Saturday, March 19, 2016

Peter Cottontail should maybe hide out under the bunny trail...

I have to admit, the Valentine's day heart post made me start thinking about ways to make other upcoming holidays equally unsettling. Can you guess where this is heading? If not, here's a hint from The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (1971):

Yep. Today we're finding out what else you can do with the bunny besides letting it leave "chocolate eggs" in your yard.

As far as I know, I've never had rabbit, but I'm not certain. Sometimes when I was a kid, my family we went to my farmer uncle's house for Easter dinner. One year he assured us kids that the main dish was chicken, then asked the grown-ups whether they wanted a front leg or a hind leg when he thought I was out of earshot.... He quit complaining about the woodchuck ruining his yard at about the same time he served that meal, so I suspect we were eating woodchuck, but it could have been rabbit.

The cleaning instructions are making me glad that I can say I probably haven't had rabbit. Even this not-particularly-detailed picture makes me feel a bit squeamish, especially at step 5 where the recognizably "bunny" parts are getting peeled off, or step 9 where it's still pretty clear that the stubby, barely-identifiable remains are going to lose their head.

So what are the next steps to get bunny ready for the table? The Wise Encyclopedia suggests an old classic, Jugged Hare:

The rabbit is seared in bacon drippings, then stewed in a covered pot with onion, salt pork, tomatoes, and seasonings.

This version is served with a currant jelly and sherry sauce rather than the more traditional sauce made with the hare's blood and port. (That would literally be a meal that ended in a bloodbath! Holiday family dinners can get contentious, but hopefully not that contentious...)

Woman's Glory-- The Kitchen (Slovenian Woman's Union of America, 1968) goes a similarly-traditional route with a recipe that my childhood self imagined Bugs Bunny made up:

Hasenpfeffer is real, though the ingredients are quite different from the ones in Yosemite Sam's recipe. His seems to omit vinegar-- a main component in all the versions I looked at-- in favor of Worcestershire sauce. Plus Sam's is full of potatoes, onions, and carrots, when this only has onions as the vegetable component-- and they're just in the marinade. Sam has no sour cream to finish his version either-- at least I assume not, though he never got all the way through the recipe for me to be sure. Anyway, to make a long story short (Too late!), my childhood self was kind of right in suspecting that the Hasenpfeffer in the cartoon was made up. It doesn't come close to matching up to any real recipe for the dish.

Yosemite Sam's attempted concoction was closer to something from The Lutheran Ladies Cookbook (1970):

Here we have bunny with potatoes and onions, and it certainly wouldn't be a stretch to throw in some carrots too. Of course, it would be Pennsylvania Dutch Rabbit Pie when it's done, but I'm not sure Yosemite Sam would know the difference.

Most rabbit recipes I found tended to be fairly traditional, but appropriately enough, Going Wild in the Kitchen (Gertrude Parke, 1965) had something different:

I'm not sure why Parke seems to think it is a liability for a recipe to come from the Caribbean. This version smothers the rabbit (Wait... Does that kind of sound like a euphemism to you too?) in tomato puree, garlic, onions, olives and their oil, white wine vinegar, potatoes, and sherry. Is that almost enough stuff to hide the bunny origins?

I'm not sure, but I'll bet these recipes are enough to make all the rabbits wish they had nasty, big, pointy teeth like the Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Happy weekend! Now run away! Run away!


  1. "This hasenpfeffer tastes an awful lot like carrots!"

    1. Either the king is none too bright or Bugs Bunny has mad skillz in selling his carrots as authentic hasenpfeffer. (It's probably a bit of both...)