In honor of the late Bubbles White Schmeltz, and because Holly Jahangiri mentioned Jugged Hare in that post’s comments, here are some columns I wrote at various times for World Wide Recipes. I no longer write the Culinary Chronicles for that publication, but Karlis Streips does the honors now. I recommend it and him to your attention.
Anyway, here goes me:
My mother and I love reading British mysteries, and our current one mentions jugged hare. The earliest recipe I found was dated 1747, by Mrs. Hannah Glasse in her Art of Cookery. The “jug” is a tightly covered earthenware casserole with a swelling middle and narrower mouth, not the drinking jug we incredulously imagined. Some recipes marinate the hare in red wine and juniper berries, some don’t. Some brown the joints before “jugging”, some don’t. Some put the “jug” into a hot water bath and stew the hare, some bake it without the water bath. Some suggest making beef gravy, some insist on gravy rendered from the sweet little bunny’s head, innards, bones and “thick blood”. It may or may not be surprising that Science Daily reports, “Less than 2 percent of the young people surveyed [in England recently] had heard of jugged hare and 70 percent said they wouldn’t eat it even if they had.” Except for the icky bits, my mother and I think it sounds like a pretty tasty dish.
~I posted on another date about rodentia, and two people wrote to correct me. It turns out that a rabbit is not just what a squirrel would look like if it stayed on its meds. Rabbits and hares are, in fact, lagomorphs.
A HAPPY DAY FOR HARES
Ah, these are proud days for rabbits and hares! Two fellow Recitopians have emailed to tell me that rabbits and hares are no longer considered rodents, but have been promoted to the order of Lagomorphs. I don’t know if members of the order get to wear ribbons and medals on special occasions, but I like to think they do. Hare bones in prehistoric kitchen middens show the hare to have been eaten all over the world: New England, Russia, Africa and Rome. The Romans thought eating hare seven days in a row would cure ugliness. The Greeks thought it would cure insomnia. The English thought it would cure melancholy. Unlike rabbits, hares haven’t been domesticated. Perhaps it is for this reason that wild hare, as a meat, is held in higher regard by some gourmands than hutch-raised rabbit. My mother is quite fond of the occasional dish of “sweet little bunny”, though we haven’t had it since the kids got rabbits for pets. As Lewis Carroll said in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, you can’t eat anything you’ve been introduced to!
~Having written about hares, I had to give rabbits equal time.
Rabbits, as we all know, are lagomorphs, a family which includes hares and pikas. Although hare is regarded as a dish fit for royalty, rabbit has traditionally been considered lower-class fare. Rabbit can be hunted, snared or bred in captivity. Sometimes hunters sneak up behind them and whap them on the head, which is where the term “rabbit punch” comes from. Rabbit meat tends to be milder and more tender than that of hares. Rabbit milk is said to be high in protein, but I don’t believe I could milk enough rabbits to make it worth my while. Personal experience assures me that the Wikipedia assertion, “Rabbits are very good producers of manure”, is, if anything, an understatement, but I have no way of verifying the claim that rabbit urine increases the productivity of lemon trees due to its high nitrogen content. Rabbits, the same entry says, are unable to regurgitate, a fact which might turn out to be useful sometime, under a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances.
~So now you know.
WRITING PROMPT: Read a random Wikipedia article and see what surprises you.