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Jugged Hare

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This is a great recipe for those of you who, like me, find the taste of jack rabbit a bit of a turnoff. I lamented my dislike for jack rabbit because they are so fun and easy to hunt. In an effort to give them one last shot, I found this fantastic recipe from England, Jugged Hare. The essence of it is hare meat slowly stewed in wine and herbs for a while. The end result was tender like stewed, dark beef, with a tart, winey flavor somewhere between lamb and fruit-soaked duck. The following is only one of the more grandiose versions of the recipe, though I made it without any significant hassle (I did not have on hand the liver or blood to use so I added lots of chocolate to the sauce). There are definitely simpler ones that follow the same basic guidelines. Try it out!TRADITIONAL BRITISH JUGGED HARE (SERVES 6-8)1 large brown hare, skinned, plus its blood (liver optional)2 tablespoons olive oil100g salt pork, pancetta or bacon, cut into 2cm pieces1 large carrot, sliced3 garlic cloves, crushed1 onion or 5-6 shallots, sliced30g butter1 rounded tablespoon plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper1 bottle of good red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon100ml brandyA bouquet garni of thyme, bay and parsley2 squares of bitter chocolate, grated (optional but very worthwhile)Salt and freshly ground black pepperHeat the oil in a large frying pan, add the bacon and sweat for a few minutes. Add the carrot, garlic and onion or shallots and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the bacon and vegetables to a large, heavy, flameproof casserole (in which the hare will also be cooked). Put the frying pan back over a low heat and add the butter. Turn the pieces of hare in the seasoned flour, then add them to the pan and fry gently, turning occasionally, until they are nicely browned. Transfer the meat to the casserole. Pour over the wine, brandy and just enough water to barely cover the meat, then add the bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook over a gentle heat, or in a slow oven (120°C/Gas Mark 1/2), for 2-3 hours. The hare is cooked when the meat is quite tender and begins to come away from the bone.The next stage is to make a liaison of the blood and the cooking liquid. This has to be done carefully if the sauce is not to separate, but even if it does it is only the appearance, not the flavour, that will be affected. Remove the pieces of hare from the pot and put them in a warmed dish. Strain the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and herbs, then return it to the pan. Boil hard to reduce by about a third, then remove from the heat.Have the blood ready in a small mixing basin. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid into the blood to warm and thin it, then stir well. Add the grated chocolate to the pot, if using. Then ladle in the warmed blood a little at a time, stirring as you go. If you have the hare’s liver, chop it very finely - almost to a purée - and add it to the pan. When the liaison is smooth and well blended, return to the heat and bring back to the boil. Return the pieces of hare to the pot and bring back to a gentle simmer before serving.We had the hare with a simple mashed potato, it really doesn’t need anything else.

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