Rabbit rillettes

Rabbit rillettes

By
From
Best Kitchen Basics
Serves
8
Photographer
Petrina Tinslay

I heard the term ‘underground mutton’ many times from my father and grandfather, which was a rather oblique reference to food shortages and our troubles in the Great Depression and book-end world wars. Rabbit was for the poor and its reputation took many decades to recover. I remember trapping rabbits, shooting rabbits and Myxomatosis, but I can’t remember eating rabbits. I was first introduced to the idea of rillettes through the post-war writings of Elizabeth David. She wrote evocatively of the sunny French Mediterranean, its noble peasant cuisine and how it was an effective tonic for her country recovering from the Second World War and in the middle of rationing. I also read about it in the Roux Brothers’ French Country Cooking and Richard Olney’s Simple French Food. This recipe emanates from those readings.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 small wild rabbit
300g diced pork shoulder
100g coarse salt
500g duck fat
1 garlic bulb
3 cloves
1 star anise
6 bay leaves

Method

  1. Remove the front and hind legs from the rabbit. Cut the body into four pieces across the backbone with a heavy knife.
  2. Put the rabbit, pork and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator and rinse away the salt under running water.
  4. In a heavy casserole over medium heat, melt the duck fat. Add the meat and the remaining ingredients, except the bay leaves. Cook very slowly over low heat until the meat starts to come away from the bone and the pork starts to fall apart, about 2–3 hours. Remove the meat from the casserole.
  5. Strain the fat and cook it in a saucepan over low heat to evaporate any water. Discard the spices.
  6. Shred the meat using two forks and add some of the fat to moisten it.
  7. Transfer the meat to a suitable receptacle, like a wide-mouthed mason jar or terracotta dish, pressing down on the meat to make it as flat as possible. Garnish the surface with the bay leaves. Cover the surface with 1 cm of the reserved fat. Place in the refrigerator until firm and opaque.
  8. The rillettes can be eaten after 24 hours, but is far better after a number of weeks. Store for up to 2 months.
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