Because I raise rabbits for meat, I am always looking for good rabbit recipes and hassenpfeffer is a classic, and so one of the first I sought out. It is an old recipe, bearing the hallmarks of upscale 16th and 17th-century cooking. It is loaded with spice trade goodness. One nice thing about hassenpfeffer is that you can butcher a rabbit and then get started making hassenpfeffer right away. You have to let a rabbit sit for a day or two after butcher or it is way too tough. (It chews like tough plant fiber, you can chew all day.) Hassenpfeffer calls for a marinade of at least 24 hours, and 48 is better. By then, your freshly butchered rabbit has rested enough to be edible. It is also a largely unattended recipe and though it contains many ingredients, it’s fairly easy. There are many variations on hassenpfeffer, many call for wine and vinegar. I prefer to use apple cider (or juice) and vinegar, which gives it a sweet-tart flavor, though wine is nice too, I don’t generally have wine around. I have tried recipes that call for just the vinegar, but these are too sour for me, though the menfolk thought it was fine. A dash of gin is also nice, especially since it’s easier to find gin than juniper berries at my local grocery. You can really go in a lot of directions with the recipe as long as you keep your flavor goal in mind- a bit of sour and a lot of spice, but not heat.
- 1 rabbit, cut up into serving pieces, or 4 rabbit thighs
- Enough flour to coat the rabbits
- Some kind of fat or cooking oil
- 1 cup apple cider or juice, or wine
- 1/2 cup vinegar, I use apple cider, wine vinegar is also nice
- 4 peppercorns, crushed
- 4 cloves, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 1/2 inch slice of ginger, chopped up
- 2 juniper berries, crushed
- 1 or 2 green onions, sliced thin
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- You can also add parsnips and/or turnips and/or rutabaga if you like
- Wash, pat dry and arrange rabbit in the bottom of a shallow glass (or at least non-metal) dish with a tight-fitting lid. Salt the meat, turn and salt the other side and then set the dish in the fridge to rest.
- In a saucepan combine wine or juice, vinegar, and all the spices including the green onion. Heat to a boil, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature.
- Once the marinade is cool, pour it over the meat, turn the meat to coat it fully in the marinade and then set it in the fridge. You can leave it there overnight, or up to 3 days if it’s fresh. Visit it periodically to flip it around and make sure the marinade is getting on all the sides.
- Remove the meat from the marinade, scrape off the solids as best you can. Strain the solids out of the marinade and discard them, but reserve the liquid.
- Heat the fat in a heavy oven-safe skillet, Dutch oven or slow cooker with a “sear” or high heat setting. Dredge the meat in the flour and then brown the meat on all sides. Set the meat aside.
- Add the marinade to the pan and stir it a bit to get up any brown bits from the meat. Turn your oven to 325 if you are using a heavy skillet.
- Add the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes, then return the meat to the pan and cook all for about 5 minutes more.
- If you are using an ovenproof skillet, cover it and place it in the oven now. If you are using a slow cooker, reduce the heat to medium and cover it.
- Allow the rabbit to cook for about ninety minutes and then check for doneness. The meat should be just about falling off the bone. The amount of time it takes will depend on what you’re using to cook it.
- When the meat is cooked to your liking, ladle off as much of the juice/sauce as you can easily manage and mix it into the sour cream until smooth then add it back into the pan. Optionally sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps and serve.
I like to serve it over a bed of mashed potatoes or turnips or thick homemade egg noodles or over biscuits.