“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

OK, ok, calm down. Here's the update.

The Pixies came to Auckland in March, and my sister, her husband, my husband, and I had tickets to attend. We are huge Pixies fans and were really looking forward to seeing them live again. Darin wasn’t able to see the concert, because he developed appendicitis and was having surgery that night. Bummer for him! On the plus side though, he got admitted into hospital right away, had his laproscopic surgery, then was released the next day. The cost of 2 visits to his GP, surgery, hospital stay, and discharge meds was only $56 NZD. We LOVE socialized medicine!
Darin had a big hunting trip (9 days on Stewart Island) which he’d already paid for coming up, and fortunately he was healed enough to go. He hunted white tail deer in the remote bush, where he camped in the rain with his NZ Deerstalkers * clubmembers. He managed to shoot one deer of the five in a party of nine. The shot was right through the chest and he said he’s never seen a deer drop dead so fast before. The deer are quite small down there. He had the hide tanned.

Darin was home from that hunting trip for about 4 days before his mom arrived from Fargo, ND for a 14 day visit. It was great to see her again. She was resisting coming because she didn’t want to travel alone, but she managed just fine. She had her 82nd birthday with us in NZ.
We took her to see our property in Maungaturoto and for a weekend getaway to Rotorua.
In Rotorua we did a bunch of activities: we rode the gondola up the hill and Darin and I rode the luge (repeatedly),
 we visited Paradise Valley and saw the lions get fed and pet the baby lion,
fed the trout and ducks and wallabies, we went to a Maori cultural show and hangi, walked through Rainbow Springs at night and saw the kiwis roaming around their nocturnal enclosures, we sat in the hot mineral pool at the Malfroy Motor Lodge (great!), we saw the sheep show at the Agrodome and pet the sheep,
and I got to milk a cow for the first time. I was really pleased to see the kiwi birds running around- they can move a lot faster than I thought!

During Minnie’s visit, Ruby and I tried for her BH title in a Dogsport NZ competition. I made the mistake of doing the Long Down exercise first, and this was in an area with lots of fallen leaves. They were too interesting to resist for Ruby, and she got up and to sniff around. She then seemed to forget why she was there. Her on and off leash heeling was not close and attentive, and on the recall she didn’t sit straight in front of me. I was pretty disappointed, but was not alone in the Loser’s Club. Anyway, I had the opportunity to trial again in Hastings May 29th, and we earned the BH! It was a 6.5 hour drive, so I’m glad it wasn’t for nothing. I was worried about Ruby’s reaction to the gunshot, because we hadn’t trained for that. Ruby broke her off lead heel by going out in front of me, and I almost didn’t get her concentration back. She wasn’t afraid of the gunshots; she was excited by it- gunshot usually means there’s a dead turkey or rabbit to eat. There was a steady, heavy rain from about 11 am through to about 9 pm on the day, and we got pretty wet. There was so much rain that the roads in Hastings were flooded. Fortunately we didn’t have to drive back to Auckland that night. We were kindly taken in by another dogsport training couple who live in the area. Hastings is in the Hawke’s Bay area, and is full of orchards and vineyards. Sheep and cattle are everywhere in between. We didn’t have time for wine tasting this time, but we did stop at the Kaimai cheese company on the drive home.

A few weeks ago, I flew down to Nelson to visit friends Holly and Steve, whose wedding I blogged about in Feb. The house they are building is nearly complete. They took me to the Saturday market, which is really good, and to a couple places to go wine tasting. We had a bbq at their shed, and Holly took me on a 4 wheel tour of their property. I met another American living down there, Candy, who moved to NZ from California with her husband and two big dogs. They live on a really neat piece of land tucked in a gorge with a big stream and lots of trees. I was only there for the weekend.  I'm so glad that 4 weeks of paid vacation time are standard in NZ; I don't know how I managed with only two weeks/year in the US.  Our next trip is on the calendar: 10 days in North Dakota and Minnesota in July- oy vey. Weather is cold in NZ in July, so I'm excited to go back to shorts & t-shirts, Red River Valley Fair, and hopefully swimming in a lake.
Sadly, in April, we had to say goodbye to our dear friends, Adam and Roberta, who moved back to the USA. Before they left, their baby Octavia arrived, and we buried her placenta under an apple tree on our land in Maungaturoto.  Forever after, Octavia can come to NZ and see her apple tree. (Assuming it doesn't die). Living here wouldn't have been the same without them, but they kindly left us with their XBox and board games (Puerto Rico, Tikkal, Dominion, Powergrid, and Settlers of Catan travel version).

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Making Rabbit Stew

This post is about making rabbit stew, but it's also about hunting and not wasting food.  Rabbits are pests in New Zealand, and every year there is an Easter Bunny Hunt on the South Island. In 2010, the highest number ever shot in 24 hours was recorded with over 24,000 rabbits, hares, and other pests shot. Boggles the mind, doesn't it? Rather than let these animals go to waste, they can be prepared in a stew and eaten. I have this lovely Meat cookbook by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with a recipe for rabbit stew, and decided to give it a go.
Darin and I visited some rural dwelling friends and had dinner and drinks with them this past summer. Darin shot a couple rabbits, and I cleaned them and stuck them in the freezer. Here is the outline of the steps in pictures.
This looks really gross, doesn't it? It's the whole rabbit, skinned and gutted and wrapped in plastic.  It's hard to imaging eating this, but just wait, it gets better.
I am aware that this looks very much like a cat. I assure you, it is not. My cat assures you, too. Here I am trimming off the fascia, that is, the tissue between the skin and muscles. It can trap dirt and fur, so I'm pretty careful about cleaning it as best as I can. Thos legs still have the fur on them. I pulled out my bitchin' meat cleaver and chopped those off- whack, whack. The dogs ate them up, yum.
I am never lonely in the kitchen. I have my fuzzy clean-up crew to help.
Here it is looking a lot less like an animal, and more like a piece of meat. I've cut the legs and arms off. Those two long muscles along the spine are the loin- that's the best part. I think I cleaved off the hips and ribs for pet food. The recipe calls for two rabbits, as you don't wind up with a whole lot of meat with only one.

You can use whatever sort of bacon you like, but I used pancetta. The recipe calls for a lot of it to be cubed and fried as the first step. Once it's browned, remove pancetta from the pan and brown the rabbit pieces. As these are browned, move them into your dutch oven.
In the next step, you add the other ingredients: carrots, onion, thyme, celery, water, and hard cider. Then you can cook it slow either on the stovetop or in the oven, covered, for several hours. I assume you could do this equally well in a slow cooker.
The final step is to remove the meat to a plate and keep warm in the oven, covered. The veggies are removed from the liquid, and the liquid is boiled down. Then you add cream. I think I added some porcini cream as well (something I found at Sabato).
The final result doesn't plate up beautifully, but it is sexy and delicious anyway. I serve it with boiled potatoes to mash into that luscious cream sauce. To be fair, I must say that wild rabbit can be tough. You might have to eat it off the bone with your hands, like chicken. The younger animals are more tender, and farmed rabbit probably the most tender. Either way, the flavor is really nice.
As far as finding rabbit in your grocery- good luck with that. The reason we went hunting for the varmits is they cost about $21 each at my local butchery.  Don't ask me why so much- it's not like they're rare. Still, if you can find them in a butcher shop, it will save you the gore of gutting the dead animals. It doesn't bother me, because I know Thumper lived as as happy, natural, free range bunny until his quick death, and Darin and I appreciated the animal, instead of wasting it.