I first attempted my way with rilette this summer. My bestie, Julia, and I were so lucky we were offered to borrow my uncle’s farm house for two weeks, in exchange for flower-watering. The place is truly beautiful – possibly one of my favourite places in the whole world. The farm dates back several 100 years and has had some historical battles go down there. It’s located on peninsula in the beautiful area of Limfjorden, and comes complete with livestock, ghosts, lake, beach, forrest, heath, viking graves, apple-grove and amazing wildlife. As if that wasn’t enough, my uncle was so generous to leave behind a freezer full of lamb from the property and locally shot game.
So, when my boyfriend decided to come visit the little paradise for my birthday, I just HAD to make some of the jewels of the freezer into pots of concentrated meat happiness (sorry to the vegetarians out there). So I cooked up a venison rilette, bought some local cheese, made a chutney, got out the wine and we all sat down in front of the fireplace a late evening and tucked in. The whole process, including the consumption, took hours and that is really what rilette is about, and why its such a great representation of the food I love. Simple, easy, slow and incredibly satisfying.
Therefore – when a desperate friend gave up on the 4 rabbits her boyfriend had brought back from hunting, I gladly accepted them in return for a dinner, and once again my good friend rilette and I had a little rendezvous. It’s simple French cooking at it’s best and it is really super easy! What makes it even better is that in sterilised jars and with a lid of fat, these bad boys can keep in your fridge for months and only get better. You get about 4 big jars with this recipe, so I ate one right away, brought one to a family get-together and shared the last one with a good friend over a glass of wine and lots of conversation just a few nights ago.
If you don’t have rabbit, make it with any other flavourful meat – the fattier the better, but even rabbit which is extremely lean can be used with a little bit of help from it’s chubby friend, the duck. You can make this recipe any time of the year really – it is great for cold nights infront of the fire, but just as suitable as a picnic dish in the summer!
I used 4 rabbits because it is what I had. You can easily use less, just adjust the recipe equivalently. If you have another type of meat, go ahead and use that. If it’s very fatty (duck, or a piece of fatty lamb or pork) leave out some or all of the duck fat!
4 whole rabbits
400 grams of duck fat
2-3 litres of chicken stock
15 juniper berries
15 black peppercorns
5 star anis
10 whole cloves
A big bundle of fresh herbs of choice
1 whole garlic
1/2 of a grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
Salt & black pepper
1. Chop each of your rabbit into 4 pieces; 2 thighs, body and upper body. Leave the bones in! Put the meat in a big, thick-bottomed pot, together with the duck fat, juniper berries, peppercorns, herbs, bay-leaves, cloves and the whole garlic.
2. Pour in as much chicken stock as it takes to cover the rabbit, and bring to the boil. When it’s boiling, turn the heat down to a low simmer and put the lid on.
3. Leave it cooking untill the meat starts falling off the bones. Should be approximately 3 hours.
4. Separate the meat from the juices using a sieve. But keep the juices!
5. When the rabbit has cooled, get down and dirty and pick of all the meat from the bones. Shred with 2 forks.
6. Turn to your cooled cooking liquid; separate the fat from the stock. It should be easy, as the fat creates a solid white lid on top of the liquid when cooled. Add approximately 1/2 cup of stock and 2 big tablespoons of the fat to the rabbit. Mix well
7. Season with however many of the cooked garlic cloves as you fancy, the nutmeg, mustard, thyme and salt and pepper. Be careful with the seasoning – it will be a bit bland in the beginning, but after a few days in the fridge the flavours will really come out.
8. Sterilise your glasses with boiling water, and spoon the mixture into the jars. Press out all the air with your spoon, making sure the mixture is packed tightly. Leave a bit of space on top.
9. Heat the remaining fat in the microwave or in a pot until it is steaming hot. Pour it over each of the glasses untill it forms a lid of approximately 1 centimeter.
10. Put in the fridge and eat anytime! If the jars are properly sterilised and sealed without any air pockets, this can keep for several months in the fridge.
11. Serve with crusty bread, accompanied by dijon mustard, cornichons and maybe a chutney of your choice.