Tag Archive for: jugged hare

March is upon us. Time to get mad as… that most mercurial and magical of native species. It’s all down to this being the month when hares appear to ‘box’ each other in the fields. Not even the equivalent of macho stags rutting; the proactive pugilist is the female fending off unwanted males in the mating season.

I’ve never witnessed such a bout on the Pennine moors above my home, though I have thrilled to chance upon a solitary hare on its tensile guard before launching itself into the distant tussocks. So glorious. You are more likely to see them in relative abundance in the eastern counties, particularly Norfolk and Suffolk. As with badgers, their domain is nocturnal. Poet John Clare captures the moment of their daylight startling: “Till milking maidens in the early morn/jingle their yokes and sturt them in the corn/through well-known beaten paths each nimbling hare/sturts quick as fear, and seek its hidden lair.”

My latest encounter with the creature that has perenially attained mythical status was in the mundane setting of my kitchen, then on the plate. Sean, the most game-friendly of our local butchers, had acquired a trio from out in Lincolnshire; their provenance I hope was from a legal shoot, not the long forbidden coursing.

I selected mine from a tray of the already prepared 3kg carcases, huge compared with cousin rabbit and definitely a bargain at £8. I’ve peeled the pelt off one before. Never again. Even dissecting in the kitchen is a messy business, bound to bloody your apron. 

Ironically the absence of blood is a hindrance to my plan to jug my hare. The fresh stuff is the key to the authentic flavour of this particular recipe, first published in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery (1747), though a similar treatment dates back to 1390 and Forme of Cury, recipe book of Richard II’s master cooks (manuscript now lost).

Big-hearted, the hare certainly is. Its vital organ weighs in at between 1 per cent and 1.8 per cent of the total body compared with the rabbit’s mere 0.3 per cent. The oxygen-rich haemoglobin pumped fuels its legendary, near uncatchable speed. Mrs Glasse is always misquoted as writing “first catch your hare” when it was “first case your hare” with case meaning take off the skin. Jugging is what it is literally; cooking in a jug inside a pan of boiling water as a kind of bain-marie, as opposed to the French civet, which is stewed. A London game-themed gastropub called The Jugged Hare serves its signature dish of Norfolk wild hare ‘in a jug’, so the jug jury’s out there.

How hare was served at the gourmand court of Richard II

“Take hayrs, and hew hem to gobbettes, and seeth hem wyth the blode unwaished in brothe of fleshe, and when they buth y-nouh, cast hem in colde water. Pyle and waish hem clene. Cole the brothe, and drawe it thurgh stynnor. Take the other blode, and caste in boylyng water, seeth it, and drawe it thurgh stynnor. Take almanndes unblanched, waishe hem, and grynde hem, and temper it up with the self brothe. Cast al in a pot. Take oynons and parboyle hem. Smyte hem small, and cast hem into the pot, cast thereover powderfort, vynegar and salt, temper with wyn, and messe forth.” [those Chaucer lessons finally came in handy]

Hannah Glasse’s more sedate Jugged Hare 

“Cut it to Pieces, lard them here and there and with little slips of bacon, season them with a very little pepper and salt, put them into a earthen jugg, with a blade or two of mace, an onion stuck with cloves, and a bundle of sweet-herbs; cover the jar, you do it in so close, that nothing can get in, then set it in a pot of boiling water, keep the water boiling, 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 the table hot. If you don’t like it larded, leave it out.”

Following Ferguson Henderson’s way with a hare

No jugs to hand I followed the great man’s Nose To Tail Eating method, also taking his advice to separate the fillet for searing for a separate dish. That wouldn’t do for the rest of the flesh, which is unlikely to err on the tender side. Fergus sensibly recommends you add a splash of red wine vinegar to the blood draining from your freshly hung hare to prevent it coagulating…


1 hare gutted and jointed, blood reserved

1tsp each of crushed mace, cloves and allspice

sea salt and pepper

1dsp butter

3 red onions and 3 carrots. peeled and chopped

1 stick of celery, chopped

2 leeks, cleaned and chopped

½ bottle red wine

mixed bundle of fresh herbs

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 bay leaves

2 litres chicken stock

1 large glass of port


Mix spices, seasoning and flour and roll your hare pieces in ths. Brown the floured hare gently in the butter, then remove meat and add the vegetables to the pan. Cook to a nice colour but not burnt. Retrun the hare to the pan with the wine, herbs, garlic and bay leaves, season cautiously, add chicken stock. Cover, place in a low oven for three hours.

When cooked, remove the hare from the mixture and strain the liquor. Discard the veg. Return hare to the sauce and let it cool. To serve, return the sauce to the heat, add the port and boil quickly for five minutes. Reduce heat, add blood, allow to thicken. Again return your hare to the sauce and serve. He suggests with mash; I went for parsnip puree and home made redcurrant jelly.

It had been a long wait to source a hare again. Even without the blood thickener – and  I also left out the port –  it was a handsome, substantial winter dish. Handsome too, is the living hare, in either of the two forms found on the British mainland – Brown Hare and Mountain Hare (native to Scotland where it is known witchily as the ‘maukin’). I’ve been engrossed in two studies of this feared and worshipped animal. The reissued classic The  Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson explore’s its presence across nature, poetry, folklore, history and art. More concise, and less likely to stray into the territory of old countrymen’s lore and Jungian archetypes is The Private Life of the Hare by current nature writer John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday, £10.99). Not be confused with his The Running Hare, a wider exploration of the changing eco culture of his hill farm.

The hare is inevitably the hero, a unique presence throughout the ages. Has it all persuaded me that I should resist the temptations of jugging and forgo cooking one again? I think it has.

There’s a traditional Irish hunting song, On Yonder Hill There Sits A Hare, a favourite track of mine on folk tyro Sam Lee’s Ground Of Its Own album. Fingers crossed he’ll be singing it when he plays Hebden Bridge Trades Club a week on Sunday. I will sing along softly. It will be my swansong for the maukin.