Sunday, August 7, 2016

Corned Rabbit

Today we are going to examine an alternative way to can and preserve your rabbit through the process of corning. So what exactly is corning? Before the advent of refrigeration, meats were often salt cured to preserve them, a process known as dry curing. 'Corning' is an Anglo-Saxon term for meats that were dry cured (preserved) by rubbing them with salt pellets that were similar in size to corn, hence the term 'corned'. Over time, this process was replaced by wet curing or brining, and the term 'corned' became synonymous with the wet curing or brining process.

When most Americans hear the term 'corned' they think of corned beef, a dish that is generally believed to be of Irish origin although it was also a common Jewish practice. For most of us here in the United States corned beef is most often served on St. Patrick's Day. On this day many Americans cook corned beef and cabbage, which is the unofficial dish of St. Patrick's Day.

The only commercially prepared meat I have seen corned here in the United States is beef, however, any type of meat can be corned. Traditionally corning meat is accomplished by placing the desired product (usually brisket) in a brine and left in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. The brisket is then placed in a large stockpot and boiled and served with your sides of choice with cabbage being the most common on St. Patty's day.

In this article I am going to show you how we corn and pressure can our rabbit in one easy step. Simply allow it to sit in the jar once canned for at least a week and you will have some fantastic corned rabbit. I will be using a modified version of the raw pack method. What I mean by this is that the rabbit will be packed into heated jars raw, and then hot brine will be added to the jars before placing them in the pressure canner to be processed.

So where did I get the idea for corning rabbit? Well the credit must go to John Fugozzie who posted a recipe on corning rabbit on the 'Hostile Hare' Facebook page. While John prepared his rabbit in the traditional manner of brining it in the refrigerator and then cooking it, I decided to combine the techniques of canning and brining in one step.

Corned Rabbit

I like to use this recipe for old bucks and does as older rabbits are tougher rabbits, and the corning process makes them tender and juicy. Now I am not too anal retentive when I debone my rabbits as I boil the bones and then hand remove any meat leftover from the bones and then either use it right away or can it as well. Of course the broth is then reduced down to make rabbit stock. My point is that the amount of meat you get for corning when you debone a New Zealand meat rabbit may be more less than what I get, but I assure you nothing at our house goes to waste. The two bucks that I butchered weighed about 10lbs each, and I canned 4 pints of corned rabbit and an additional 2 pints of cooked rabbit meat for a total of 6 pints plus about 4 pints of rabbit stock. BTW, I used half of batch of the brine recipe.

The Recipe

6 to 8 lbs rabbit deboned (4 old rabbits)
1 recipe of brine (see below)

Now, I rough cut my rabbit into about 1-inch chunks and then place it in the refrigerator and boil all my bones and then allow them to cool so that I can pull off the meat and reduce the stock some. Why do I do this before corning my rabbit? Because I have a 23 quart pressure canner I have the capacity to can all of the rabbit meat and stock at the same time (even though the stock doesn't have to be processed this long). If you have a smaller canner, then just do the corned rabbit first.

The Brine

For my version of corned rabbit I used the basic brine recipe that John posted on Facebook. While I liked the final results, my friend Steve Coyne author of 'I Grow Vegetables' blog thought it could use an additional tablespoon of pickling spice. So like all recipes, I recommend trying it first as written and then adjust if the next time to suit your personal preferences.

1 gallon of water
2 cups of kosher or any non iodized salt
2 ½ teaspoons of pink curing salt (Prague powder No. 2)
3 tablespoons of pickling spice
½ cup of brown sugar.

Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive pan (stainless steel, enamel ware, Teflon coated etc...) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and keep the brine hot. Put the cut-up pieces of rabbit into your heated jars and cover them with the hot brine leaving 1 ¼-inch of headspace.

I place all my pickling spices in the brine and simply add the brine with the spices to my jars. If you do not wish to do this, then simply place the loose spices in a small cheesecloth sachet and toss it into the brine. When you are ready to add the brine to the jars simply remove the sachet.

Chef's Note: Do not confuse 'Pink Himalayan' salt with pink curing salt (Prague powder), they are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably.

Processing Your Rabbit

Now I mentioned that this was a modified process of the 'raw' pack method. Generally when you raw pack meats, you stuff the jars full and add salt if desired, but you add no liquid. For this recipe, I packed the jars with raw meat, but added my hot brine to the jars and then processed them as raw pack. I did this because I wanted the rabbit to corn in the jar allowing me to skip having to keep it in the refrigerator for 7 days before canning.

Once you have poured the brine into your hot jars, remove any air bubbles, and add your heated two piece rings and lids to the jar and screw them hand tight and place them in your pressure canner. If you have read any of my other articles you know that all meat and meat products (including poultry, turkey, and rabbit) must be canned in a pressure canner. You cannot safely can meat products in a water bath canner, I repeat, all meats must be pressure canned.

Chef's Note: To keep the jars hot I left them submerged in my water bath canner with the water at a slight simmer. If you were doing a large batch of rabbit or other meat, you could wash your jars in the dishwasher and remove and pack them when they are still hot.

Once you have all your jars placed in your pressure canner process per the USDA's Complete Guide To Home Canning Guide 5: Preparing and Canning Poultry, Red Meats, and Seafoods as follows:

Pints for 75 minutes at 10lbs in a weighted pressure canner, or 11lbs in a dial gauge pressure canner.
Quarts for 90 minutes at 10lbs in a weighted pressure canner, or 11lbs in a dial gauge pressure canner.

Once the rabbit is processed and the jars have cooled, store them in your pantry and in 7 days you will have some of the best corned rabbit you have ever tasted.

Serving Your Corned Rabbit

As I mentioned, this is a modififed version of a 'raw' pack and the results were quite amazing, that is if you like corned or pickled meats. I must admit that I have only eaten my corned rabbit in only a couple of ways since I canned it, mainly cold straight out of the jar and it is yummy! You can use this corned rabbit as a substitute for corned beef in any corned beef recipe but it is particularly good in corned rabbit and hash, and it makes an interestingly tangy version of rabbit (chicken) salad. I am going to let John have the final word on how he and his family likes to eat their corned rabbit “We love the stuff. It can be mixed with eggs for an omelet, cooked with cabbage etc. like traditional corned beef. By far, though, our favorite way to eat it is toasted, on rye bread, with swiss cheese and a little thousand island dressing. (Think Reuben without the sauerkraut).”


Much thanks to John Fugozzie for inspiring me to make a canned version of his traditional refrigerated corned rabbit recipe. If you are looking for a way to preserve older bucks and does that are no longer productive corning is an excellent option. Whether you choose to go the traditional route and corn your rabbit in the refrigerator like John, or can it using my modified canning process, the rabbit will always be tender, and flavorful. You can check out John's original recipe on Facebook by clicking on the link below. As always if you have enjoyed this article we ask that you share it with your friends, and don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook or Google+ so that you will not miss out on our latest articles.

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