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There’s a Hare in My Stew

Photograph by Flickr user bwc

The tracks look like exclamation marks to me, the way the tiny front feet punctuate the Popsicle-size rear ones. This winter snowshoe hares seem to be everywhere, leaping over trails in one bound and disappearing into thickets. Paul Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, wrote in an email, “Hare populations, like most other wildlife species, fluctuate in response to multiple factors including changes in habitat quality (they prefer younger, regenerating coniferous forests) and predator populations (almost everything with sharp teeth or talons finds them tasty).  Further north in the boreal forests of Canada, hare populations are cyclic and go through highs and lows about every 10 years.” Such a strong cycle is less evident here.

If you and your beagling friends have been successful this hunting season I have a classic Adirondack recipe to share, gleaned from a local fundraising cookbook.

The author was Mary Johnson Cummins, who learned to love the woods when she moved from Holland Patent to Blue Mountain Lake with her husband, Lovel, and sons around World War II. Along with fishing, trapping and hunting she cooked at Great Camps Eagle Nest and Sagamore, Steamboat Landing, the Gooley Club and a long-gone little diner near the original Blue Mountain trailhead. Generous, kind and funny, she was an important part of the community until her death in 1995.

Grandson Joe Cummins and his wife, Carrie, from Indian Lake, told me this story: “A gentleman from New Jersey was driving down the road and this old lady—Mary—was parked on the side of the road and he stopped to see if she needed help. He was surprised to see she was loading her shotgun and two rabbits into the car!”

Mary Johnson Cummins’s “How to Cook a Rabbit” appears in Blue Mountain Lake’s Favorite Recipes, compiled by the United Methodist church in the 1970s. Amid dishes like “Candle Salad” (canned cranberry sauce and Jell-O) and “Wiener Casserole,” this one stands out as an authentic culinary adventure:

Go out and shoot a nice young rabbit. Dress it right away. When you get home, take the skin off. Cut up in quarters; wash in several waters and soak in salt water overnight. Put in pot; cover with water. Slice an onion and some garlic and add. Boil until tender. Then fry in butter or oleo until brown. Then sink your teeth into something yummy. To roast, leave whole and fill cavity with bread dressing. Put strips of bacon over top and bake at 350 degrees until done, about one hour.

A Breed Apart,” about the Adirondack Patch beagle legacy, was published in the February 2014 issue of Adirondack Life.

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