Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Skin and Dress a Rabbit

If you’ve been successful with rabbit hunting, or if you’re raising rabbits as part of your survival plan, you’re almost ready for a rabbit meal. You’ve heard that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right? The same holds true for rabbits. When handling uncooked rabbit flesh, you need to wear rubber gloves. Rabbits sometimes carry tularemia, a relatively rare but potentially deadly disease for humans.
After killing the rabbit, some people cut the head off immediately to let the rabbit bleed out. I’ve never done this, but it’s an option. I’ve found the easiest way to dress a rabbit is to remove the fur first.
To remove the fur quickly, lift up the hide and skin at the rabbits back and make a cut in it with a sharp knife. Be careful not to stick the knife point in the meat. Stick the forefinger and the middle finger of both hands into the slit and pull, like you’re playing an accordion. With younger rabbits, the hide will come off pretty easily. With older animals, it might be more difficult. If you notice grub-like worms under the skin, don’t freak out. These are warbles – bot fly larvae – and they pose no danger to humans as long as the meat is cooked properly.
Once you have the hide down to the feet and neck, you’ll need a small, sharp hatchet. Chop off the feet below the lower leg joints, and chop off the head. This can also be done with a good hunting knife.
Now the innards have to be removed. To do so, cut a slit in the belly skin, making sure not to penetrate the internal organs. You can gently “shake out” most of the organs, but be careful not to rupture the bladder. You’ll probably have to reach in under the ribs with your finger to get the heart, esophagus, and lungs. Don’t worry about cutting around the anus – that area will be cut away with butchering.
Next, lay the rabbit on its back and spread out the hind legs. Cut the back legs off at an angle, as close as you can get to the spine while avoiding the anus. Do the same thing with the front legs.
What you should have left of the body now is a point at the neck and a point that includes the anus. Cut straight across at both points, leaving the loin section.
You should now have five sections of rabbit meat – two front legs, two hind legs, and the loins. Rinse the meat thoroughly in cool water, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. The meat should be kept at 35-40 degrees, unless you’re freezing it, of course.

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