Wabbit Season (rabbit with cherries)

Ingredients

  • 200g smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 very large rabbit or 2 smallish ones, in pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 1 bottle (300 cl) cherry beer (kriek)
  • whole black pepper, bay leaves, juniper berries, cloves
  • 1 large jar stoneless cherries in light syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp flour

This will serve four hungry people or two adults and three kids. If there are more of you, or your kids are teenagers, buy two large rabbits and use twice as much of the rest.

If you can't get kriek, use any sort of sweetish brown ale, preferably with a tart or fruity note (for instance Duchesse de Bourgogne). If you have any reason not to use beer at all (though after two hours of stewing the amount of alcohol left will be minute), you can use only cherry juice, but the dish will be very sweet and you may have to adjust the flavour with a dash of vinegar.

We usually have bread with it, though I can imagine new potatoes (boiled in their jackets) or even some kind of broad ribbon pasta such as pappardelle.

Some serious sort of vegetable seems to be in order: for instance rutabaga, beans or cabbage.

process

Minus 2 hours (or more)

Drain the cherries, set them apart and reserve the juice.

Fry the bacon in a large thick-bottomed skillet. This can usually be done in its own fat; use a little oil or other fat (goose fat is excellent) if you think it can't. Add onion and garlic and fry until it starts to brown.

Put the pieces of rabbit in and brown on all sides. If your pan isn't large enough or there's not enough fat to fry in, you can take the onions and garlic out and put them back in with the beer. The meat doesn't need to be completely brown, only no longer raw.

Add the beer and about 3/4 of the cherry juice. Keep the heat high until it boils, then turn it down and add pepper, bay leaves, juniper berries and cloves. Pepper and cloves are essential, bay leaves and juniper berries optional.

Turn the heat down even more and forget the whole thing for an hour or so. If you happen to pass the stove, you can give it a stir. If there seems to be too little liquid, add some water or neutral-flavoured stock.

Minus 30 minutes

Add the cherries to the pan and stir until they're all covered in gravy.

Minus 10 minutes

Fish the pieces of rabbit out of the pan. Make a paste of the flour with enough cherry juice to give the consistency of pancake batter. Bring the sauce in the pan to a boil (boil it down a bit if it's very thin and/or there's much too much) and thicken it with the purple paste. Taste it and adjust as necessary. If you spot any berries, cloves or leaves, either remove them now or remember to warn your diners.

Put the rabbit pieces back in the sauce to heat through.

Dinner-time

Serve the rabbit either in the sauce or on a platter with a bit of the sauce poured over and the rest in a sauce-boat.