Wild boar has long been favoured in Europe. It is now available at specialty grocers and farmers’ markets across Canada. Young animals are tender and milder in flavour, therefore, can be cooked in a variety of ways. Animals over 1 year have a gamier flavour and less tender so marinating and moist heat methods such as stewing or braising are recommended.
Boar is low in sodium, a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, and protein. It is lower in saturated fat than beef.
Wild boar has a darker colour and distinctive flavour and is lean meat that combines the best of beef and pork. It makes wonderful bacon, hams and a whole animal can be pit or spit roasted successfully.
The rule of thumb when cooking with boar is low and slow. This breaks down the connective tissue resulting in fork tender meat. Overcooking will result in dry meat. Roasts can be cooked at 275-300F. The rack, ribs and tenderloin of a young animal can be cooked in the same manner as pork but the other cuts, such as shoulder or neck are best if braised, ground or diced. Do not cook or thaw in a microwave. This will toughen the meat. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator and thaw before marinating.
The robust flavour stands up well to aromatic spices and herbs such as sage, juniper berries, marjoram, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and rosemary. Wild mushrooms, dried fruits like cherries, cranberries and raisins are complimentary.
The long cooking times along with aromatic spices produce wonderful aromas in the kitchen. The anticipation is rewarded. A little goes a long way with these rich flavours and portion sizes need not be as large as with other meats.
Wild Boar Ragu (adapted from Epicurious)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. boneless wild boar meat (cut for stew)
1 can chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 c. red wine
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried chili peppers (crushed)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
3 sundried tomatoes
3 anchovies or 1 tsp. anchovy paste
Fresh or dried oregano, basil, and sage
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pasta pappardelle, fettuccine or penne
Grated pecorino, being sheep cheese, compliments game but can substitute Parmesan
In a large cast-iron pot, heat oil and brown meat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add canned tomatoes and bay leaves.
Add wine, garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, basil, sage, red wine vinegar, and salt and black pepper, to taste.
Simmer on low on stovetop, and stir occasionally for at least two hours. The ragù is ready to eat when meat is fall apart tender and most of liquid has been absorbed. Take out cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.
Serve over pasta and top with grated cheese.