Monday, January 28, 2013

Hoppin’ chicken (or another thing I am getting too old for…)

When we first moved here, there was a very active rabbit producers’ cooperative in the county, and they had arranged for a truck to come once a week to the parking lot of a local factory about a half-mile away from our house and pick up rabbits that people were raising, which they hauled off to a processing plant in Arkansas.

We decided we would hop (sorry, I couldn’t resist) on the bandwagon. Having read too many issues of Mother Earth News, and the too-good-to-be true propaganda from the rabbit cooperative, we thought we could make some decent money raising rabbits.

It did not work out way. We not only did not make money, we did not even break even. We ended up eating the rabbits ourselves. And so I became an expert butcher-er of rabbit.

My father has a fondness for fried rabbit, which is not easy to come by in the stores, even in a major metropolitan area. My mother was an excellent fryer of chicken, and it wasn’t too much of a stretch for her to get out the big black cast-iron skillet and fry up a rabbit if it was to be had.

Knowing how much my dad liked rabbit, I figured out that I could take a freshly dressed rabbit, freeze it, and then put it in a plastic shoebox of water, and freeze that, and that it would survive in an ice chest for the couple of days it took us to drive to Los Angeles from here.

And so it did. I took a couple of our own rabbits out to him, and the next year I bought rabbits from someone else who raised them and continued on taking fresh rabbit to my dad once a year or so.

Hoppin’ chicken, my brother called it. Rabbit really does not taste like chicken. It tastes like rabbit.

Fast-forward a number of years (quite a number, actually). An e-mail arrives from the former pastor of the church that we used to attend next door to our house. He retired because of ill health. He had decided to raise rabbits on a much smaller scale than we did, but the project did not go very well for him either, and he decided it was too much trouble. He had 3 rabbits that needed butchering. He was too squeamish to do it, neither of his two daughters who live with them would do it, and his wife, who could do it, has rheumatoid arthritis and a lot of pain from back problems and does not feel well.

Would I please come and butcher the rabbits? They would give me two in exchange for helping them.

Sure I would. But I did not intended to take two rabbits – one would be fine. So after church I motored over to their house and commenced killing rabbits.

A rabbit is normally very easy to skin. It pulls right off like you’d remove a glove. And so it did for two of the rabbits. But the third, for whatever reason, did not want to let go of his skin, and I struggled with it for quite a while. It was almost as hard as skinning a squirrel (which I did once and will never do again). I recruited his 12-year-old granddaughter to help pull, and his wife as well, and between the three of us we got ‘er done. Finally. By the time I finished with him, I was very tired and decided that I definitely would take both of the rabbits. I earned them.

I came home and sat down and as the afternoon progressed into evening I was so sore I could barely move.  I must have used muscles I have not used in years. That night I gave one of the rabbits to some friends at church who have never had rabbit, and the other one…well, Richard moved it down to the big freezer in the basement, and if I don’t remember to cook it fairly soon, it may be a long time before it resurfaces.


Donna said...

I've had good luck with rabbits in my time, and I've had bad luck. I've seen both sides, and I don't want to raise rabbits any more. They are tasty, though, and always peeled like a banana for us.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Hoppin it..butchering is for younger people:)