“If you were a real rabbit, I’d skin you and make rabbit stew!” This line is yelled in frustration by our hero, Fritz, in the new folktale “WUNDERGARTEN,” which is set in 1870s Cullman County, Alabama. Fritz has struggled to clip a rabbit-shaped topiary out of an Alabama thicket and wishes the shrub would cooperate and remain like the hare pictured in his favorite Brothers Grimm tale, “The Hare and the Hedgehog.”
The stubborn “Wundergarten” rabbit topiary refuses to stay trimmed and teaches readers to “grow where your branches go.”
In this storytelling culinary series, “Celebrating in the Wundergarten,” we are imagining German dishes from the recipe box of our heroine, Frau Ruehl (pronounced “real”). As we brave another blast of wintry cold in her snug Alabama cabin, let’s savor this hardy, heart-warming medley of rabbit, bacon, red wine and dried herbs.
WUNDERGARTEN HASENPFEFFER (GERMAN RABBIT STEW)
- 1/2 lb. bacon, diced
- 3 lbs. rabbit meat, skinned and cut into pieces
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp. chicken bouillon granules
- 1 tbsp. currant jelly
- 10 black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 3 tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
- Place bacon in a large skillet; cook and stir over medium heat until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Sprinkle rabbit with salt and coat with flour; shake off excess. Cook rabbit in bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat until browned. Transfer rabbit to a plate and set aside. Drain excess grease, leaving 2 tbsp. fat in skillet.
- Sauté shallots and garlic in fat in the skillet until tender, about 4 minutes. Add wine, water and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then stir in jelly, peppercorns, bay leaf and rosemary.
- Return rabbit and bacon to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rabbit is tender, about 1.5 hours.
- Remove bay leaf and discard. Place rabbit on a warm platter; cover to keep warm while preparing gravy.
- Make gravy: Stir lemon juice into cooking liquid in the skillet. Mix together water and flour in a small bowl; stir mixture into the skillet over low heat and simmer until thickened. Stir in thyme.
- Pour gravy over rabbit or serve in a gravy boat on the side.
AUF WIEDERSEHEN, YOU WASCALLY WABBITS!
Find all columns in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/celebrating-in-the-wundergarten.