By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
I remember watching my Dad and Grandpa Gibson clean and butcher 20 to 30 rabbits at a time after a long day of hunting on Grandpa’s Missouri farm. When I got old enough I was allowed to help skin the rabbits, but never hold the knife. Knowing my Dad and Grandpa, this concern was not for my safety, but for the enjoyment they garnered from butchering their own kill.
If you’re not a hunter, do not worry. Farm raised rabbit meat is widely available at most upscale grocery stores (sometimes in the freezer section). If not, make a friend with your butcher and ask him to order some for you. Or, ask a farmer at your local farmer’s market where you can buy local farm raised rabbit. Read more about the health benefits of rabbit meat here.
STEP 1: Layout the Rabbit
Lay the dressed and cleaned rabbit out on a cutting board.(Backside up)
STEP 2: Removing the Hind Legs 1
Begin by removing the hind legs. Using a sharp knife, make a cut through the spine on each leg where the legs join the body.
STEP 3: Removing the Hind Legs 2
Lift the body off the board. Holding the hind legs in one hand and the body in the other, use a twisting motion to remove the hind legs from the spine.
STEP 4: Separating the Hind Legs 1
Separate the hind legs by laying them back side up on the cutting board and cutting through the middle of the legs. They should divide easily. If not, lift and twist to finish the division.
STEP 5: Removing the Front Legs
Cut the front legs away from the ribs.
STEP 6: Trimming the Saddle
If necessary, trim up any excess flesh from the sides of the saddle (back). Not all rabbits will need this trim. Hold the meat away from the saddle and with your knife against the saddle, cut the flesh away.
STEP 7: Separating The Saddle From The Rib Cage 1
Separate the rib cage and the saddle by making an angled cut to the back bone between the rib cage and the saddle on both sides. (You may be able to cut all the way through the bone, if so skip STEP 8.)
STEP 8: Separating The Saddle From The Rib Cage 2
Holding the saddle in one hand and the rib cage in the other, use a twisting motion to separate the two pieces at the cuts. Discard the rib cage.
STEP 9: Cutting the Saddle Into Two Pieces
NOTE: You may skip this step if you are using a larger saddle for your recipes. I like to cut the saddle in two to keep all pieces relatively the same size.
Chop the saddle into two pieces through the back bone. (if saddle is not separating easily, lift with one half in each hand and give a pop and a twist.)
You Have Just Butchered A Rabbit!
Libbie’s Note: The beautiful handmade knife I used in this How To was made by artist Daniel Koster. Nessmuk Knife ($270) available at shopSCAD.
Now that you know how to butcher it, how about cooking it! Try this recipe (seen below):