November 10, 2011

Blackie The Rabbit

This is primarily for Charles Bradt, though anyone who is interested in slaughtering game, raising rabbits, or our trip should check this out. It's not pretty though, and it speaks to one of the key challenges of doing these things on your own farm. You raise the animal and care for it, and then you kill the animal and eat it. Cringing at this has seemed dishonest to us given that we both eat meat, and we've tried to jump right in to these kinds of experiences for that specific reason. Seeing this process in full rounds out the picture. We literally were feeding this rabbit five minutes prior to the first picture. Blackie, we called him. He was big and friendly as rabbits go and he had a beautiful black coat, hence the name. On this fateful Friday morning we were feeding him as we'd grown accustomed to, patting him lovingly all the while, when Marcel abruptly stepped out of the barn telling us to stop, that we would be having roast rabbit on Sunday, that the rabbit should have an empty stomach when slaughtered, and that Blackie was the one. The pictures tell the rest. 

Blackie, this is for you. 

It begins. Blackie was a good rabbit, and a good earthling. His passing was valued greatly and happened about 2 minutes prior to this picture.

Note the early stages look similar to a poodle haircut. Cuts along the legs allow the fur to be peeled down the body of the rabbit.

The entire pelt rolls right off the torso... 

...and catches around the head. Tree-pruning loppers came into play here, thankfully undocumented.

An incision is made into the stomach of now hairless and headless Blackie. Note Christina yawning... two weeks on the farm has hardened her, apparently.

Two days later, ready to be prepped for stew.

First, the back legs are removed at the joint. 

The front legs follow. Interesting that only flaps of skin and tendon attach the front legs,  no major bone sockets.

The strips below the rib cage are removed next, to be diced later.

Marcel locates the lowest rib and cuts down to the backbone on both sides of the rabbit.
Having separated the rib cage by severing the spine, Marcel uses a paring knife to pull "filets" from the  outside of the ribcage. And yes, he's wearing chainmail, though sadly it stops at a glove. Half Michael, half medieval. Awesome.
Strips between the rib bones have been removed. Marcel is now dicing any large boneless sections in preparation for the stew. 
Spaetzle (the 'ae' is actually an umlaut ) being made, a traditional German pasta that served as the side for our Rabbit Feast. 

The Rabbit Feast. From left to right are Ute, Christina, Dave, Sean and Marcel. Didn't realize how much flannel was happening at the time, but whatever, Sean and I are farmers now and we can do that.

A plate at the Rabbit Feast. A leg, some sauteed sweet carrots, and some spaetzle with the delicious, thick gravy made from rabbit pan drippings.  Delicious. Memorable. A night-killer - nothing to do after eating but smile and go to bed.

November 8, 2011

Week 2: Things Get Serious

This week, we took life at the Lufts head on. There were many firsts to be had. 

Monday was Halloween - a day not celebrated in Germany. Although it is growing in popularity as candy companies advertise and package candy for the day, it is not a part of German tradition. Halloween went almost entirely unnoticed for us except for Ben, the Lufts' son, who arrived to dinner dressed, we think, as a ringwraith.

The week seemed to fly by and this was due in part to a dinner party we attended on Monday night. Marcel and Ute's gracious neighbors, Christiane and Horst, invited us over for English Night - Kurbiseintopf (Literally translated as Pumpkin One Pot) and English conversation.  The retired couple lives next door to the Lufts in a renovated farm house.  We were greeted at the door and invited into their dining room where an inviting fire and seasonally decorated table awaited us. Christiane and Horst further reinforced our notion of the Germans as a convivial bunch who can certainly handle their liquor. Christiane served a delicious pumpkin stew. The tureen seemed bottomless as we each helped ourselves to second and third servings of the warming and tasty meal. While Christiane replenished the crusty bread and stew, Horst continually refilled our beer and wine glasses.  It was a marvelous night of fascinating conversation and good company. Fairly early in the evening the conversation turned to politics, the state of the world and how to garner the interest and involvement of the youth. Big issues and serious topics for us here in Weitsche.  The people here and the Lufts' way of life provide hope in what sometimes seems like a bleak forecast for the future.

Despite our late night, Tuesday began bright and early at 7:30am with David's first chicken slaughtering. We'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Overall it was an intense and informative experience. Surely we won't be able to look at meat counters the same anymore. As Marcel always reminds us, it takes a bit of time to do this process well, especially if you expand the idea of "the process" to raising and providing for the chickens. Much has to be adjusted or abridged or entirely lost when the process achieves larger economies of scale.
David and the chicken prepare themselves for the inevitable. Does the hen know what's coming here, we wonder? 
First, the chicken is hit on the head with a small club. This step is mandatory in Germany. If we do this ever again, we're buying a chamber mechanism where gas knocks the bird out, not a club. This was the troubling part. 

With an axe, the chicken's head is chopped off.  Actually this was the troubling part.
The bird is then dipped in boiling water and plucked. 

David carrying away the plucked chickens.  He also participates in the gutting of the animals.

Marcel tells us that Germany tradition calls for the liver of the killed animal to be given to the hunter. Here is the chicken liver served with onions, salt and pepper....

...and here is the 'hunter,' loosely interpreted.

The huntress was not so impressed at first. 

The chicken slaughtering was not the only first of the week. This week, I (Christina) went on my first bike ride.  Thanks to my patient bike instructor, I finally moved beyond the rounds in the village circle.  We went on several long bike rides this week and I can confidently say I know how to ride a bike. 

After several days of increasing distance we finally rode to the town of Luchow, which is 8km away. Cars zoom by rather frequently on this road and they do not seem inclined to stop, so we ultimately opted for a series of small roads that run parallel to the canal.

Since learning of the canal path, our bike rides have been quite peaceful.  This Sunday it was rather foggy.  The mist created the illusion of riding under moon light.

There were also many firsts in the kitchen this week, including, American Burger Night (complete with homemade buns), traditional Bavarian Pretzel Sunday and a delicious rabbit roast. 

Homemade hamburger buns. With Ute's help, we were able to bake some pretty delicious and simple buns.

Hamburger Night would not be complete without the perfect fry. These were soaked in sugar water and fried twice. Needless to say they were a hit.

The pumpkin stew and hamburger roll recipes are posted on our recipe page. Guten apetit! 
We'll soon post a special entry devoted to Blackie the rabbit and his ultimate fate.