Lynchburg Barbecued Rabbit with Raisin-Whiskey Sauce

Barbecue festivals and competitions are held in virtually every Southern state, but I’ve yet to attend one that has the seriousness of purpose or the prestige of the Jack Daniel’s Invitational, sponsored by the famous distillery every October in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Here, maybe fifty pitmasters from all over compete for recognition and sizeable cash prizes, and while most demonstrate their expertise with whole hogs, pork shoulders, and spareribs, a few are not averse to throwing a few chickens, rabbits, catfish, and even beef ribs on the grill. What you will never be served at the J.D. Invitational is one drop of what I consider to be the world’s greatest sour mash whiskey. The reason? The small town of Lynchburg is still legally dry as a bone. Go figure.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Jack Daniel’s whiskey (or other fine bourbon)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • Two -pound meaty rabbits, fresh and dressed or frozen and thawed
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing

Method

Ignite a layer of charcoal briquets in an outdoor grill, let them burn till ashen (30 to 45 minutes), and place the grill rack about 6 inches from the coals.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the rabbit and oil, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer till the raisins are soft and the sauce is almost syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Cut the rabbits into serving pieces and brush each with oil. Place the pieces meaty side down on the grill, baste lightly with the sauce, and cook till lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Turn the pieces with tongs, baste lightly again, and continue turning and basting till the rabbit is nicely browned all over and tender. (Do not overcook, which would toughen the meat.)

Transfer the rabbit to a platter and serve hot with the remaining sauce on the side.