate: Right. So if we did the whole form, we actually [inaudible 00:32:00]. We smoked two rabbits. Was it last year I think? And they didn't go as far. We ate both of those that night so that was two rabbits in one night, where we'll make like chicken Alfredo or chicken pot pie with rabbit and that'll go two, maybe three meals so.
Melissa: Okay. And then I know you said going back that it does actually have fat in the meat, probably a little bit more so than just a regular meat bird, would you say? It's maybe a little bit greasier or about equivalent?
Erin: I would say it's probably about the same.
Erin: It's no overly greasy. It has a little bit of a different ... Like it's all dark meat almost.
Nate: Yeah. I would agree with that. Mostly dark meat.
Nate: Usually when we go to process the animal, there's not a lot of fat actually on the rabbit. They're pretty lean because we keep them fed well, but they're usually running around like crazy in the cages. So we have big four foot wide cages for them. It works out really good.
Melissa: So do you feel like the meat being the dark meat, does it ever have a little bit of a ... Gaming is not quite the right word because I know it's a domesticated meat being raised in that way. But does it ever have a little bit of a game-y flavor or just more like dark meat that you would normally anticipate if you're eating dark meat out of a turkey, et cetera?
Erin: I really think it tastes like dark meat. [inaudible 00:33:34].
Nate: Right, right. To me when I hear the word game-y, that's flavors that people have never had before. Like people would call venison game-y, but that's a flavor to me. It's something that I'm not used to, but it's really good meat because it's not like beef or pork that you get from the store where there's like no flavor to it.
Melissa: Yes. Yeah, I agree. And anything in my experience, I should say, that we have had where we've raised it ourself or even from another farmer. Like when my dad raised beef in the beginning of our marriage, we got beef for my dad before we started our own herd, but it was homegrown. I have always found it to be more flavorful.
Nate: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. And we get a little bit of grass-fed every once in a while. We get pasture pork, too, from one of the farmers in town. So that's always like the highlight of the year is being able to do that hog here at home, it's fun.
Melissa: Oh yeah. So with the rabbits, I'm assuming this is pretty much the case for any animal hunted domestic, et cetera, but you letting it go through rigor mortis or having a resting period after you've butchered it before you cook it. And I know with larger game, that's even a bigger thing, but with the meat rabbits on calling day, processing day, butchering day, whichever moniker you want to give that. After you butcher and gut and skin, are you holding them on ice or in the fridge for a couple of days? Are you immediately packaging and then putting in the freezer or what's that process like?
Nate: Usually when we go to process, we will process them and then I'll have a cooler out in the garage, half with ice and half of the water. And then we'll leave him on there for about two or three hours, bring them in, then vacuum seal them, and then put them in the fridge for about a day maybe, 24 hours. And then they'll go into the freezer from there. [inaudible 00:35:39]
Melissa: But with that timeframe, they would most likely have went all the way through rigor mortis, so the meat's not tough then when you go to cook it after you've frozen them, and thawed it, and brought it out. Yeah, yeah.
Nate: Yeah. The only time I've ever messed up a rabbit, like it tasting weird is not properly cleaning all the glands. That's the only time I've ever goofed one up, and you can taste it. The glands on their hindquarters if you don't get those out, you will taste it.
Melissa: Is that where they like excrete extra oil, kind of like their preen glands on a chicken and rabbits have the same ... Oh, interesting. I didn't know that. I told you I don't know anything about rabbits. I didn't realize that rabbits had the same type of oil glands and the importance of removing goes so it doesn't flavor the meat, as you're saying. Okay.
Nate: It's more of like a scent gland, I would say. It's right around their butt. I mean, that is what it is and it'll give like kind of a musk flavor to the rabbit itself if you don't get that removed.
Nate: We've had that happen maybe two or three times.
Erin: It was in the beginning. We were still learning.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah. But I've gotten really good about getting those out of there.
Melissa: Yeah. I think it only takes one time for you to make an error like that and then you're really cognizant of getting it right the next time.
Nate: Oh yes, yes. Because I mean it's like you spend all this time raising the rabbit, you go to butcher it, you mess it up, but it tastes funny. It's like, "Well, darn, that's not fun." It doesn't taste right and I've wasted all of that time. So you get better at doing what you're doing with trial and error and we're big on YouTube University.
Melissa: Yes. I've learned a lot I have say, I'm with you there. I've learned a lot of things over the years from the internet and YouTube as well. And this is something I've noticed the most I have to say with our pigs, but I'm curious if you've noticed this at all or played with us at all with three things, raising the rabbits. Have you noticed with what you feed them or changing the feed at all that it in any way enhances certain flavors within the meat or not really?
Nate: Not really. They're mostly on a pellet diet and then they get whatever greens that the girls scavenge around the yard. Dandelion leaves and lettuce and kale, that's what the girls would go around and pick and then just throw in there, they'll eat that. A bunch of grass here and there. But we haven't really experimented with that yet. We started doing kind of like a rabbit herb garden on the side of our house, but we haven't really gotten that far with it this year.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, when you do, I would be super curious to see if you do notice any difference with that. Like I said, I haven't really myself noticed. Noticed it with the chickens, but I have definitely with our pigs. And I know a lot of times like with dairy animals, the milk will be sweeter if they're eating fresh grass and [inaudible 00:38:51] if they're in like a lot of shrubs, and eating a lot of things like nettles and different things like that it can make the milk have a different flavor. But I haven't ever noticed it with our poultry either so I'm not sure. I'll be very curious to see if you ever do with the rabbits or not.
Nate: Yeah. We'll to try that out sometime and see how it goes. It'd very interesting to try it.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, when it comes to cooking rabbit, I know you guys have kind of shared your favorites and the ways to make them definitely stretch to feed to get more use out of them. Are there any other favorite recipes, or tips, or anything at all that you'd like to share?
Erin: Our favorites are just the comfort meals, the pot pies. We do rabbit and dumplings. We do pretty much anything, barbecue rabbit pizzas. I mean, anything that you would really do with chicken. [inaudible 00:39:38] blows people's minds when you say you just eat it like chicken because we're in a lot of rabbit groups, they're like, "What do I make with this rabbit?" And it's like, "Well, what do you like with chicken?" They're like, "Oh, well, all this stuff." And it's like, "Well, do that."
Nate: Yep. Try it out.
Melissa: Just sub it in. I like it. Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, guys, thank you so much for coming on today. For those who would like to follow along with more about what you're doing and with the rabbits and your guys' half acre that sounds amazingly productive for a backyard basically. Where's the best spot for people to connect and follow along with you?
Erin: We are at twochickshomestead.com And you can find us on Facebook and TikTok. We're trying to get into YouTube, but we haven't done that yet. We're on float and you can just see everything there that we post.
Nate: Yep. And then we do a weekly podcast as well. It usually comes out Wednesdays and you can find that on all the major players, that's Two Chicks Homestead Podcast. And then if anybody ever has any questions about rabbits, they are welcome to shoot us an email at [email protected]
Melissa: All right. Well, great. Thank you so much for coming on and we'll have all the links that you mentioned in the blog post and show notes that accompanies today's episode. So thank you guys so much for coming on, as well as the girls, they were very quiet. I hardly heard them sneak in there.
Nate: Well, if you'd like, you are always welcome to ask one of them a question about rabbits. I'm sure they would answer it.
Melissa: Oh yeah. So girls, what is your favorite part about raising rabbits?
Speaker 4: My sister, my dad and me own a rabbit. That's my favorite.
Melissa: I like that it. You're going with the ownership, claiming it.
Nate: Yep. Yep.
Melissa: Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much. This was a lot of fun. I appreciate you coming on.
Erin: Thank you.
Nate: All right, well, thank you for having us. It's been great talking with you.
Speaker 4: Bye. Bye.
Melissa: Well, I hope that you enjoyed that episode as much as I did. I got some good nuggets from there. I am super excited to be back here with you next week where I have a really ... Oh, I'm going to try. I can't spill the beans yet, but it's a really, really amazing episode. So until then, blessings and mason jars for now, my friends.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.