I grew up in Orangeburg, 70 miles inland, just inside the Fall Line. Settled in the 1730s by German and Swiss farmers, the town is still largely composed of descendants of those first settlers. Lowcountry cookbooks are filled with torten, veal dishes, and other Eastern European favorites such as hasenpfeffer. Most recipes call for soaking the rabbits in mild vinegar solutions—a common practice for game. In this version, however, the rabbit (more than likely a frozen farm-raised one) is cooked in the tag end of a bottle of red wine—or in a red wine that was maybe just a little off. So the next winter evening that you open a bottle of Côtes-du-Rhônes and it’s not quite what you had in mind, save it for the next night and make this hasenpfeffer. I don’t recommend cooking with inferior wine; indeed, cook only with wine that you would drink. But if you find, as I have, that each case of wine has one bottle that’s not quite as good as the others, save it for this recipe.
In a heavy saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid, cook the bacon over moderate heat, uncovered, until it is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside to drain.
Mix well together the flour, pepper, and herbs. Dust the rabbit pieces in the mixture, shaking off any excess. Brown the rabbit in the bacon fat, cooking the pieces until they are evenly browned. Remove the rabbit and set aside on a plate.
Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until they are transparent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and stock, bring to a boil, and scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the rabbit (and any drippings on the plate) and the drained bacon. Simmer the stew over very low heat, covered, until the rabbit is tender but not yet falling from the bones—1 to 1½ hours.
Serve immediately with traditional German fare such as potatoes and cabbage or in the Lowcountry manner with a big plate of rice, using the sauce on the rice. Hasenpfeffer means “hare in pepper.” It should be very peppery, so don’t hesitate to add more to taste.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.