Posts Tagged ‘rabbit’

Thanksgiving Special: Eating Rabbits and Pigeons

November 23, 2019

The expansion of temperate climate environments following the end of the Ice Age led to the extinction of many species of megafauna because it resulted in an increase in the population of humans.  Oak woodlands and forests provided acorns, nuts, and fruits that could sustain humans when they overhunted and extirpated big game within their range.  Most predators are not common enough to consume all of their prey…otherwise they would starve and become extinct.  But humans are so adaptable, they can survive on other sources of food.  Wiping out megafauna had no impact on human populations because they could switch to hunting smaller animals and also rely on plant foods for survival.  Resource rich environments meant more humans which in turn meant more hunting pressure on large, slow reproducing species such as mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths.  Fish and small rapidly reproducing species such as rabbits, squirrels, and pigeons easily replaced the sources of protein lost when larger animals became scarce or extinct.

I visited a Vietnamese grocery store recently and found some items that were commonly eaten in the U.S. until the 1940s when American diets became more homogenized with the rise of mechanized farming and chain supermarkets.  Today’s grocery store meat departments sell beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and occasionally lamb; but rarely any other kind of meat.  Modern kids grow up on a diet of hamburgers and chicken nuggets.  I get bored with this monotonous fare.  So when I saw pigeon and rabbit at the Vietnamese store I snatched them up.

A baby pigeon, also known as squab.  They are expensive.

Broiled pigeon is delicious comparable to duck.

The pigeon came uneviscerated. I was afraid this would be a problem, but I learned eviscerating poultry is even easier than cleaning a fish.  Simply chop off the head and cut a slit near the bird’s anus.  Pull the front and the back apart until the keel bone breaks.  Then just pull the intestines and organs out.  I fed the intestines and gizzard to the cats, and they enjoyed eating them.  I ate the heart and the liver myself.  I decided to cook the pigeon just like I prepare quail.  I seasoned it with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper; and stuck it under a 375 degree broiler for 20 minutes.  Pigeon meat is very good.  It is a rich, dark meat, similar to duck, and it also has crispy skin and delicious fat.  Pigeons are built for endurance flying, and they have an high amount of hemoglobin, explaining why the meat is so dark.  The juice that came out when I was pulling the bird apart and eating it was black.  The main drawback to eating pigeon is the small birds just don’t have a lot of meat on them.

Pot-roasted rabbit.

Rabbit meat is just the opposite of pigeon meat.  Pigeon muscles are almost entirely slow-twitch, and therefore dark.  Rabbit muscles are fast-twitch and built for speed, not endurance.  Rabbit meat is all white and has very little fat.  I’ve made rabbit 6 or 7 times, so I’m more familiar with it.  It is good stewing meat.  Most people fry rabbit meat, and it is ok that way, but it is rather dry because it is so lean.  I chose to pot roast the rabbit, using a recipe I often use for a beef roast.  I put the whole rabbit in a casserole dish, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and smothered it with ketchup, celery and onion.  I poured a bottle of good beer in the casserole dish, and baked it, covered, in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours, until the meat was falling off the bone.