Archive | Winter 2015

Vermont Red Wine and Goat Stew

The stew’s cooking time will vary depending upon the age of the goat. Meat from older goats (called chevon) is juicy and has more flavor than younger meat (kid or cabrito); however, chevron is darker and less tender and will need a longer cooking time. Does or nannies (female goats) are better for recipes using steaks and chops.

Makes 6 servings

2 strips thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
2 pounds boneless goat meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
⅓ cup all-purpose flour, or as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
½ tablespoon smoked sweet paprika*
½ tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups dry Vermont red wine, such Boyden Valley’s Riverbend Red
bharrewyn_goatstew-crop1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
¾ cup low-sodium beef stock, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ tablespoon brown sugar, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 pound new potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch-wide wedges
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
Crusty bread

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Cook bacon in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp and browned, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat in pot.

Pat the goat meat dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, dredge the meat in flour and season with paprika, salt and pepper.

In the same pot used to cook the bacon, heat the reserved bacon fat and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, cook the meat until browned on all sides, adding additional oil if needed, about 6 minutes. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion and sauté, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

In the same pot, stir in the wine, tomatoes and juice (breaking up the tomatoes with a fork), beef stock, tomato paste, cinnamon, pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Return the meat to the pot and cook in the oven, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, about 3 hours for chevon meat. After 2 hours of cooking add the carrots, potatoes and reserved bacon.

Whisk in butter until melted. Stir in the parsley. Discard bay leaf and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread, if desired.

*Note: You can turn up the heat by substituting smoked hot paprika.

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A Guide to Eating Local

The Farmhouse Kitchen
Goat Meat, a Culinary Adventure

By Tracey Medeiros | Photo by Brent Harrewyn

Vermont Red Wine and Goat Stew. You’ll find the recipe here.

Vermont Red Wine and Goat Stew.
You’ll find the recipe: here.

Even though goat meat is a staple of many cultures, why are Americans so hesitant to jump on the bandwagon? Could it be that the word “goat” evokes an image of a scruffy scavenger chewing on a rusty tin can, or foraging through all manner of indigestible garbage?

Goats are reputed to be one of the earliest domesticated animals. Today, they provide the principle source of meat for many Caribbean, Southeast Asian, North African and Middle Eastern countries. Most Americans are surprised to learn that three quarters of the world’s inhabitants eat goat meat as part of their daily diet.

In our country it has taken longer for goat meat to gain some degree of popularity. Demand has increased as a variety of ethnic groups have migrated to our shores. Goat meat is known as chevon in Northern Europe, capretto in Australia and Southern Europe, or cabrito in the Hispanic culture.

Female goats are called does or nannies; intact males are bucks, billies or rams; and their offspring are known as kids. The meat from younger animals is called kid or cabrito, while the meat from older animals is referred to as just plain goat or chevon. The meat from a cabrito tastes very much like spring lamb. Depending upon the age of the goat, the meat may be similar in taste to veal or venison.

Health conscious individuals find goat meat to be a welcome alternative to beef, chicken or pork because it is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol. A three-ounce portion of goat meat has approximately 122 calories and is much leaner than other meats. The 63.8 milligrams of cholesterol per three-ounce serving is less than the 76 milligrams in chicken and the 73.1 in pork or beef. It also contains higher amounts of iron, potassium and thiamine with less sodium than other meats.

The goat meat sold in stores is inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Because the USDA has not approved the use of growth hormones, goat meat is free of such additives.

Goat meat can be fried, stewed, baked, grilled, barbecued, minced, curried, smoked or made into sausage. However, because goat has a low fat content, the meat may toughen at high temperatures unless additional moisture is added. Goat meat has a perhaps unfair reputation for having a strong gamey taste, which may be partially due to the fact that Caribbean cultures prefer the meat from mature goats that have a pungent flavor. Most goat meat aficionados agree that the best meat comes from younger goats, which are 6 to 9 months old.

If you are interested in cooking your goat meat quickly, use ribs, loins and tenderloin; the other parts are better for braising. Different ethnic groups have their own recipes for cooking goat. Cabrito, which is familiar to many Latin cultures, is usually roasted. Southern Italians and Greeks who celebrate Easter with a roasted goat dish often use the roasting method. Various ethnic groups often serve goat meat at festivals or holiday celebrations.

When buying goat meat, look for a light pink or bright red color. The flesh should be firm and fine-grained with white fat that is evenly distributed. Some like the meat from older goats because it is juicy and has more flavor than kid; on the other hand, this meat is darker and less tender. The meat from the female goat is better for steaks and chops because it is more tender.

Goat meat should be used within three to five days when stored in the refrigerator. When frozen it will be at its best for up to four months. Make sure that the meat is frozen at zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Burlington, Vermont, is home to a cross-section of African, South Asian and Central European cultures that are accustomed to eating goat meat as a regular part of their diet. Finding an accessible supply is a problem for these groups.

Vermont Chevon, formed in 2011, is working to fill this void and raise an awareness of the health value of eating goat meat. This organization was started by Shirley Richardson who, with partner Jan Westervelt, strives to turn the abundance of Vermont dairy goats into a “value-added meat product.” Their goal is to represent goat meat as a healthy option to beef, pork and chicken and encourage local chefs and restaurants to add goat dishes to their menu. Vermont Chevon hopes that the increasing demand for goat meat in recent years might enable the state to become a significant supplier of the product.

The fact is, more dairy goats are born every year than are needed for milk production. Unfortunately, many dairy goat farmers do not have the time or resources to search for a market for their surplus animals. As a result, the farmers may often be forced to destroy these unwanted creatures. Ironically, the demand for chevon in the United States surpasses our country’s supply. Our nation’s producers cannot keep up with this need, therefore the US is forced to import 1.5 million pounds of goat meat per week from Australia and New Zealand in an effort to meet the challenge.

There is no doubt that the need for a sustainable domestic supply of goat meat exists in our country. The demand must be nurtured by the consumer’s belief that chevon is a healthy alternative to beef, pork and chicken. This supportive stance will greatly benefit the dairy goat industry. Most importantly, when we enable farmers to become self-sustaining, consumers also benefit, which is a sure-fire recipe for success!

Tracey Medeiros likes to keep it local and seasonal in her kitchen. 




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Rock Art Brewery

at Rock Art Brewery

By Laura Sorkin | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

Left to right: Renee Nadeau serving up a taste of Rock Art Brew; sampling the beer in the tasting room; Matt Nadeau in his brewery.

Left to right: Renee Nadeau serving up a taste of Rock Art Brew;
sampling the beer in the tasting room; Matt Nadeau in his brewery.

In 2011 and 2012 the Brewers’ Association declared that Vermont had the highest number of breweries per capita of any state. This statistic was calculated from the most recently available census data crossed with the number of breweries in operation which, at the time, was 26.

We can only assume that the state has maintained that honor, given that just a few years later there are 40 breweries in operation with six more in planning.

Vermont has not only quantity but excellent quality, regularly receiving national accolades as well as an award for Best Brewery in the World for Hill Farmstead. Of RateBeer’s 100 best beers in the world, Vermont breweries took up 11 spots. Put another way, more than 10% of the world’s best beers come from our beautiful, yet sparsely populated, state.

To be one of those breweries requires both passion for the product and perseverance in the face of fierce competition. Even with the millennial surge of enthusiasm for craft beer, local brewers are still competing for shelf space with each other as well as the lower-priced national brands. Matt and Renee Nadeau of Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville are an example of a couple that has stuck it out through not just one but two big waves of competition. And they have done it by keeping their focus local and their product top quality.

Rock Art Brewery was started by the Nadeaus 17 years ago. Matt had always had an interest in brewing so one year Renee bought him a how-to book. While still working for a lamp manufacturer in Hyde Park, he started making beer in his basement. His efforts yielded some very good beer, and his five-gallon home kit quickly became a 20-gallon kettle and soon after a seven-barrel system in an outdoor shed with a gravity-fed line to the basement for storage.

Their timing to get into the beer market worked both for and against them. On the one hand there was the first big explosion of interest in drinking craft beers. On the other, there were approximately 17 other microbreweries also entering the market in Vermont, resulting in stiff competition at a time when the public was just getting used to the higher price tag of craft brews.

Matt says, “It was a hard go of it in ’97 and ’98. There was a period when everyone was brewing; some for love of it and some for money. There was a shaking out process of those who were just in it for fun. As far as the extra competition—we were holding our own so it was fine.”

Those early years were full of long hours and constant work. Matt injured his back hefting bags of grain and equipment. Money was tight since all of their profits went right back into the company. In fact, he reports, he wasn’t able to pay himself for the first four years.

After years of steady growth, however, they had a solid business. Matt left his job at the lamp manufacturer to brew beer full time while Renee supported them through her job at a dental office. They took out a loan and moved to a space in Johnson, but sales continued to grow and they realized they needed an entire facility custom-built for the brewery. The basement hobby had become bona fide.

In 2010 the Nadeaus started construction on a 10,000-square-foot building off Route 100 in Morrisville. The facility now holds the brewery, a warehouse, a viewing room and a small tasting bar with retail space. Rock Art currently has 10 employees: six core, including Matt and Renee, and four part time. The tourist seasons are the busiest. Being just around the corner from Stowe, the brewery gets a good number of skiers in the winter and vacationers in the summer. In addition, there is a steady stream of locals who come to pick up kegs and fill up growlers.

One thing that seems to have come easily from the start has been building demand. Within the first year of going commercial, Rock Art beer started selling out of state to Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. According to Renee, however, the majority of their product is sold within 50 miles of the brewery, mostly to Montpelier, Waterbury and Burlington. They have no sales representatives and do very little advertising. When they first started, Renee went around to neighborhood restaurants, making the pitch to carry their beer on tap. She says from there they developed a local following and word-of-mouth has done the rest. In short, the quality of the beer has sold itself.

The fact that the two of them are a well-liked couple has also boosted local sales and it hasn’t hurt that they are very involved in the community. When local farmer Pete Johnson lost his barn to a fire, the Nadeaus created a beer called Pete’s Greens Barn-Raising Brown as a fund-raiser, with all profits going toward reconstruction. Journey’s End Kolsh and The Humble Harvester IPA were also fundraising releases for local charities. Renee and Matt are friendly and approachable and love to talk to their customers at beer fests and from behind their tasting bar. This has endeared them to local beer lovers, resulting in steadfast loyalty.

For the future of Rock Art, Matt will continue to experiment with different types of beer. The Ridge Runner and Vermonster are the most popular offerings. But Rock Art also has a selection of roughly 25 specialty and seasonal beers like their Belgian white Sunny and 75 or their dark Double Porter Smoked.

As a nod to Vermont’s other favorite product, Matt created a Maple Wheat, which is released in a small batch in the spring and sells out within a month. Currently he is playing around with aging certain brews in barrels that had been previously used for bourbon. At the moment some of the barrels contain Russian Imperial with a splash of maple syrup and cinnamon; in others he is trying an infusion of cocoa beans. The most recent release is the Galaxy IPA with hops from New Zealand. Matt is really pleased with this one and says it has surprised him by developing notes of citrus and mango.

Vermont is now in the midst of a second explosion of new breweries but the Rock Art brewers are still holding their own against the competition. Smart growth and quality product has been their successful business model for almost two decades and they see no reason to change it.

The passion for crafting beer is still there, too, as is evident in Matt’s face when he talks about the most recent brew he is experimenting with. Nevertheless, their ambition has tempered a bit with time. When I ask Matt if he wants to compete in the national beer market, he chuckles and replies, “No. I can let my kids do that. I’m busy enough and bills are getting paid.”

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Artesano Meadery

Artesano Meadery

By Paul-Alexandre Petit | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

Mark Simakaski (left photo) the producer of Artesano Meadery pours a glass of Poet’s Mead (center). The tasting room (right).

Mark Simakaski (left photo) the producer of Artesano Meadery pours a glass of Poet’s Mead (center).
The tasting room (right).

Mark Simakaski is spending these next few months fermenting a dilution of honey in order to make mead, an Old World beverage. Mark is the owner and brewer at Artesano meadery in Groton, Vermont, and his passion began with the bees.

During his time in the Peace Corps, Mark learned a great deal about beekeeping. Afterwards, he and his wife spent some time in Argentina thinking about what to do with themselves after their return home. It was during this time that they came up with the Spanish-influenced name “Artesano,” which Mark explains is sort of a new word for “arts-man, or craftsman.” 1995 saw the beginning of his beekeeping hobby here in Vermont and today he shares some of his insight on the culture of mead: “Honey has always been an expensive source of sugar, so mead has always been a drink for festive occasions. It’s very old and very traditional but I make it with modern winemaking equipment, which really helps develop its flavor from hive to bottle.”

The ingredients are simple. The key to mead is the source of honey. Unlike pressing grapes for wine or mashing malted grains for beer, honey is already a sugar—it’s ready to go. When the honey flows, so do the flavors of the land, Vermont’s terroir, adding a specific taste of place. The flavors and aromas in mead come from the flowers from which the honeybees forage nectar.

About 1,500,000 flowers are visited by honeybees for every bottle of mead. Colonies of bees collect and partially digest their bounty into what we know as honey. The honey is drained from the comb and then mixed with water and yeast. Yeasts digest the sugars and produce alcohol, and afterwards mead is drawn off into bottles or aged for some time.

Mead is the oldest fermented beverage, with traces leading back to Asian pottery vessels from around 7000 BC. Some experts claim that thousands of years ago, honey and water would mix after a rain, naturally ferment in the trunks of old hollow trees along with the beehive, and indigenous peoples would find and collect the fermenting liquid.

Mead recipes of earlier cultures relied on the spontaneous fermentation of honey mixed with water. A jug of this mixture would sit in the open air and wild yeasts would find their way into the liquid, consume the sugar, multiply and produce the alcoholic brew. Though the actual levels of alcohol in prehistoric meads are nearly impossible to discern, meads today often run between 8% and 12% by volume.

As an alcoholic drink, mead has a long, rich history, found woven into the myths and folklore of many cultures. It was a traditional beverage of the Vikings, Saxons, Celts, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans among others. Ancient Greeks referred to the brew as ambrosia or nectar and it was often saved for royalty in the Middle Ages.

Modern traditions still carry the influence of ancient mead culture. For example, Scandinavians brought us the term “honeymoon” to refer to the festivities following a wedding. Mead would be consumed for one full cycle of the moon after tying the knot because it was thought to be a drink of fertility. A full month of drinking!

The festivity of mead lives on through Artesano. Each bottle of mead that Mark produces links us with the oldest of cultures and a stream of tradition that still survives to this day. The delicate floral aromas from Vermont’s spring and summer are captured in each bottle. Right now, the mead that will pour for 2015 is being fermented and aged. Additions of local ingredients are found in different meads ranging from raspberry and blueberry to chili-cinnamon and spiced. And while mead can be made traditional or sparkling, 2015 will also bring about an exciting new addition worth celebrating: a port-style mead.

Discover what the bees have spent a great part of the year gathering. Experience the taste and floral aromas of Vermont. Mark Simakaski, with the help of hundreds of thousands of local bees, brings us the world’s oldest fermented beverage.

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Paul-Alexandre Petit is always in search of a taste of Vermont to quench his thirst.

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Nourish Hill Farmstead

Nourish Hill Farmstead

By Marian Burros | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

Left to right: Shaun Hill outside his brewery; the distillery at Hill Farmstead; a refreshing glass of Double Citra.

Left to right: Shaun Hill outside his brewery; the brewery at Hill Farmstead; a refreshing glass of Double Citra.

Glasses of Vera Mae, Elaborative One and Elaborative Two were sitting on a picnic table near the entrance to Hill Farmstead Brewery, right next to the taco stand. Shaun Hill, renowned brew master and owner of Greensboro’s world famous brewery, and his good friend and fellow brew master Jan Paul from Denmark were contemplating the fruits of Hill’s most sophisticated and complex brewing to date, using descriptives such as walnut, curry, pumpkin and spelt, vegetal and sour.

The highly regarded brewers allowed a reporter, unschooled in the ways of today’s craft beers, to observe and sample. The conversation was way over the head of the reporter, one whose tastes run to Edward, Hill Farmstead’s best known and best loved American pale ale. It was no different than listening to two vintners discuss the complexity of their wines.

So the reporter, leaving a review of the beer to the critics, was visiting to learn who the mysterious Shaun Hill is, where he comes from and what drove him to win the title of “best brewery in the world” in 2013. And, at the same time, to find out how a philosophy major, who graduated from the exclusive Haverford College in Pennsylvania, ended up brewing beer on his family’s farm in the Northeast Kingdom.

Hill, 35, is an eighth-generation member of the Hill family since it emigrated from Southampton Shire in England to settle first in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and then finally in Greensboro in the early 1780s.

“My ancestors were very industrious people and built some of the houses on Main Street in Greensboro,” Hill said. “My brother, Darren, a woodworker, personifies them,” the implication clear that he does not consider himself a hard worker. But like Shaun, who is not just a brew master, Darren is not just a woodworker. On a trip to Barcelona with his brother, Darren was so taken with the work of Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect, that Darren now makes furniture in the style of the great master. Some of the décor and furniture in the new brewery are done in the Gaudi style.

In his own way, Shaun Hill, a perfectionist, is very like his forebears, working countless hours in an effort to satisfy the long lines of people who, he said, wait up to four hours to buy his beer. But because he plans no more expansions—he does not want to become an industrial producer and have a deleterious effect on the environment—the total capacity of the newly enlarged brewery will be 150,000 to 200,000 gallons a year.

The brewery is built upon land that has been inhabited by the Hill family since the early 1800s. In every way Hill’s attachment to his ancestral home has dictated his choices.

“Everything flows from wanting to live here,” he said, and there aren’t many choices in rural Vermont. But for many young people agriculture, in one form or another, has become the choice, and artisanal is the byword for some of the most successful among them.

“I still have my grandfather’s roll-top desk,” Hill said. He experienced what he calls a “tingly coincidence” when he discovered tucked within that desk a piece of paper containing instructions on “How to Brew Beer.”

Long before he found that paper, Hill was already brewing, initially as a science project in high school. “In some ways,” he said, “I feel as if I am breathing life into my ancestors. There’s still something mysterious about fermentation—it’s an endless mystery.”

Hill’s deep attachment to his family also turns up in the names he gives many of his over 100 varieties of beers: Edward, Abner, Anna. Sometimes his interest in philosophy is reflected in a beer, like Beyond Good and Evil, named after the classic book by Nietzsche. His interest in social causes turns up in a beer called Civil Disobedience.

Hill’s route to brewing was not direct. One day, after he graduated from college, he was working with his brother painting houses. “I was on top of a ladder and my brother said to me: “What the f… are you doing here, man? Why did you waste your education?” Hill had been asking himself those same questions. So he took all his savings and traveled around the world, visiting temples in Thailand, hitchhiking around New Zealand. He realized that what he wanted to do was go home and brew beer.

After training in other breweries, he opened Hill Farmstead in 2010. Three years later it was named Best Brewery in the World by RateBeer.

Hill’s goal is to create “elegant and succinct beers that sing but are not aggressive or harsh on your palate.” With more than 100 beers in his repertoire, and a devoted customer base, Shaun Hill seems to have achieved his objective.

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After sampling the new complex wine-like beers, Marian Burros is sticking with Edward.

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Grist for the Mill

Happy New Year! Welcome to our third annual Liquid Assets issue, where we celebrate a small sample of local brews, tonics and booze made right here in Vermont. This past year I focused on giving locally made gifts at every opportunity and made note of the response.

Over and over I noticed that when you give a gift that has a story behind it, a discussion begins about the product and its maker or the store location and its owner. These shared stories are inspiring, reinforcing the care, focus and love that is put into our local products and independent businesses.

According to the Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), over the past few years locally owned stores have experienced resurgence, as savvy customers realize that they offer high quality and unique products, personalized service and stronger economic returns for their communities. There is new research that confirms: Shopping local is better for your local economy.

Speaking of buying local, you will want to visit your independent bookstore after you read our roundup by Kristina Sepetys of food-related titles to quench your thirst. We also explore two different meats for your table: goat and rabbit. The results are delicious and—sticking to our liquid assets theme—we couldn’t help but add a little wine to each dish.

Restaurants are about more than just the food—they’re about the experience, from lighting to music to your greeting when you walk through the door. Writer Frederica Templeton visits The Perfect Wife Restaurant and Tavern in Manchester for our Back of the House feature and samples chef and owner Amy Chamberlain’s down-to-earth cuisine.
With all of our craft beer choices we couldn’t settle on featuring just one, so we went to sample some of the options available from Hill Farmstead Brewery, Rock Art Brewery, Backacre Beermakers and The Alchemist. Each unique and full of personality.

It’s not too late to add a New Year’s resolution of buying only local for 2015—a promise that will reap many benefits for you and the receivers of your generosity.



Photo by Brent Harrewyn

Photo by Brent Harrewyn


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Is Rabbit the New Chicken?

Melissa and Shawn Comar outside their rabbit house in Pawlet, Vermont

Melissa and Shawn Comar outside their rabbit house in Pawlet, Vermont

By Frederica Templeton
Photography by Caleb Kenna

The late M.F.K. Fisher, in Serve It Forth, her delightful book of essays on the history of food, published in 1937, tells us that in the early 1500s, before the advent of French cuisine, we would be dining on “such favorites of the Middle Ages as dormouse pasty and a mixed pie of snake, porpoise, swan and plum-stuffed crane.”  To many Americans the prospect of eating rabbit seems every bit as outlandish.

Europeans have been eating rabbit for centuries. Driving through the French countryside, it is not in the least unusual to find small rabbit hutches behind many houses and farms. Rabbits provide an easily accessible source of protein with the added benefits of being low in fat as well as delicious. This tradition did not survive our forefathers’ journey to the New World.

The gastronomic hurdle seems to be something known as the “Easter Bunny Syndrome.” Our culture does not equate those furry little animals with dinner. But this attitude has been evolving over the last several years as the farm-to-table enterprise and the impetus toward ethical local butchery are shifting the way we look at the source of our food. The health benefits of eating rabbit are becoming more widely known (think lean meat and vitamin B12) and appreciated by good-food advocates including food ethicist Michael Pollan, who believes that “rabbits make more sense than chickens.”

Melissa and Shawn Comar are raising rabbits at their Oak Summit Farm in Pawlet. They raise New Zealand for market and Holland Lops for pets. It’s a small operation so far and their customers are friends and family. Their dozen rabbits live in wire cages that are high off the floor, where they are provided with pellet grain food, water and cool, airy environment. The does are in the little hutch and buck is in his own large cage just beside it.

“We bring the does to the buck for mating and 31 days later the doe will kindle.” A typical size for a litter is eight to 12 “kits,” as the new rabbits are called, and a doe can have up to 5 litters a year. The kits are raised in their cages until they reach approximately 3–5 pounds. The Comars do their own slaughtering in a nearby commercial kitchen. When dressed, each rabbit will yield around two and half pounds of meat.

“Rabbits are extremely versatile livestock that produce a superior meat without the use of medications or hormones,” says Melissa.

Their popularity as a food source as always been that they grow rapidly, mature at an early age, reproduce at high rates and require little space. They have a high percentage of protein and a low percentage of fat and cholesterol. According to Slow Food USA, “Rabbits can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes a cow to produce just one pound.” The USDA has concurred that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat available. It is also easy to digest, making it attractive for people on special diets.

Bruce Marchegiani and his wife, Judy, have been raising rabbits for 10 years at their Wanabea Farm Rabbitry, a small commercial operation on three acres in Manchester, Vermont. Bruce grew up eating rabbit every week cooked by his Italian grandfather and has fond memories of those meals. When he retired, he decided to go into the business of supplying rabbit to restaurants in southern Vermont.

Bruce and Judy raise approximately 250–300 rabbits at one time and he prepares 50–90 a week for sale to local chefs and other customers. He has five breeds that he has been crossbreeding for their selected attributes. The Flemish and the Chinchilla have very large ears, which help keep them cool. The California and the New Zealand are the traditional breed used for meat. He also raises Satins and Palominos.

“The aim is for a meat-to-bone ratio of 60%,” explains Bruce. “This gives a chef at least four servings from each rabbit.”

He also keeps his does in wire cages off the ground and feeds them with high-quality pelleted grain that is 80% alfalfa, which he buys from Poulin Grain, a trusted family-owned feed company in Newport, Vermont. His rabbits receive no medications or hormones. On Mondays he goes to the Vermont Bunny Pen in Orwell to do the butchering himself. Afterward the skinned rabbits are thoroughly washed, dipped in cold spring water, which turns them white, and then hung to dry. When ready, they are vacuum packed and refrigerated or frozen
According the, the world’s largest rabbit breeders directory, there are 17 rabbit breeders in Vermont, though not all of them raise rabbits for meat. Phil Brown, owner of Vermont Rabbitry in Glover, has been in the business since 1987 and is one of the largest suppliers of rabbit to restaurants, high-end grocery stores and gourmet shops throughout Vermont. He gave up growing his own rabbits a few years ago and depends on local growers to supply him. He estimates he processes around 4,000 rabbits per year but the demand fluctuates throughout the year.

“Rabbit is the best meat on the market,” he says, “but relatively expensive to raise.” The grain-based pellets have risen in price in recent years and the rabbits cannot be raised on an industrial scale. Brown believes that the future for rabbit is good as more and more people recognize the health benefits.

Braising seems to be the preferred method of cooking rabbit due to its lack of fat, but there are many recipes for rabbit and it is interchangeable with chicken. Bruce’s favorite way to cook rabbit is stewed with a good red wine and Hen of the Woods mushrooms. Rabbit can be used in place of chicken or pork in recipes, he says, but should be seasoned properly as the all-white meat is quite mild.

Melissa likes to bread the rabbit pieces and bake at 375° for 50 minutes. I decided to try the classic French bistro recipe for rabbit, Lapin à la Moutarde, in which rabbit pieces are simply sautéed with Dijon mustard, white wine, onions and parsley. After reading several versions, I came up with my own adaptation.

Frederica Templeton is a writer who likes a challenge in the kitchen. Rabbit turned out to be a surprisingly good one.

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

1 rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
4 sprigs thyme
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 375°. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper. Dip 1 piece at time into the flour, coating well and shaking off any excess flour.

In a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the rabbit pieces and sauté until well browned, turning them only once.
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Bourbon-Fig Jam

A jar of bourbon-fig jam ready to complement any cheese platter. Photo by Jullianne Plunkette

A jar of bourbon-fig jam ready to complement any cheese platter.
Photo by Jullianne Plunkette

With dried rather than fresh figs, this sweet jam can be made in any season. If available, use dried Turkish figs instead of Mission figs for a jam that is nearly identical in color to the bourbon added to the recipe. Darker Mission figs will make the jam not only darker but also sweeter, so reduce the amount of sugar you add if Mission figs are your only option.

Yield: Approximately 1½ cups

6 ounces dried figs (preferably Turkish)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup straight bourbon
Combine all ingredients except the bourbon in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer about 10–12 minutes or until the mixture thickens and turns rosy-gold in color, roughly the same color as the straight bourbon. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and blend until smooth using either a stick blender or food processor. Spoon into glass jars and refrigerate. The jam will keep for several weeks.

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Green Mountain Mule

Photo by Brett Harrewyn

Photo by Brett Harrewyn

You’ll want to use a good-quality ginger beer rather than ginger ale, whose sugariness will overpower the subtle maple flavor. Think spicy winter tang, not summery sweetness.

Yield: 1 serving

1½ ounces straight bourbon
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
4½ ounces ginger beer

In a highball glass, combine the bourbon, lime juice and maple syrup, stirring gently to dissolve the syrup. Add the ginger beer and some ice, then garnish with a slice of lime.

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