The changing of the season is one of those moments of the year that every cook enjoys thoroughly. It’s the shift in climate and ingredients that makes for an exciting time at the kitchen counter: and usually it really does not matter what season is approaching, it’s the novelty that generates inspiration, brings back memories and channels our hands and ingredients into a new direction. As a boy growing up in Tuscany I have incredibly vivid memories about the arrival of Fall, and that’s not just because I would have to go back to school. As Summer wondered off into “Kale Season” and the days started getting shorter, nothing was more suggestive to me that our estate on a Sunday morning; the light misty drizzle on the quiet fields, the rolling clouds coming up from the valley, the thin lines of blue smoke coming out of all the farms on our property where wives, daughters and grandmothers would start cooking their daily meals… while the men and their dogs would be out hunting.
Barrels crackling and pellets falling on our farmhouse roof, dogs howling and hunters whistling and calling them by name… these were the sounds that invriably would interfere with such an idyllic image of my Tuscan Land. Even if hunting season would prevent me from sleeping in on my only day off from school, I always preferred appreciating the heritage and deeply rooted customs that were displayed during the hunt. There was such a poetry and sense of belonging in seeing men walking back to the farm with their pray hanging proudly from their belts, it was a prelude to a day dedicated to family and rest.
Hunters would hang all their prey in front of my grandmother’s kitchen, and all their wives and daughters would sit in a row of wicker chairs with big buckets between their legs. They would clean and prepare the meat, while their husbands washed off and got into their better clothes, then the priest would arrive from Fiesole to celebrate mass…. He stayed for lunch most of the time!
I wanted to share this recipe a bit early in the season so to give you enough time to play with it (or just think about it) before you start planning your next big dinner with family and friends. Cooking hare on the bone is a hunter’s prerogative and the whole process carries a certain degree of romanticism and respect for our traditions. However, you might be able to ask your butcher for rabbit meat off the bone, which speeds up the process quite a bit without really altering the flavor too much.
This recipe lands itself well to fresh made or dry pasta as well, depending on your preferences and time available. I personally prefer using fresh pappardelle but if I happen to have leftover sauce on a school evening during the week, I won’t hesitate cooking some dry penne to go with it and I still would enjoy it to its fullest. You can prepare the sauce in advance as it does really well if rested overnight in the refrigerator and you can freeze it up to three months, you know… waiting for that rainy day.