Apocalypse now: Rabbit and juniper pie

One day soon the Apocalypse will arrive. It’s not going to come with the end of the Mayan long-count – I’m an archaeologist for goodness sake and would never believe such a ridiculous notion. More than likely it will come with peak oil, the election of a Tony Abbot Coalition Government or a middle-aged reunion of Hanson. Doo-wop! But it will come, and when it does I’ll be pretty well screwed. I’m too soft, entirely ill-equipped. Whenever I watch that classic AI apocalypse tale The Matrix (and yes, I’m a sci-fi nerd so I watch it fairly regularly) you know what upsets me most? It’s not the constant surveillance, or the bank of humans farmed as batteries to power a faceless machine race, or the dystopian ontological vision. It’s the scene at the mess table where they are forcing down their tins of cream-of-wheat goop. If this is the future, I want nothing to do with it.

When those horsemen bear down a smart mouth, a working knowledge of the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the ability to inflate a duck with a bicycle pump will not serve me well. There are however people with real skills out there. They are growing food forests, darning socks and building earth ships. They are generating electricity out of sunlight and killing animals with their bare hands. They make wine and cheese from things they have grown themselves and they now how to make perpetual motion machines from hand woven twine and pieces of prickly pear.

Through the marvels of social media I am now able to lurk on the fringes of this community. The Ballarat Permaculture Guild is one such group, where I listen avidly, try to keep my mouth shut and attempt to retain useful knowledge. I have  also become virtual friends with a very clever and lovely man. He is an Iaido playing friend of my husbands, always a good start as those Kendo and Iaido people are largely terribly decent folk. Through his Facebook feed I have built a picture of him, his beautiful and evidently also very clever wife and gorgeous young children. They grow food, they eat food, they lovingly maintain a sourdough starter, they are building an underground cellar out of wooden pallets. He’s making honey mead and his own bacon. There’s no magic, mystery or self-satisfaction involved. Just lots of hard work and passion.

I was therefore thrilled to get a message in my inbox this morning announcing that he had been quietly working on a blog and was now preparing to share it more widely. I gobbled down about 10 posts before coming up for air: there is a lot to be learned from this blog. It’s called I am Not an Urban Hippy (although, of course, he is a bit) and I suggest you get onto it. I was thinking of this blog today as I made a quite delicious rabbit and juniper pie with a wild rabbit ironically purchased cryo-vacced from the local supermarket. When the Apocalypse comes, these will be the folk with the access to the bunnies and possibly the juniper berries as well. Giddy-up!

Rabbit and juniper pie

  • 1 rabbit, cut into four pieces (this is assuming you buy one that’s already been processed. If you’ve killed one yourself there will be some additional steps involved. I have no idea what they are)
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 green apple, peeled and sliced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 200gm of bacon, cut into large dice
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 1 small bottle of apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon lightly crushed juniper berries
  • 40 gm butter
  • 40 gm flour
  • Double quantity of shortcrust pastry. Recipe here: http://www.libby-cooks.com/2011/06/the-imperfect-pearl-winter-pear-flan/

Place the rabbit pieces in large saucepan and add all other ingredients apart from the butter, flour and pastry (that last one is fairly obvious, I would have thought). Bring slowly to the boil and then remove the scum that rises to the surface. Cover and simmer gently for about 1.5 hours until really tender. With a slotted spoon remove the rabbit, fruit and vegies from the pan, leaving the cooking liquid aside. When the meat is cool enough to handle, carefully pick through it for bones. This takes a bit of effort as their little ribs can be quite tricky to find.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour, stirring until bubbling and well combined. You want to cook the floury taste out of it. Slowly add the mixture to the reserved cooking liquid while it simmers happily on the stovetop, stirring constantly until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Return the pie mixture to the pan and stir through well.

Make the pastry an hour before you need it. Divide into two portions and refrigerate for half an hour. When the resting time is up, line the base of a pie dish with one  portion of the pastry and place the lined dish in the freezer while you warm the oven to 200c. When the oven is warmed, remove the pie dish. Cover the pastry with foil or baking paper and place baking weights or a pyrex dish on top of it and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the weights and the foil and bake for a further 5. Pour the hot pie filling into the dish, roll out the second piece of pastry and make a lid. Make sure you cut a little hole in the top to let the steam out. Brush with milk and pepper and return to the oven until the pie is golden brown.

I served this with a simple salad made from sliced apples, raspberries and fresh thyme. These flavours matched the pie perfectly and a the crispy texture of the apples was a lovely contrast to the unctuous pie.

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