The English may have ceded the hare as a cooking ingredient to the French, focusing Anglo Saxon attention on the more commonly available rabbit. But they are just as fond of the hare and use the same approach to the cooking of them. Civet de lievre, menu mainstay of Paris’s most popular brasseries and named for the ‘civettes’ - chives - that were originally part of its preparation, is no more than the jugged hare from over the Channel. The recipes and methods are almost mirror images the one of the other.
Hannah Glasse, venerable author of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, the seminal English cookbook published in 1747, is credited with opening her recipe for jugged hare with the memorable instruction, “First catch your hare.” This, though, is thought to be inaccurate. What she is actually believed to have written is, “First case your hare,” ‘to case’ meaning to slit the skin of the creature and separate it from it in one piece, much like rolling your sock down your leg.
Her cookbook went into 20 editions during the remainder of the 18th century alone (and included what is thought to be the first English recipe for a curry). Glasse was a plagiarist, as later cookery writers became of her work, and pinched her recipes from all manner of sources. This might explain why her jugged hare recipe runs so closely to civet de lievre.
Jugging a hare is an English method, not a French one, ‘to jug’ meaning to set jointed and marinated pieces of meat in a jug into a bath of boiling water and leaving it to cook slowly for three hours.
French records show the hare being hunted for food back in the Middle Ages when it was cooked with spices, verjus, onions and wine, burnt toast being incorporated at the end of the cooking to induce the rich black colour of the gravy. These days, the toast has been lost along with the most of the spices, and the gravy of the civet often made with white wine and stock so that its gravy is clear not opaque.
Only at the beginning of the 20th century was blood added to the gravy - if it was added at all.
Spoiler alert (in the sense of the detail possibly spoiling your appetite): To prepare a hare for jugging or for a civet, its entrails having been removed, it is hung in a cool place by its legs until its blood has gathered in its chest cavity. This blood is drawn off and mixed with red wine or red wine vinegar to prevent it from coagulating, then added last thing to the cooked dish before serving. Jugging, like any slow cooking, is a good cooking method when a hare might have passed the pinnacle of its youth.
Jugged hare/Civet de lievre
For the marinade
- 2.5/3kg hare, jointed
- 1 bottle of robust red wine
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 6 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large fresh sage leaves
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
For the casserole
- olive oil for sauteeing the onion
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 150g lardons
- 25g butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 bouquet garni
- 300 ml hare blood (optional) or stock
Put the hare into a china or glass bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
Drain the hare in a colander over a bowl, discard the vegetables and pat the hare dry with kitchen towel. Season the hare.
Add oil to a heavy bottomed saute pan and brown the onions, lardons and pieces of hare. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean of oil and add the butter to melt over low heat. Add the flour and stir till it turns gold.
Pour in the marinade wine and bring to the boil. Return the hare and onions to the pan and add the bouquet garni, reserving the lardons Season to taste, cover and simmer over low heat for 2.5 hours. 10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the lardons.
If you are using the hare blood, pour it into a warmed bowl. Add several tablespoons of the hot sauce from the saute pan, beating all the while, then whisk the contents of the bowl back into the saute pan and simmer until thickened a little. If adding stock, before returning the hare to the pan, bring the liquid to the boil and boil fast to reduce and thicken it a little.
Serve with potato puree or buttered tagliatelle.
This column written by Julia Watson originally appeared in the March 2020 edition of The Bugle.