In my novel Opposites Attack, our heroine Alyce slays a wild boar in self-defense, has a butcher cut it up and invites over a large group of students from the French school she’s attending for a boar daube (the French version of stew). It’s a turning point for her. While intrepid in many ways, her self-esteem as a cook and hostess was in dire need of bolstering. After this feast, she was that and a raconteur, too.
I made it for the first time for 21 people over two nights. I’d never eaten wild boar much less cooked it and it came out pretty dang good. So go ahead, gather up your pluck and give it a go.
HEADS UP: ALLOW AT LEAST THREE DAYS FROM THE TIME YOU GET THE MEAT TO SERVING IT. FOUR IS EVEN BETTER.
Okay, where do you get wild boar? I was all set to hunt one down just to be authentic and get in touch with my wild frontier Alaskan childhood, especially when I learned there were hog hunts two hours from me in North Carolina. Wild hogs can cause as much, and more, destruction to vegetation as deer and can also attack you. Have fun YouTubing that one.
To hunt, you’ll need a license and know all the rules about when, where and how in your area. There are fascinating accoutrements you can buy, like Sassy Sow Juice from Hog Heaven Outfitters: “boar pee collected at the peak of the esturs (sic) stage.”
You know what? For $250, an entire day, and maybe no boar, just send me the T-shirt. Plus, as one gourmet pointed out to me, even if I did bag one, it could have diseases like E-coli, salmonella and hepatitis E. Yes, E. You need to get it through a USDA inspected route.
“Try the Internet,” he said.
I found lots of companies in America catering to exotic tastes in food. Exoticmeatsandmore.com even has kangaroo and camel. I went with Dartagnan.com out of Newark, NJ, when I learned it was owned by a French woman, Ariane Daguin (think the name of the company was a tip off?), watched some of her videos and liked her and her site. She has lots of recipes, a top-flight crew and only uses the best quality products. D’artagnan also has truffles and truffle products, wild mushrooms, demi-glace, ready-to-use chestnuts, caviar and more.
According to a D’artagnan representative, their boars are “humanely cage-trapped” in Texas and processed like any domesticated hog would be in USDA-inspected facilities. Wild boar is technically called “feral swine” as the breeds are indistinct (a mix of escaped domesticated hogs and European boar stock brought to the U.S. for hunting).
D’artagnan sells wild boar in nine different forms; their stew meat in 5 pound orders, fresh or frozen. I bought two frozen (10 lbs) for the two dinner parties. I had planned on 14 people the first night (using a 5-quart Dutch oven), 8 the next (4-quart). I’m glad someone dropped out at the last minute the first night. There was barely enough. There was plenty for doggie bags the second night, and people did want leftovers. Or they were just being polite.
From past experience, if you must have fresh meat, have it delivered the next morning, not afternoon, especially if it’s summer or you live in a warm climate. The frozen was fine, and it was less costly. True, I had nothing to compare it to, but the end result was superb.
The meat arrived on a Wednesday afternoon in Styrofoam boxes with three reusable freezer bags inside. Very nice presentation. I couldn’t resist trying their white truffle butter and the black version, too.
I put the bags of boar in a big pot in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and forced myself not to dig into the butter.
NEXT: Marinating the meat
PART THREE: Cooking-round one