BY CARMEL KINSELLA
At about eleven or twelve years of age, I was taught the technique of how to skin a rabbit. It was a regular chore for a child that time, if you had a supply of them.
In my early married life, here in Toberpatrick when I would be lucky enough to get a present of a dead one, I would put several layers of newspaper down onto our kitchen table and lay the rabbit out on it. First of all, I would break the animal’s four legs by hand and cut them off.
Next, I’d put a slit in its stomach with a sharp knife and clean out all the inner guts, as well as the liver and heart which would be fed to the waiting cat. Then I would catch the skin on one side of the slit and pull the skin away, from the bottom two legs right up to the top of the rabbit’s neck.
After that, I’d take the head in my hand and cut it right off. That was that.
Then the rabbit would be sectioned into small parts, ready to cook; depending on the size of the rabbits, it could be up to eight parts. When I worked in institutional catering, in public schools and colleges in England, some of the boys would present us with rabbit, pheasant, hare and woodcock that they would have killed. This was their pastime and then they would enjoy eating them.
In England, pheasant was left so long hanging, it would be falling apart. Some of them would want it rotten! I worked at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford, among students and then there were the Dons, lecturing. Those students and professors did not know what I was speaking to them about. They really wouldn’t know a thing about it—they were off in another world!
Getting back to my rabbit anyhow, all the innards were discarded and put into the dustbin. And when ever there was a pig killed, this was big work! The pig would be roped and pulled up a ladder with the head hanging down. His throat was slit and the blood was saved to make black pudding. I can remember the guts of the pig being cleaned in the river near home. They’d be filled later with onion and pinhead oaten meal. Then they’d be tied at each end and there’d be several of them laid out in a row. We never bothered with white pudding in our house.
The pig’s liver and heart were saved and the pig’s head was cured, cooked and made into collarhead of bacon. For this, the head would need to be pressed and cold; all the meat was removed and it was put into a tight bowl, left in a bag and pressed down on again. You’d slice it when it was cold and it was a very popular dish, served with salads. The pig was cut into flitches of bacon and hung from the ceiling in the kitchen to be cured.
I was never given a hare to be cooked but I know it would be skinned and sectioned like a rabbit. It’s not as tasty a treat, very dark meat, but boiled with vegetables and strained, you could make a nice hare soup, if anyone liked it.