Potted meat is a traditional European way of preserving meat in spreadable form. It’s sort of like pâté, but don’t worry, there’s no liver in this recipe. Called “rillettes” in French, this is a nice recipe for preparing bony small game such as rabbit and squirrel. It’s also perfect for using up those tough pheasant, goose, duck and turkey legs sitting in the back of your freezer. Serve it as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres.
[caption id="attachment_94342" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Raw rabbit meat ready to be seasoned. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)[/caption]
1. Rinse rabbit pieces under cold water and remove as much silver skin as possible with a fillet knife. Pat dry with paper towels and lay into a rimmed dish. Sprinkle salt all over the rabbit, and spread 8 sprigs of thyme over and underneath the pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnight for 8 least hours but no more than 24 hours. The longer you let it sit, the saltier it will get.
[caption id="attachment_94345" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] The added thyme complements this recipe nicely with its aromatic flavor. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)[/caption]
2. Discard thyme and rinse rabbit with cold water. Pat dry again and place rabbit, pork, the rest of the fresh thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and all the duck fat inside a vacuum sealable bag. Vacuum seal the bag. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, use a leak proof zip-top bag and remove as much air as you can. Place the bag inside a slow cooker and submerge with water. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours or until rabbit falls off the bone.
[caption id="attachment_94344" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Marinating rabbit in a zip-top bag submerged in water in the slow cooker. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)[/caption]
Meanwhile, cook diced carrot with a little bit of fat until softened in a skillet, and then add chopped green onion until it begins to soften. Take off heat and set aside.
3. While still warm but cool enough to handle, strain rabbit and herbs through a colander, catching and reserving the duck fat underneath with a bowl. Discard the herbs, and remove rabbit meat from the bones. Chop the rabbit meat and mash the pork fat; transfer to a bowl and add the cooked carrot and green onion. Make sure there are no bones in the mixture. Pour into the meat mixture the reserved duck fat, one ladle at a time. Whip with a fork and add as much duck fat as the meat can cold: the mixture will become wet and begin to “pool” at the edges when it becomes too saturated.
[caption id="attachment_94341" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Decorate this dish with chopped carrot and scallions for a sweet, tasty garnish. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)[/caption]
4. Sanitize your holding container in boiling water. You can use small jar(s), ramekin(s) or whatever. Use airtight jars for longer shelf life. Spoon in rabbit, pushing down the meat with the back of the spoon to get rid of air pockets (air invites bacterial growth). If you have leftover duck fat – I had just enough – “seal” the meat by pouring a thin layer of fat over the top. If not, use melted butter.
[caption id="attachment_94343" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Prepared potted rabbit in a ramekin. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)[/caption]
The fat will help keep air out. Place in the refrigerator and wait until the fat firms up before piling on toast (French bread) and serving with cornichons (pickled gherkins), thinly sliced onion, mustards, etc. You can also scrape off the excess fat top before spreading, but seriously, it’s duck fat. I can bathe in the stuff.
About This Potted Rabbit Recipe
Because the meat is salted and kept away from air with fat, potted rabbit meat can last awhile in the refrigerator. I suggest that you consume it within a couple months, but according to Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, properly potted meat can go for as long as 6 months if there are no air pockets and if it has been sealed with fat, but I’ve never been able to keep it around long enough to find out. And no matter how hard I try, I also find it humanly impossible to eliminate all air pockets when stuffing the meat into jars.
After you’ve broken the seal, you can reseal the potted rabbit meat by pouring melted butter over the exposed meat if you don’t have any more duck fat.