You may not think of Appalachian Americans as belonging to a separate ethnicity, but indeed they do. Many of their traditions, recipes, dialect and even medicinal remedies are unique to their region.
The Appalachian Regional Commission defines Appalachia as a 205,000-square-mile area following the Appalachian Mountains that includes parts of 12 states. Forty-two percent of the population is rural. Celebrities from Appalachia include Alex Haley, Jennifer Garner and Ashley Judd.
When it comes to food, many Appalachian Americans still delight in hunting and gathering their own groceries, from wild game to wild greens. Rabbit dishes often grace their tables.
Recently, rabbit meat has been gaining popularity all across America. In fact, it is expected to be one of the hot new culinary trends in 2014. Rabbit is low in fat, sustainable, and kosher. Domesticated varieties are larger than wild rabbits, and tend to have a milder taste. But be sure to ask where the product originated, because much of the rabbit sold in the U.S. comes from China.
When you take a close look at Appalachian cooking, a few things become evident. Traditionally they used what they could grow or harvest themselves, so exotic herbs and spices are often absent from their recipes. And due to their religious beliefs, you will rarely find alcohol used in the preparation of their food. Thus, the recipe below does not contain bay leaves or wine, unlike most of the rabbit stew recipes you will find online.
Appalachian Rabbit Stew
1 rabbit, quartered
All-purpose flour for dredging
2 Tbl. bacon grease or lard
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- Salt and pepper rabbit liberally. Dredge in flour to coat. Reserve remaining flour for thickening.
- Sear rabbit in fat, turning to be sure all surfaces are browned.
- Drain fat from rabbit and place in heavy pot.
- Add onions, garlic, celery and water to cover.
- Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for one hour.
- Add carrots, potatoes and more water to cover if necessary.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are done.
- Remove solids to a large serving dish and keep warm.
- Ladle a cup of broth into a small bowl. Using a whisk, incorporate a heaping tablespoon of remaining flour into it, making a paste.
- Add paste to broth and whisk vigorously to removes lumps.
- Raise heat and cook until thickened.
- Season to taste and pour gravy over rabbit and vegetables. Serve with hot biscuits for sopping up the gravy.