Okay, so we don't technically live on the prairie, but close enough that Cubby came home with this a few days before Christmas:
He also carried it through the house to show it to me in the kitchen, dripping blood the whole way, but I don't want to talk about that.
That there is a jackrabbit, which, despite the name, is actually a hare. He chased it down and shot it with his .22 while he was out with A. on the range. He was extremely proud of himself. So of course we had to eat it.
It hung for a few days to age and tenderize, and while it was hanging, I was pondering how to cook it.
Then, just a couple of days before Christmas, at 2 a.m. when I was trying to get back to sleep after getting up to nurse the baby, I remembered something. "Hey," said my semi-conscious brain, "I think Laura and her family ate a jackrabbit one year for their Christmas dinner."
This is the sort of thing a juvenile brain steeped in the Little House books will come up with at 2 a.m.
I looked it up the next day--or rather, later that same morning--and sure enough, right there in By the Shores of Silver Lake were three paragraphs describing the Ingalls family's Christmas dinner, which featured a jackrabbit shot by Pa.
Well. This was fate. Kismet. Destiny. I had to make the jackrabbit for Christmas dinner. And while I was at it, I might as well make the rest of the meal as described in the book. Because it also included sourdough biscuits (no problem for a slave to sourdough like me), cucumber pickles (thanks, Rafael!), bread and onion stuffing, mashed potatoes, and an apple pie.
Okay, so we begin with the jackrabbit. My primary concern with it was toughness. To address this, I brined it for a day and then baked it covered, in a relatively low oven, for two hours. I also draped it in bacon. In the book, Ma uses salt pork for this, which is essentially bacon that hasn't been smoked.
I'll spare you the photo of the raw jackrabbit curled up in the pan, because raw rabbits look like skinned cats. Not appetizing.
Next, bread and onion stuffing. For this, I set Cubby to work early in the morning cutting up a half loaf of sourdough bread to dry out during the day.
His reward for getting up so early to open presents.
This is, amazingly, the first time I'd ever made stuffing (technically a dressing, as I didn't stuff it in the jackrabbit). I looked at a couple of recipes online, and then just made it up, as is my habit. I sauteed some onion and celery in a lot of butter, added salt, pepper, and some sage that I had just received that morning as a Christmas gift from the MiL along with my pepper mill from Penzey's spices (so fortuitous!), mixed in the bread and then some venison stock I had in the fridge. It baked at the end with the jackrabbit.
I used this recipe for sourdough biscuits. The book specifically mentioned that the biscuits were small, so I made them that way. I don't have a biscuit cutter, anyway, so I can make them any size I want with whatever round item I can find to cut them with.
In this case, I used that small honey jar there. The black water bottle top was too small.
I ended up with two skillets of biscuits, but no room on my single oven shelf for both skillets plus the pan of stuffing. So I put one skillet of biscuits directly on the floor of the oven. They got a little too brown on the bottom this way, but were still fine.
And look how cute!
Mashed potatoes are pretty self-explanatory, though I bet Ma didn't have so much butter, milk, and sour cream to put in hers. I did, though, so I used it. No sense sacrificing flavor for historical accuracy.
I also omitted the cornbread the Ingalls family had, since there was quite enough bread already on the menu. The "rich, brown gravy" also went by the wayside, as the juices in the pan from the jackrabbit were far too salty because of the brine and the bacon.
Ma made a pie from dried apples. We ate all of our dried apples already, but I had also frozen some of Mr. Billy's apples with sugar and cinnamon, thinking I would use them for baked apples. Works for pie filling, too. I mean, I guess. I'm not a pie expert. I've literally never made a pie. This was my first one.
I don't even own a pie pan. So I used my deep oval casserole dish and put just a top crust on it. I used the Fannie Farmer recipe for a 9-inch crust and I knew as I was making it that I was overworking it. It was kind of inevitable, though, as I had to use almost exactly twice as much water as the recipe called for (thanks, high altitude!). So I was judiciously adding the water a tablespoon at a time, but that meant that I had to keep mixing it and my kitchen was a sweltering 80 degrees and . . .
Yeah. This was a terrible pie. The crust was almost inedibly tough.
Also, I overbaked it because the top wouldn't brown and then the filling was dry. Super.
I'm sure Ma's pie was a lot better than mine, but I had vanilla ice cream to go with my terrible pie, so I think that's still a win.
Oh, and here's a picture of the last few refrigerator dills:
I may have gotten a little snap happy with the food photos.
The Ingalls family's meal was notably lacking in vegetables, as was all of South Dakota in December at that time period. However, I figured carrots are a pretty standard winter vegetable, so I threw some in with the jackrabbit for the last hour or so.
Here is the final plate of (semi-) historically accurate Silver Lake Christmas food:
Have a very carb-y Christmas; it's the best time of the year.
The jackrabbit, oddly, reminded both A. and me of beaver meat. We were ambivalent about it, but the kids loved it. Of course.
So there it is. My descent into crazy Little House culinary fandom. It was fun, but I won't be repeating it anytime soon.