The wild boar runs free over Europe and like it or loathe it, the animal is still hunted with much vim and vigour. Hunting and foraging is a theme that runs through the Italian calendar and psyche; wild
boar meat is also highly prized.
boar meat is also highly prized.
There is a very lively population of boar these days, roaming the Italian countryside. This is mainly because there are far fewer people on the land, an exodus having begun a few years after the end of the Second World War.
If you happen to be in Tuscany during the wild boar season, which usually runs from late Autumn through the winter, typically the 1st of November until the very end of January, you can be part of the chase. Hunting seasons however, varies depending where you are in the country. In Umbria dates are different and should be checked before you book a flight.
You might imagine the boar hunt is a family affair and you would be correct. Once again it is a valid excuse for a picnic and a convivial gathering. It certainly gives many a reminder of life on the land as they hunt an animal, a predecessor to the domestic pig.
As much as people can be sentimental about a hunt, the wild boar is actually causing lots of damage right now. Both farmers and wine producers are complaining bitterly at what can happen when a wild boar comes a-visiting overnight; thousands of euros worth of damage to be precise so the stakes are very high.
For those who baulk at the idea of shooting their own food, it is possible to buy wild boar and there are a number of recipes which make delicious use of this tasty meat. If you have ever been lucky enough to experience Italian cooking classes with Flavours you will have already developed a natural affinity with traditional Italian ingredients alongside the knowledge of what to do with different cuts of meat etc.
In fact there are four different types of boar meat available in Italian butchers and you choose your dishes depending on what is available at the time.
- Young boar
- Juvenile boar
These are the four types and piglets will provide loin or chops and even a leg. The type of cooking suited is very quick and a session under the grill, on the barbecue or the oven will do it proud.
The youngster requires a little marinade although even here the loin may be roasted.
As the boar ages, the meat should always be marinated for longer and most chefs favour the moist heat method to ensure tenderness and succulence.
I guess one of my favourite ways of dealing with wild boar, unless I choose a Portuguese dish, is the Italian Cinghiale in Salsa Agrodolce which dates back from the time of the holy wars where Crusaders brought back knowledge of Middle Eastern culinary arts and the use of a sweet sour taste.
Interestingly this recipe exploits a contemporary mix of chocolate and sugar. With our newly discovered passion for chilli chocolate you can begin to see the possibilities of chocolate and boar meat.
First of all take around a kilogram of boar meat and rub it with peppercorns, bay leaves and fresh sage and lay in a deep bowl. The marinade is made by chopping carrot, celery and onions and sweating them in a pan with oil and butter until they brown slightly. Then add a bottle of white wine, dry preferably and bring the mixture to the boil for a couple of minutes. Cool it slightly then pour over the meat.
This mixture should then be left in a cool place or the fridge and turned a few times while it takes on the flavourings for 48 hours. Then roast in a metal dish with olive oil and a few cubes of pancetta. At this point brown slightly on a high heat on the hob, then add a ladle full of marinade and roast at 180 degrees. You can do this throughout the cooking process as the liquid evaporates. You are aiming for a roasting time of around 2 hours.
Meanwhile the sauce is made by heating a glass of wine to boiling and keeping it very warm. Put 4 heaped tablespoons of sugar in a pan and heat, stirring all the while until it just begins to brown and is at the beginning of the caramelisation stage. At this point pour the wine over the sugar and keep stirring; this should dissolve the sugar. Then add two tablespoons of good quality dark chocolate which has been grated and stir until the sauce is silky and creamy. Remove from the heat and strain some of the juices from the meat and add this to the sauce along with pine nuts, candied peel and some large raisins.
Serve the boar and either dowse with the sauce or serve in a dish alongside some green vegetables.
Happy hunting! To embrace traditional Italian cooking at its best, why not book cooking classes in Italy with Flavours holidays. Click here for more information.