The well appointed Georgian table relied heavily on a variety of meats served at each course of every meal. This included not only your run of the mill beef, mutton and poultry, but also game such as venison and hare. In her letters, Jane Austen mentions receiving gifts of meat, such as the "a pheasant and hare the other day from the Mr. Grays of Alton" in 1809 and the "hare and four rabbits from G[odmersham] yesterday", claiming that they are now "stocked for nearly a week." (November 26, 1815). Perhaps the most famous recipe for Hare is, of course, Jugged Hare. Jugging is the process of stewing whole animals, mainly game or fish, for an extended period in a tightly covered container such as a casserole or an earthenware jug. In French, such a stew of a game animal thickened with the animal's blood is known as a civet. One common traditional dish that involves jugging is Jugged Hare (known as civet de lièvre in France), which is a whole hare, cut into pieces, marinated and cooked with red wine and juniper berries in a tall jug that stands in a pan of water. It is traditionally served with the hare's blood (or the blood is added right at the very end of the cooking process) and port wine. Jugged Hare is described in the influential 18th century cookbook, The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, with a recipe titled, "A Jugged Hare," that begins, "Cut it into little pieces, lard them here and there...." The recipe goes on to describe cooking the pieces of hare in water in a jug that is set within a bath of boiling water to cook for three hours. Beginning in the nineteenth century, Glasse has been widely credited with having started the recipe with the words "First, catch your hare," as in this citation.This attribution is apocryphal. However, having a freshly caught, or shot, hare enables one to obtain its blood. A freshly killed hare is prepared for jugging by removing its entrails and then hanging it in a larder by its hind legs, which causes the blood to accumulate in the chest cavity. One method of preserving the blood after draining it from the hare (since the hare itself is usually hung for a week or more) is to mix it with red wine vinegar in order to prevent it coagulating, and then to store it in a freezer. Many other British cookbooks from before the middle of the 20th century have recipes for Jugged Hare. Merle and Reitchhave this to say about Jugged Hare, for example:
- The best part of the hare, when roasted, is the loin and the thick part of the hind leg; the other parts are only fit for stewing, hashing, or jugging. It is usual to roast a hare first, and to stew or jug the portion which is not eaten the first day. [...]
- To Jug A Hare. This mode of cooking a hare is very desirable when there is any doubt as to its age, as an old hare, which would be otherwise uneatable, may be made into an agreeable dish.
Jugged Hare. Cut it into little pieces, lard them here and there with little slips of bacon, season them with Cayenne pepper and salt, put them into an earthen jug, with a blade or two of mace, an onion stuck with cloves, and a bundle of sweet-herbs; cover the jug or jar you do it in so close that nothing can get in, then set it in a pot of boiling water, and three hours will do it; then turn it out into the dish, and take out the onion and sweet-herbs, and send it to table hot. If you do not like it larded, leave it out. Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1784Current cooking blogger, Jana, of timetravelkitchen.blogspot.com, has experimented with the dish, based on a recipe found in the later cookbook, Things a Lady Would Like to Know :
Jugged Hare.--Skin the hare, and cut it in pieces, but do not wash it; dredge it with flour, and fry it a nice brown in butter, seasoning it with a little pepper, salt, and cayenne. make about a pint and a half of gravy from the beef. Put the pieces of hare into a jar; add the onion stuck with 4 or 5 cloves, the lemon peeled and cut, and pour in the gravy. Cover the jar closely to keep in the steam; put it into a deep stewpan of cold water, and let it boil four hours; but if a young hare, three hours will be sufficient. When done, take it out of the jar and shake it over the fire for a few minutes, adding a table-spoonful of mushroom ketchup, 2 glasses of port wine, and a piece of butter rolled in flour, with some fried forcemeat-balls. Serve with red currant jelly.The substitution of beef and wine gravy for the mace, herbs and bacon of the former recipe, and the addition of a lemon do make for a slightly different flavor combination, but overall, the additions were pleasing. Of the finished product, she writes,
Rabbit tastes just like chicken! Really. Husband cut up the rabbit, because raw meat with bones makes me feel squiggly. Cooking in a jug, in liquid, with very low heat for several hours, is directly comparable to using a slow cooker. You may come to your own conclusions about with method I used. I also did not add in forcemeat balls (they are garnish, anyway) nor the spoonful of mushroom ketchup. My jugged hare recipe choices were limited, so I did the best I could. Most of them involve cooking the rabbit in its own blood. The flavor was really nice... except for the lemon. It was far, far too much lemon. If you make this, please use only a couple slices of lemon. That much lemon made the meat so very, very sour.
Anecdotes and photos from Jana, of timetravelkitchen.blogspot.com. Visit her blog for a wide range of historical culinary adventures, from home grown Salify, to entire menus recreated from times past. Working from her home in the United States, Jana enjoys the challenge of preparing period foods in her modern kitchen. The results are fully worthwhile.
Historical information quoted from Wikipedia.com.