Autumn is my favourite season. Cool, clear days and cosy nights call for comfort food, and nothing is more comforting than a slowly simmered stew. Hasenpfeffer, or German Rabbit Stew, is one of my favourite seasonal treats.
This melt-in-your-mouth dish is always a crowd-pleaser made from rabbit that has marinated for a couple of days in a mixture of herbs, red wine, and vinegar.
To make my Hasenpfeffer recipe, you’ll need the following main ingredients:
- Rabbit: The star ingredient! You’ll need around 1.5kg (3.25lb.) of rabbit for this recipe, so you’ll need 1 large or 2 smaller rabbits. Some people swear by wild rabbit, but farmed rabbit tastes just as good. You can buy rabbit pieces or a whole rabbit and joint it yourself.
- Red wine and vinegar: The base of the spicy marinade. When I say spicy, I mean richly spiced rather than chilli hot. This is a very old-fashioned recipe, so mustard and pepper provide the heat rather than chillies.
- Spices: Black pepper, juniper berries, allspice berries, bay leaf, and marjoram make up the main flavouring in this dish. I love to use masses of crushed peppercorns in the marinade and when serving the dish (it is called Hasenpfeffer / Pepper Rabbit, after all). You can adjust this to taste. Try to get fresh bay leaves if you can; the flavour is so much more intense than dry, old, dusty ones from the back of the spice cupboard.
- Bacon: Bacon is a popular ingredient in game recipes as its smoky-saltiness compliments wild game meat beautifully and adds a depth of flavour.
- Carrot, Parsnip and Celery Root: These root vegetables flavour and sweeten the gravy.
While Hasenpfeffer is simple, it requires some preparation to get the best results.
- First, place the rabbit pieces in a large bowl or large pot. Stir together all marinade ingredients, then pour over the rabbit meat, making sure it is completely covered. You can top it up with some water or more wine if you need to. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.
- When you are ready to cook, remove the rabbit from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Strain the marinade through a fine sieve. Reserve marinade and onions.
- In a wide Dutch oven (see recipe card for an example) or a large, deep skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and brown rabbit well on all sides. You are best to work in batches to get a lovely golden colour on the rabbit.
- Remove the rabbit from the pan, then add chopped vegetables and bacon. Cook over medium heat until softened, then deglaze the pan with the reserved marinade. Return the rabbit to the pan with the fresh herbs, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook gently for 2 hours.
- After two hours, the rabbit should be fall off the bone tender. You can serve the rabbit pieces whole, but shredding the meat from the bones is much more delicious and makes a lovely rich stew.
- Carefully remove all the bones, sprinkle the rabbit with some extra crushed pepper to bump up the peppery flavour, and serve immediately with buttery mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage (we call that Blaukraut or Rotkohl).
This stew makes fantastic leftovers! My favourite is to use the stew as a filling for a delicious Rabbit Pie, but it also makes a wonderful pasta sauce – Rabbit Tagliatelle is a game changer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I freeze Rabbit Stew?
Yes! Stews freeze brilliantly and are even more tender the second time around.
Can I make this recipe without alcohol?
You could use an alcohol-free red wine in the marinade and omit the brandy from the recipe.
Can I leave the rabbit in the marinade for longer or less time than stated in the recipe?
Yes, though it will be best between 48 and 72 hours. The long soak in the marinade both flavours and tenderises the rabbit meat.
- 1.5kg (3.25lb) rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
for the marinade:
- 500ml (2 cups) dry red wine
- 125ml (1/2 cup) red wine vinegar
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 Tbsp peppercorns, crushed
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tsp marjoram
- 2 tsp juniper berries, crushed
- 1 tsp allspice berries
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 parsnip, diced
- 1/8th celery root / celeriac, peeled and diced
- 125g (4.5 oz) bacon, diced
- 2 Tbsp plain or all-purpose flour
- 250ml (1 cup) vegetable or chicken stock or broth
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 Tbsp brandy
- 1 Tbsp peppercorns, crushed
- small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
- mashed potatoes
- red cabbage
- MARINATE THE RABBIT: Place rabbit in a large bowl or dish big enough to hold all the pieces. Mix together all marinade ingredients, then pour over the rabbit. Cover with plastic wrap, then marinate in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
- PREPARE: When ready to cook, remove the pieces of rabbit from the marinade, then strain the marinade through a fine sieve, reserving both the liquid and the onions.
- BROWN THE RABBIT: Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a wide, heavy-based saucepan, casserole or Dutch oven. Pat the rabbit dry with paper towels, then fry the rabbit in batches in the hot butter, taking care to get plenty of colour on the rabbit pieces; it should be a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- COOK VEGETABLES: Add the remaining butter to the pan, along with the reserved onions, carrot, parsnip, celery root and bacon. Cook for 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, then add the flour to the pan, stir well to coat, then cook for 2 minutes.
- ADD LIQUID: Deglaze the pan by adding 250ml (1 cup) of the reserved marinade and stirring well, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetable stock and rosemary, then return rabbit pieces and any resting liquid to the pan, tucking the pieces in snugly, in one layer if possible and as much under the liquid as possible.
- COOK: Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for 2 hours until the rabbit is very tender and pulls easily away from the bone with a fork.
- SHRED: Using two forks, pull the meat away from the bones, discarding the bones. Stir well, then season to taste with salt, crushed peppercorns (I use a whole tablespoon, but it's up to you), or a pinch of sugar. (see notes).
- SERVE: Serve with mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage garnished with parsley.
Sweetening the gravy: It is common in this sort of dish to sweeten and flavour the gravy with gingerbread. If you'd like to try this (it is delicious!), crumble 2-3 Specula's/Biscoff cookies into the cup of reserved marinade before adding it to the pan. You could also try adding a splash of maple syrup or similar.
Pepper: It's not traditional, but I like to add loads of pepper to this dish. I crush peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle them, but this step is up to your personal tastes.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 371Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 1103mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 8gSugar: 9gProtein: 8g
Nutrition is calculated automatically and may not always be accurate.
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