We will not dwell upon that not very agreeable but still necessary process of skinning the hare, but will at once commence to make the stuffing, which must be tied up inside it. Ordinary veal stuffing, as it is generally called, is best for the purpose, and, as I think I have before pointed out, the most common fault is too much lemon.
The following recipe will, I think, be found well adapted to improve, and not destroy or overcome, the flavour of the hare :—Take 1/4 lb. of beef suet, and chop it very finely, with 2 oz. of raw lean ham; add a tea-spoonful of chopped fresh parsley and 2 tea-spoonfuls of dried mixed savoury herbs, or 1, if these savoury herbs are fresh. These herbs are sold ready mixed, in bottles, which is the simplest method, and are composed principally of marjoram, basil, thyme, etc. As the herbs get drier, more must be used, but, as I have said, if quite fresh, 1 tea-spoonful; if very dry, 2 ; the cook consequently must use her judgment for intermediate stages. Add to this, to continue the stuffing, 1/4 of the rind of a lemon (this latter should be chopped very fine); add a little cayenne pepper and salt, about 5 oz. of bread-crumbs, and 2 whole eggs. The whole quantity should be well pounded in a mortar.
Some persons add the liver of the hare to the stuffing; if the liver is quite fresh this may be done, but not unless; and if the hare has been kept a proper time, the liver is very often the part that exhibits most the—what shall we call it ?—ravages' of time, and in such case should on no account be used. This stuffing must be placed in the hare, taking care to wipe the inside first, and sewn up ; the hare should then be hung up before the fire, at a greater distance than meat would be ordinarily; plenty of dripping should be ready melted in the dripping-pan, and the cook should keep basting as often as possible; this latter is the secret of having the hare moist, and without that hard dry coating outside which we mentioned. As for the time a hare takes to roast, it is almost impossible to say—a small one taking an hour, and a very large one nearly two. Much depends, also, on the fire, and the distance the hare is kept from it in the early stages. Bear in mind, however, that underdone can be remedied, and overdone can't. An inexperienced cook can cut into the joint at the back, about where the hind-leg joins the body, and look; or stick a little piece of firewood in after the knife, and judge by the colour whether it is done or not. On the average, an hour to an hour and a quarter will be ample. Near the finish, however, take away the dripping-pan and get a little butter; baste the hare with this to finish, putting the hare near the fire so as to froth the butter, and at the same time dredge the hare with some flour, so as to get it a nice brown-colour, and serve some good rich, hot gravy with it in a separate tureen. As hare is an awkward joint to carve, it will be found best not to pour gravy over it, for the sake of the tablecloth and the feelings of the carver. Red-currant jelly should always be handed round with hare, and the gravy will be much improved by a few cloves, a tiny piece of cinnamon being boi.ed in it and then strained off; add also half a glass of rich port wine, and by rich I mean not a dry wiie, but rather port-wine dregs. The last spoonful of port in the bottle should always be reserved for purposes of this kind.
We will now discuss what is, to my mind, a far preferable method of cooking hare, and that is, jugged hare. For this purpose a stone jar with a wide mcuth will be found to be better than an ordinary |ug, which used to be used, and which gives its name to the dish. Have ready some good brown gravy, free from fat. Next cut up the hare into joints, each joint not being larger than would be considered the proper quantity for one help ; fry these joints in a little butter in a frying-pan, so as to turn them a nice brown without cooking them. Have the empty jar made hot by placing it in the oven, and have a cloth ready to tie over its mouth. Then as soon as the joints of hare are browned, throw them into the hot empty jar, pour a large glass of port wine in too, and tie the cloth quickly over the mouth of the jar, and let it stand for, say, a quarter of an hour or more, on the dresser. By this means the fumes of the wine will rise—the jar being hot—and will impregnate the meat of the hare in a way in which it would never do were it simply added to the gravy. After this has stood some time, untie the jar and add the gravy, with a small piece of cinnamon, six cloves, two bay-leaves, and the juice of half a lemon. The gravy should be strongly impregnated with onion, and should be thickened with a little arrowroot rather than with brown thickening. The port will materially assist the colour; a good spoonful of red-currant jelly may also be added to it and dissolved in it, though in addition red-currant jelly will be handed round with it. Next place this jar up to its neck in a large saucepan of boiling water, only take care that the jar is well tied down, or much of the flavour will be lost; allow this to remain in the boiling water for about an hour to an hour and a half, when it will be found to be sufficiently done, as jugged hare, like roast hare, is generally over-cooked rather than under. Stuffing-balls should be added to it, but not cooked with it. For this purpose prepare some stuffing as directed for roast hare. Roll this stuffing into small balls, a little larger than marbles, and throw them into some boiling fat. A few minutes will be sufficient to cook them; drain them on a cloth and make them hot in the oven before adding them to the jugged hare.
As I before mentioned, hare soup is best made from fresh hare, in which case as much as possible of the blood of the hare should be preserved, and used in the soup. However, it will be often found expedient to use up the remains of the jugged hare by converting it into hare soup for the following day. I will proceed to explain the best method of doing this : —First you must have ready some really good stock ; next pick out all the best-looking pieces of meat—little slices from the back are best—and put them by on a plate, to be added to the soup at the last moment; next take all the remains of the hare, add it to the stock with, if possible, a head of celery; let it all boil for an hour or more, till the celery is quite tender, strain off the meat, take out carefully all the bones, which will be found after this boiling to be quite white and dry, and then, with a good-sized wooden spoon, rub all the meat and celery through a wire sieve into the stock. This will take time ; but recollect, the one secret of good hare soup is the fact of the meat of the hare being rubbed through the sieve helping to,make the soup not only thicker, but materially affecting the taste. Indeed, I may go farther, and say the excellence of the soup is in proportion to the amount of hare-flesh rubbed through the sieve. Should, therefore, the soup look a little thin, allow it to boil away and decrease in quantity. Of course, the taste will much depend upon the amount of jugged hare left; but a little port wine may be added at the finish, as the flavour of wine in soups is very apt to go off after they have been boiled for any length of time. A little more lemon-juice may be added near the finish, but avoid putting in too much currant jelly. Some persons think hare soup should be absolutely sweet. For my part, I think this a mistake; besides, red-currant jelly can always be added if wished, but cannot be taken out of the soup. The soup should be made slightly thicker by means of brown thickening, which I have before described to be simply butter and flour fried of a rich brown colour. Do not, however, use too much of this thickening, as it will be found to somewhat destroy the delicate flavour of the hare; besides which, good hare soup should by no means be very thick. It will, however, have one very marked effect, and that is, it will enable you to add some more port wine, or port-wine dregs, which has such an enormous influence over the flavour of hare soup. When the soup is about to be served, throw in the little slices of hare that had been put by on the plate, but do not let the soup boil, as the hare is probably already more than cooked by being jugged. Allow, therefore, these pieces of meat to remain in the soup just long enough to get hot, and no longer. One objection brought against jugged hare and hare soup is the quantity of port wine evidently required in order that the result should be worthy of the trouble bestowed. Recollect, however, what I have said with regard to port-wine dregs. Now there are many homes where port wine is had in in the shape of a quarter-cask ; where this is the case there should be no difficulty, if the precaution is taken to bottle the thick dregs of the wine and reserve them. Port is, however, a wine, I am sorry to say, going out of fashion; still, good, decent, sound burgundy will do nearly as well for cooking, and in the Burgundy district in France nothing else is ever used; indeed, so far claret may be used, and considering how nice a sauce bordelaise is, I should imagine would do very well, especially as all French cookery-books, in giving directions as to cooking hare, simply say, add red wine. When claret or burgundy is used instead of port, I would recommend the addition of a little, a very little, nutmeg, and also a little extra red-currant jelly, for, bear in mind, port is sweeter than claret.