Enjoy the delicate flavour of rabbit, one of Nature's great food animals. It is tender and nutritious, providing a complete protein. Rabbit is cooked when the meat is tender and falls from the bones. Simmering in liquids or sauce is necessary to keep the meat from drying out. The neck (neck and rib cage) of fat stewer rabbits can be dry-roasted.
A cleaned fryer rabbit should be set up in a normal resting position on a tray in the refrigerator, legs and knees tucked up so that the rabbit's back is on top, just as if the rabbit was sitting in its pen. This position mimics the "Texas Tender Stretch" method developed for hanging lambs. The idea is to use normal gravity to stretch the loin muscles instead of the usual hanging by back legs which allows the loin muscles to fully contract and shrink. Most inspectors and processors don't (or can't) understand this, so here is another place where your home processed rabbits will have an advantage over the "inspected" ones! Your rabbit needs to rest like this in the cooler for at least a day, as mentioned above, to allow the passing of the rigor stage.
Now that you have a properly chilled rabbit, you can begin cutting up. Cutting up can be as simple as taking off the back legs, the loin, leaving the "neck" (neck end, with ribs, forelegs and neck) for roasting or smoking. This neck end, along with belly flaps, brine cured in Morton Tender Quick® then smoked for a couple hours tastes like what good ham used to taste like.
If you look at the drawing on the right in Figure 2, it shows where the head is cut off at the atlas joint (between 1st cervical vertebra and base of skull). The vertical line shows where the rabbit could be split in two, but usually you want to avoid tiny bits of bone so other cuts are preferred.
For cutting off the back legs, which most people have no clue how to do look at Figure 3, and see the path of the dotted line. Cut from the tail end upwards, up to about the 6th dash of this line and you will come to the connection between the hip bone and spine. Then cutting in from the side of the carcass, following the curvature of the hip bone, cut along the outer curvature of the hip bone, so that the hip bone remains with the leg. Cut around almost to where you stopped from the other direction. Give the leg a twist and it comes off easily. This leaves just a tail piece remaining between where the legs were. The drawing shows a top and bottom view of the cut off leg.
You can cut off the tail piece by finding the first disk above the hip attachment points and cutting through the disk. To remove the whole loin, go to the front end of the loin and find the last rib. You want to cut the loin off with this last rib attached to the loin, again cutting through the disk in the spine. then you can trim off this remaining rib.
Now you have remaining the rib cage and forelegs. this can remain one piece, or split in two along one side of the spine, or locate the shoulder blades and slice beneath them to lift each front leg off. Locate and remove the tiny collar bone. On an older rabbit, we stand the remaining rib section on a pan and roast it separately.
Take the whole legs, and look at the back of the knees. There is a fatty gland there that you should remove before cooking, just cut out all the fatty material inbetween the muscles at the back of the knee. At the front of the knee, just above the point of the knee, suspended in a bit of cartilage, is the knee cap, one of those little bones that you find in the bottom of rabbit stews. Cut this out if you wish. The other annoying little bone is the collar bone, a barely visible pin sized bone about 2 cm long, found at the front point of the rabbit shoulder, extending over to the breast bone. Pick these out if you are removing the "wings". Cook the rabbit, using one of your favourite recipes, or one of the recipes above. Enjoy!
Figures 2 and 3 are from World Rabbit Science Vol. 1(1), pages 6 and 7.
Instructions on slaughtering a rabbit are available on request.