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Jugged Hare, or Civet de Lievre

civet of hare

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is a classic. There are recipes for hare or rabbit stewed in red wine dating back to the 17th century. My version is inspired by Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France, but with several key changes. I rely heavily on chanterelle mushrooms, and I added some onion and a touch of chile┬álate in the process for interest.

What’s up with the “jugged” part? This dish was initially cooked in an earthenware jug set in boiling water. What makes this different from a stew? A civet (see-vay) is not a true civet without it being thickened with the blood and liver of the animal being cooked. Gruesome, eh?

Blood you can do without, although it makes a difference if you have it. Liver you cannot. You need to pulverize the liver with some heavy cream (and it must be heavy cream) and add this mixture (which looks disturbingly like Strawberry Quik) to the stew at the last minute, without letting anything boil! If it boils, it will coagulate and look disgusting.

Tricksy, eh? It is. Jugged hare, or venison, or duck or whatever, is a dish for a special occasion. It takes time to make and must be done precisely. Your reward? A dish with a 500-year pedigree that turns the lowly jackrabbit into kingly fare.

Serves 6-8

  • 1 hare or 3 cottontail rabbits, or 2 domestic rabbits
  • The livers of said beasts
  • Blood from the critters, mixed with a little red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 2 minced celery sticks
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup Armagnac or other brandy
  • 1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
  • Rye or whole wheat or spelt flour for dusting
  • 1/4 pound bacon or pancetta
  • 5-6 tablespoons goose fat or unhydrogenated lard
  • 1 small package dried chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon quatre epices
  • 1 pint (more or less) game, veggie or beef stock
  • 1/4 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile paste, such as Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Salt and black pepper

MARINATE 1-2 DAYS

  1. Pour the brandy and the wine into a pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Turn off the heat.
  2. Cut the hare into large pieces: back legs, front legs, saddle into several sections — feel between vertebrae for places to chop with a cleaver or heavy knife. Salt it lightly.
  3. While the wine-brandy mixture is still warm, pour it into a container large enough to hold the hares or rabbits. Add the grated onion, carrot and the minced celery, plus the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme. Mix well.
  4. When the wine mixture is room temperature, add the hare pieces. Cover and let it marinate in the fridge for a day, or even two.

MAKE THE STEW

  1. Take the hare from the marinade and pat it dry.
  2. Strain the marinade through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Set aside the veggies.
  3. Pour the marinade into a pot and bring to a boil. A raft of scum will form on top. Skim it off carefully. Bring the heat to a simmer, and skim the liquid several times until it is clear, then turn off the heat.
  4. Heat half the goose fat or lard in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  5. Dust the pieces of hare in the rye flour — using something other than white flour adds a subtle earthy note to the civet — and brown them in the pot. Take your time with this; you may need to do it in batches. Once the hare is nicely browned, set it aside.
  6. Meanwhile (you need to multi-task here), heat another tablespoon or two of the goose fat or lard in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it is good and hot, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the pancetta. If you are using bacon, only use enough goose fat to lubricate the bottom of the pan, as the bacon should be fatty enough.
  7. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  8. Slowly cook the pancetta or bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside.
  9. Add the veggies to the frying pan you cooked the pancetta in, and turn the heat all the way up. It will sputter. Toss and cook the veggies, adding more goose fat or lard as needed. Once they are coated and much of the liquid has steamed off, turn the heat down to medium and cook until they caramelize, about 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  10. Return the hare to the Dutch oven and add the pancetta or bacon. Pour over the wine-brandy mixture, then add the veggies. Add the dried chanterelles, the quatre epices and the sugar. Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
  11. If you think you need more liquid, add the game, veggie or beef stock. Bring this to a simmer and taste for salt — add some if needed.
  12. Cover and put in the oven and leave it undisturbed for 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a hare, 90 minutes for rabbits.

MAKING A STEW A CIVET

  1. Once the hare is tender, almost falling off the bone, carefully remove it from the pot and set aside to cool.
  2. While the meat is cooling, run everything left in the pot through a food mill with a medium plate. If you don’t have a food mill, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender. If you are doing this you really should push the blended mix through a sieve or chinois to catch any lumpy bits.
  3. Clean the Dutch oven, or get another large, lidded pot.
  4. Pick the meat from the bones of the hare. Try to keep the meat in large pieces and be careful to find any little ribs and such. Discard the bones.
  5. Return the strained, blended stew to the pot, and add the chile paste, the onion that you have sliced into half-moons as well as the fresh chanterelles. Bring this to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the onions are nice and soft.
  6. Return the pieces of hare to the pot and retest for salt. Add generous amounts of freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Blend the liver, the blood and the heavy cream together in a food processor or blender. Revel in its pink gory glory.
  8. When the hare is warm again, turn off the heat. Wait until you see no movement of the stew from simmering or boiling, then add a ladleful of the stew to the blood-liver-heavy cream mix. Stir well. Do this again. Now pour the mixture into the stewpot and gently stir it in to combine. Marvel at how well the stew just thickened. DO NOT LET THIS BOIL. Trust me. You can still eat it if it does, but your civet will look shitty and you will be pissed off.
  9. Serve at once, topped with parsley and accompanied by crusty bread, a green salad, and a really kick-ass red wine. I’d recommend a Mourvedre.

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One response to “Jugged Hare, or Civet de Lievre”

  1. MDMNM

    Wow- that sounds really good. A lot of work, no doubt, but inspiring. I’m going to have to swing out and pick up a couple of jackrabbits and give it a try.

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