Friday, 11 September 2009

Hare and Wine

The hare that most of us know in Britain is the European Brown Hare which changes its behaviour in spring, when they start to box (probably the origin of the term mad as a March hare). However it's thought that the Brown Hare was introduced into Britain during Roman times, probably from Asia. Our native hares are the Mountain Hare and Irish Hare. In Winter the Mountain Hare's coat turns white. Mountain Hare bones between 114,000 and 131,000 years old have been found in the Joint Mitnor cave in Devon and in the Thames Valley. Today, the mountain hare is confined to Scotland where it is indigenous and the Isle of Man and the Peak District of Derbyshire where it was re-introduced.

Jugged Hare is an old recipe and is known as Civet de Lièvre in Franc. The recipe calls for 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 traditionally is served with the hare's blood (or the blood is added right at the very end of the cooking process) and Port wine. 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.

Not surprisingly in this day and age few people remember the recipe so I thought I ought to include it here. Indeed in In 2006, a survey of 2021 people for the television channel UKTV Food found that only 1.6% of the people aged under 25 recognized Jugged Hare by name. 7 out of 10 of those people stated that they would refuse to eat Jugged Hare if it was served at the house of a friend or a relative. I wonder what they would think of Black Pudding?

Jugged Hare - Adapted from Mrs Beeton's Recipes

1 hare, jointed
2 oz bacon fat
2 onions stuck with 3 cloves
1 stick celery
1 carrot
5 peppercorns
1 tsp allspice
Bouquet Garni
Rind and juice of 1 orange
1½ - 2 pt beef stock
1 tbsp red currant jelly
1 large glass port

Cut the hare into pieces and dredge with flour and fry in bacon fat. Put the beef stock into a casserole dish. Add the hare, onion, celery, carrot, orange juice, lemon and spices. Cover the casserole dish and put it in a slow oven for 3 ½ – 4 hrs. Remove the hare from the sauce and place in a serving dish and keep warm. Add several spoonfuls of the sauce by degrees to the blood. Then pour it back carefully into the pan, together with the port and redcurrant jelly. Pour over the hare and reheat gently taking care not to allow it to boil. The sauce should be smooth and rich.

You have to be careful when choosing wines for such a deliciously rich dish as this and I would recommend Chateau La Fleur Morange which comes from a boutique winery in Saint-Pey-D'Armens made by Véronique and Jean-François Julien that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. The vineyard is a 4 acre plot of unique soil with the added rarity of having 100 year old vines. The soil is sand and clay layers over limestone and clinker sub soil – the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion – which Jean-François says contributes to the finesse of the tannins. The wines are full bodied and fruit driven, impressively structured and sophisticated. They are a deep dark crimson purple with notes of raspberries, liquorice, blackcurrants, smoke and earth.

La Conseillante is another good choice as one of the leading Pomerol châteaux. La Conseillante takes its name from an enterprising woman - Catherine Conseillan - a metal dealer based in Libourne. She established the vineyard originally as a share-cropping project, a system in which tenants work the land in return for a proportion of the harvest. By 1756 the project had expanded and the wine was christened La Conseillante. It was at this point that Conseillan took full control of the estate, thus securing its future as one of Pomerol's most important viticultural properties. The wines are very stylish, silky smooth clarets with aromas of violets with hints of coffee and vanilla. They are well balanced and opulent wines with the taste of rich ripe fruits such as cherry, plum and blackcurrant.

If you want to push the boat out then Chateau Pape Clement would be fantastic. It's the one of the oldest wine estates in Bordeaux and is also one of the finest clarets, harvesting its 700th vintage in 2006. The red wines of Pape Clemant are concentrated, elegant and have a purity of style. They have flavours of smoky ripe plum, tobacco, earthy coffee and chocolate.

I would also suggest a wine from Fronsac – Chateau Les Tonnelles (£7.82) as a lovely wine with Jugged Hare. In the 1800s Fronsac was more famous than Saint Emilion and Pomerol and centuries before Charlemagne loved the supple qualities and spicy flavour of Fronsac's wine. Fronsac - along with Canon Fronsac - is one of the up and coming regions of Bordeaux. Fronsac lay forgotten until the mid 1980's and now the producers from this area are benefiting from much interest in their rich, full and darkly coloured wines.

Fronsac wines are essentially hillside wines that have lots of body, character and a wonderful consistency in the mouth. They have notes of raspberries, pepper and spices and age well but can also be enjoyed young. Les Tonnelles is made from 100% Merlot and this grape loves the deep soil and ripens better here than Cabernet Sauvignon. Les Tonnelles is a lovely, full bodied wine which is a dark, warm purple. It has been aged in oak for around 15 months , is smooth and round in the mouth and has flavours full of black fruits. It's a sumptuous wine that is very classy.


Marion O'Neil, mountain hare correspondent, Hare Preservation Trust said...

Very disappointing to see this recipe. What sort of Dracula of a chef could cook hare in blood sauce?
Hare numbers have fallen dramatically,with habitat destruction, intensive farming and illegal coursing.In addition the mountain hare shown next to the recipe is protected under Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive, as a species of community interest.

So let's take the picnic hamper out into the country, enjoy the wine and enjoy the hares running free!

Sue said...

You raise a good point Marion - thanks for drawing it to our attention that the Mountain Hare is a protected species. As for being a Dracula - well, jugging is a gastronomic practice that, albeit somewhat historic, is still used in the countryside in both the UK and France - and not always with hare you will be relieved to know :-)