Jackrabbit Ragù

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 My first jackrabbit hunt in Colorado. A clean 60 yard shot with the .22lr CZ 452 started my journey into cooking with jackrabbit meat.

My first jackrabbit hunt in Colorado. A clean 60 yard shot with the .22lr CZ 452 started my journey into cooking with jackrabbit meat.

Kjell Hedstrom - 2017

Jackrabbit is an overlooked game animal for most American hunters. Due to failure and lack of knowledge on how to process the jackrabbit it has gotten a bad reputation for being tough and stringy.  With the proper care, jackrabbit can be delicious fare, something the Scandinavians are already well aware of. 

As we go into the rabbit and jackrabbit hunting season I hope to present several recipes to entice you to try out this new game animal.  Not only is the jackrabbit a treat to eat, it also gives for a fun and different type of hunting. 

Here is a favorite recipe of mine for jackrabbit ragù. It was first inspired by Steven Rinella's recipes [1][2] but where he used cottontail I prefer jackrabbit, with my own twist to the recipe.

Jackrabbit Ragù

SERVES: 8–10
Start 1-3 days ahead.

I prefer my jackrabbit to be tenderized through vacuum aging.  Another way to get the meat juicy is to brine it prior to starting this recipe. 

Marinade

  • 2 cups dry red wine – any wine that is good enough for drinking
  • 1 small – ½ big onion. Sliced.
  • 5 garlic cloves. Pressed or crushed.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-3 twigs of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
    If you cannot find it in your grocery store they can be bought online at Walmart.

Put all ingredients in a pot and heat it up until it is boiling.  Take the pot off the burner and let it cool down. Pour the cool marinade over the jackrabbit in a plastic bowl. Cover and put the bowl in the fridge.  Let it sit for up to 12 - 24 hours.  My personal preference is 24 hours. 

 

Ragù  - serves 8-10

  • 2 lbs boneless jackrabbit - 2.5 lbs with bones.  
    Legs, backstraps, or whole rabbit cut up into sections. etc.  

    Optional: If the rabbit was not aged or brined it might come out dry. This is not terrible but it can be helped by adding 0.25  to 0.5 lbs of a fatty meat such as ground lamb, ground pork or ground beef . Any ground meat should not be in the marinate.
 Carrots, onions, celery and garlic

Carrots, onions, celery and garlic

  • 0.5 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion. Diced.
  • 2 - 3 carrots. Cut into ¼-inch pieces. 
  • 2 stalks celery. Cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic. Pressed.
  • 0.5 cup red wine
  • 1.5 - 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups crushed tomato  sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Plenty of fresh thyme (2-4 tablespoons)
  • Plenty of fresh sage  (2-4 tablespoons)
  • Optional:  2 tbs parsley. Chopped.
  • Optional:  2 tbs mint. Chopped.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    If the meat is brined then you should not add any salt when cooking
  • Pappardelle noodles – enough for the dinner guests. 

 

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.  Salt and pepper the pieces. No salting if you are using brined meat. The marinade should be discarded. 

 Braising jackrabbit backstraps in a cast iron Dutch oven

Braising jackrabbit backstraps in a cast iron Dutch oven

Brasing the rabbit
The ragù is created by braising the rabbit. See this link for pointers on braising if you are unfamiliar with this technique  https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/how-to-braise/

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium high heat. Brown the rabbit in small batches. Move the browned meat to a plate.
  • After browning all meat,  add the onions and cook until they are soft but not browned. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook while stirring occasionally until they are beginning to be caramelized.  This should take 5-10 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic for just half a minute or so. Stir frequently to avoid burning the garlic. 
 Deglaze the pot with red wine

Deglaze the pot with red wine

  • Continue the braising process by deglazing the pan with red wine.  Scrape the pot with a wooden utensil to get all the browned bits into the liquid. 
  • Return the meat to the Dutch oven.
  • Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock until the liquid almost covers the meat. 
  • Heat to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. 
 Sage, thyme, mint and bay leaves

Sage, thyme, mint and bay leaves

  • Chop the fresh sage and thyme and add to the pot with the bay leaves. Stir well. 
  • Simmer the meat, covered, for 1.5 - 2 hours. 
  • Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool down. 
  • Remove any bones from the meat. Cut or pull the meat into smaller pieces. 
  • Add the meat back into the Dutch oven and mix it with the sauce. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
    No salting if you are using brined meat.
     
  • Optional: chop mint and parsley and add to the pot. Stir well. 

 

At this point the ragù is technically ready to be served over the pappardelle pasta. In my experience, anything braised, taste better if it sits at least one day. After sitting in the sauce in the fridge the full flavor will come through. Start a day or two ahead when cooking for guests, or make a big batch for the whole family to enjoy.

 

 Jackrabbit ragù, a great winter or fall dinner for the family.

Jackrabbit ragù, a great winter or fall dinner for the family.

To serve:

The pappardelle pasta should be cooked until al dente. Do not overcook it.

Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese over the ragù. 

Enjoy!