by Jake Wilson
This sticky sweet bourbon sauce is inspired by one I had in the home of a south Florida game warden I met while hunting Osceolas in Collier County Florida. After several days of dodging gators and cottonmouths in the Big Cypress without hearing a gobble, we had sworn off Florida turkeys. Then like a sign from heaven, we spotted a flock of little bronze birds in an orange grove as we fled the swamp.
In desperation, we pulled in and knocked on the door of what happened to be a game warden on the cusp of retirement with access to the best turkey hunting in south Florida. He took in 3 college kids from Missouri on their spring break, fed them, and taught them how to kill an Osceola turkey. The hunt was awesome. From a blind we made out of saw palmettos, I saw wild hogs, deer, and many other species that seemed just as comfortable in the swamp as back home in the Ozark Mountains. One of my most vivid memories from that trip was enjoying that bourbon sauce, served with smoked sausage and Jack Daniels.
I have added some carrots and chosen to marry it with cottontail based on a preparation my dad made where he carefully boned out the meat, much like you would a chicken thigh, then breaded and browned before smothering in store-bought BBQ sauce and baking. The cornstarch helps the breading hold up to the sauce. The bourbon cuts the sweetness of the brown sugar, and I am yet to find someone who doesn’t like the convenience of gorging on tender, boneless rabbit. After a long January day following beagles through the blackberries briars, this has been the perfect reward to be shared with hunting buddies new and old.
- 3 average sized cottontail rabbits
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 pint bourbon
- 3 cups ketchup
- 1 red onion sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 large carrots sliced in rounds
- Debone the hind quarters, back straps and inner loins from the rabbit, keeping pieces as large as possible. Save the front shoulders and bones for another meal.
- Sauté onions with olive oil in a sauce pan until translucent. Add ketchup then bourbon. Heat to boiling and add sugar and garlic, turn to low.
- Salt and pepper t rabbit then roll in ¾ flour, ¼ corn starch mixture. Brown in hot oil until crisp.
- Place rabbit in casserole dish. Cover with carrots then pour all the sauce over it. Place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- Serve in small cast iron skillet with side of crispy roasted potatoes.