NEBRASKAland

NEBRASKAland December 2018

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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34 NEBRASKAland • DECEMBER 2018 W hen I was growing up, once a year my family would shoot a few rabbits while hunting pheasant and quail. The following weekend, using the rabbits, Mom would undertake what she called "the task of making hasenpfeffer." Then, my uncles and older male cousins on the Steinauer side of the family would gather at our house for an evening meal of hasenpfeffer and gravy-smothered dumplings. This was followed by endless games of five- point pitch played for a cow and a calf (a dollar a game and fifty cents a set) accompanied by drinking a few highballs and bickering and laughing well into the night. Hasenpfeffer is a traditional German dish of brined and stewed rabbit. "Hase" is German for hare or rabbit while "pfeffer" literally translates to pepper, referring to the general spiciness of the recipe which hinges on a spicy vinegar marinade with a long soak time. A gravy is usually made from the brine, in which the rabbit is cooked, and ladled over noodles, potatoes or dumplings. I never participated in hasenpfeffer feasts. I was so disgusted by the sour, vinegary aroma of the cooking rabbit that only near-starvation could have forced me to consume such a vile-smelling lagomorph. The other Steinauers showed no such nitpickiness and consumed it with lip- smacking vigor. Last spring, at a gathering of the extended Steinauer family, a chat with some cousins somehow turned to, of all topics, hasenpfeffer. I was captivated as they reminisced about long-ago meals of hasenpfeffer at their own family tables. It was obvious: hasenpfeffer dinners were once a tradition in the Steinauer family and I needed to dig deeper. I called my source for family history, my nearly 90-year-old uncle Clem Steinuaer of Tecumseh. He vividly recalled eating hasenpfeffer as a child in Pawnee County. "I loved it." he said. "Grandma Steinauer used to send me out with orders to shoot a young cottontail Hasenpfeff er A forgotten family recipe By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist Ingredients: • 1 dressed rabbit, cut into pieces • 2 cups vinegar • 3 cups water • ½ cup sugar • 1 sliced onion • 2 teaspoons salt • ½ teaspoon pepper • 1 teaspoon pickling spice • ¼ cup fat or oil (I used lard) • 2 tablespoons flour (I used more) Soak the rabbit 36 to 48 hours in the pickling mixture (vinegar, water, sugar, onion, salt, pepper and pickling spice) in the refrigerator. Roll rabbit pieces in flour and sear in oil, then boil them in the same pickling mixture for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Remove the rabbit and thicken the mixture with flour to make gravy. After searing, instead of boiling the rabbit, I cooked the pieces, along with three cups of the pickling mixture, in a crockpot set on high for four hours. Cooked this way, the gravy did not need thickening. Numerous hasenpfeffer recipes using various pickling mixtures and cooking methods can be found online. Squirrel, and likely pheasant, can be substituted for rabbit in the recipes. The Steinauer Hasenpfeffer Recipe PHOTO BY GERRY STEINAUER

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