Step-by-step how to cut up a rabbit in preparation for dinner.
The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How (Storey Publishing, 2015) by Andrea Chesman, is your comprehensive guide to the techniques you need to get the most from homegrown foods. Author Andrea Chesman teaches dozens of simple and delicious recipes, most of which can be adapted to use whatever you have available.
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How.
Anytime you are handling raw meat, it is a good idea to sanitize your work area and equipment with a sanitizing solution. Rinse the animal under running water in the sink and pat dry. Remove the head, if it is still attached, and any membranes, silverskin, and clotted blood. Then gather your tools and you are good to go.
If you garden anywhere from eastern Alaska, through much of Canada, into the eastern United States and south to northern Georgia, you have probably had a problem with woodchucks. One solution is to shoot and eat them. Every gardener in the area will thank you. (You could just kill the woodchucks, but most hunters feel pretty strongly that whatever you kill, you must eat.) I would rather eat a woodchuck than share my garden with one, so if my son is willing to shoot a woodchuck that trespasses on my garden, I will cook it.
Woodchucks, for all their mass, don’t yield much meat. They average around 2 pounds after the fur and organs are discarded. A 2-foot critter is mostly just voracious appetite and fur. It should be noted that woodchucks, as well as most other small food animals such as squirrels, have scent glands
that should be cut out as soon as possible to avoid tainting the meat. When dressing woodchucks, look for and carefully remove without damaging any small gray or reddish-brown kernels of fat located under the forelegs, on top of the shoulder blades, along the spine in the small of the back, and around the anus.
Woodchuck can be cooked like rabbit, which is why I mention it here. Any way you would cook a rabbit, you can cook a woodchuck. You can also adapt your favorite beef stew or chicken gumbo recipe. I understand Southern-fried woodchuck is perfectly fine, but I prefer my woodchuck cooked until it is no longer recognizable. But that’s just me.
1. Remove the forelegs. Place the rabbit on its side so that one foreleg is up. Pull the front leg away from the body to identify the natural seam where the leg is attached (by flesh, not by bone). Cut through the seam, keeping the blade of your knife against the ribs and pulling the foreleg away from the body. Repeat on the other side.
2. Remove the flank. Turn the rabbit over onto its back. Identify the flank, or belly meat, which is a thin muscle that is attached to the hind legs and runs up along the sides. With a boning knife, cut the flank away from the body and slice along the line where the saddle (or loin) starts; then run the knife along that edge to the ribs. When you get to the rib cage, you can cut the meat off the ribs, as far as you can go, which is usually where the front leg used to be.
3. Slice off the hind legs. With the rabbit still on its back, cut into the flesh along the pelvic bones until you get to the ball-and-socket joint. When you do, grasp either end firmly and bend it back to pop the joint. Then slice around the back leg with your knife to free it from the carcass.
4. Divide the loin. The loin is left. Remove as much silverskin as you can. Chop the loin into serving pieces with a cleaver, smashing through the spine.
Excerpted from The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How (c) Andrea Chesman. Illustrations by (c) Elena Bulay. Used with permission of Storey Publishing. You can buy this book from our store: The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How.