Preparing a wild animal for eating is a survival skill which you may think is worth having, and the procedure given here for preparing a rabbit is basically the same for all animals.
For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that we are going to prepare a young doe rabbit, as older rabbits, especially bucks, can be difficult to skin and can be tough to eat. Let us also assume that it has been gutted1.
Preparing the rabbit can be broken down into roughly four parts which are:
As this part of the operation can be messy, you can elect to do it outside (weather permitting), and it should be carried out on an impervious surface such as polythene or a worktop. Do not use newspaper as the print is very difficult to remove from the meat. A plastic 'builders rubble' type bag can be used.
Lay the rabbit on its back, head towards you and on the left side of the opening that it was gutted through, start to separate the skin from the meat - it's not that dissimilar from opening a book. Work round to the other side until you have separated the meat from the skin right round.
Put your left hand2 under the skin and grip the rabbit. It should be quite easy using the other hand to peel off the rest of the skin.
You will find that it is still attached at the head, legs and tail. These can be removed with a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Do be careful, as unless you remove the legs at the joint not only the knife, but the bones will also be very sharp. The head is best removed by cutting round the neck with a sharp knife, then dislocating the vertebrae with a twisting motion.
You should now wash your rabbit to remove any blood and fluff that is sticking to it, and finally dry it using kitchen paper or a cloth.
You can now put your washed and dried rabbit on a chopping board, and you will notice that there are two flaps of loose skin either side these which can be removed and put to one side. Run a sharp knife round the back of the rabbit just below the ribs, and you can quite easily separate the two pieces by twisting in opposite directions. Next remove the front legs, you will find that the front legs aren't in fact connected to the skeleton and can be removed with your knife, without resorting to bone breaking.
If you now take the rear half and lay it on your board belly up, legs facing you, you will see a hole where the connections from the rabbit's insides got to the outside. Your knife should be laid along this and, by pressing on top, you should be able to break through it, and any remaining yucky bits can be removed. Run your knife round the back just in front of the rear legs, and once again this can be removed using a twisting motion. Finally, the rear legs can be separated down the centre using your knife. Watch your fingers.
You should now have six pieces of rabbit. However, the rib cage can be put with the pieces removed earlier. If you want to use these pieces they can be boiled to make stock, but for the methods used here the amount of meat on them is minimal and they can be discarded leaving two rear legs, two front legs and a section of back.
This stage is not strictly necessary. What it does is give the meat a 'supermarket' look by making the meat paler. Simply place the pieces of rabbit in a bowl, and cover with cold water to which a tablespoon of salt has been added, then leave overnight. You could, however, use any marinade you liked, and in fact replace chicken with rabbit in most recipes. It cannot be stressed enough that you need a young rabbit to compete with supermarket chickens which are normally killed at six weeks old. Unless the rabbit is young, cooking times will be considerably longer.
If your preference is fried rabbit, then this is how to prepare it.
Put the rabbit in a large boiling pan with an onion and carrots, cover with water and boil until tender. The rabbit can be tested periodically with a pointed knife. The meat can then be removed, placed on a plate and allowed to cool. The water, complete with onions and carrots, can be discarded, or incorporated into other dishes.
Once cold the rabbit can be given any coating you like from bread crumbs to southern fried chicken style coating. The meat is low in fat and if you use a healthy oil such as olive oil to carry out the frying the only thing you have to watch is calories - rabbit and skinned chicken have approximately the same calorific value.