How To Make Ultra-Tender Wild Boar Stew

How To Make Ultra-Tender Wild Boar Stew

My grandfather was an eater of many meats – even possum — but he did not care for the texture of wild boar. His recipe for wild boar stew was simple: cook the boar with various vegetables, then “throw the meat in the garbage and keep the broth.” It is worth noting that he was not exactly the cook of the family, but the fact remains that feral pig can be quite tough if not cooked with care.

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Luckily, an immersion circulator is the most careful cooking appliance around, and you can sous vide your way to a stew that contains both rich, hearty, tender meat and a flavorful, heart-warming broth. (If seems a little warm out for stew, know that this meat, when shredded, also makes an excellent taco filling, and tacos know no season.)

Similar to our sous-vide chilli, this is an overnight project and — like most stews and sauces — this stuff gets better if you let it sit for a day after cooking is complete. That may seem like torture, but the flavour melding that happens in that bag is well worth the wait. To make it yourself, you will need:

  • 900g of wild boar stew meat, cut into cubes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 small onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 sweet Italian peppers, diced

  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/2 a cup of red wine

  • 2 canned chiles in adobo sauce (By that I mean two of the chiles in the can, not two cans.)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme

  • 5 sprigs of fresh oregano

  • 5 sprigs of fresh marjoram

  • 1 big sprig of rosemary

  • 1 sprig of tarragon

  • 1 bay leaf

If your meat is frozen (mine was), let it thaw completely in the fridge. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the onions and peppers over medium-high heat until they are soft and well browned. The darker the vegetables, the more umami they will add to the dish, but be careful not to burn them. Add the garlic, and cook until it is fragrant and golden (about two minutes). Stir the tomato paste into the vegetables and cook for a couple more minutes, until the paste turns a dark brick red.

Transfer the vegetables to a three-litre freezer bag, and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping all the lovely little browned bits left behind by the veggies. Let that reduce for a couple of minutes, then pour it in the bag as well. Season the meat with salt and pepper, and add it along with all remaining ingredients to the bag. You can tie the herbs into a little bouquet garni with some twine if you like, unless you enjoy fishing out individual twigs, which is what I ended up doing, because I forgot to tie up my herbs.

Get that bag into a 60-degree sous-vide water bath, using the displacement method to remove the air and help the contents stay submerged. (You can also use a vacuum bag if you want, but I didn’t find that to be necessary with this recipe, and vacuum bags are kind of expensive.)

Let that crazy porcine hang out for between eight and 12 hours. I found the meat had just a touch more chew than I like at eight, but it was still much more tender than most other stewed meat I’ve eaten. Ten is pretty much perfect, but I slept through my alarm so didn’t take this batch out until the 12-hour mark. Luckily, that extra two hours did nothing to change the flavour or texture.

Now, you could eat this meat straight out of the bag, and it would be fine, but that’s all it would be. When I first tasted wild boar after removing it from its little hot tub, I was disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as tender as I had thought it would be, and the flavour didn’t blow me away. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure it was good enough to tell you about. I chilled it in an ice bath and — somewhat morosely — put it in the fridge.

The next day, I tried it again and found (with great relief) that the period of chilly rest had greatly improved both the texture and flavour of the meat, and I happily ate it throughout the long weekend. As mentioned, the easily shredded meat doubles as a superb taco filling or rice bowl topper. Though I can’t say with 100% certainty my grandfather would have loved it, I’m pretty sure he would have. I know he would have at least enjoyed it more than possum, which only earned a “not too bad.”

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