You may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but you can certainly sauté it with a string of pearls–pearl onions, that is. We’re not browning the pig meat in this wild pig soup recipe, because the caramelized onions add so much other flavor we don’t need the browning/enriching caramelization of the meat too. And this way the meat stays moister. The other interesting thing about this recipe is that it’s basically Italian, but there’s no tomato. It makes for a different, in-your-face flavor than the usual tomato-based sauces of southern Italy that we are so familiar with. One other note: the best tasting pigs are smaller. One reason why John and I don’t go for the big tuskers much. It only takes a few minutes to take that trophy photo, but eating season lasts a long time.
FYI: If you have no wild pig in your freezer, lean commercial pig or wild turkey will work well, too. No reason not to try this lovely winter treat.
The Pearl Piggy
Yields: about 9 cups/2 quarts plus 1 cup
- 1½ pounds wild pig meat
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 baggies frozen pearl onions, thawed & drained (14.4 ounces each)
- 2 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons dried leaf basil
- 2 teaspoons whole fennel, ground in spice or coffee-grinder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoon BTB reduced sodium Roast Chicken Base
- 4 cups cold water
- Red pepper flakes
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Dice the wild pig meat, and wrap in paper towels to dry it a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 3½-5 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When it gets hot, sauté the pearl onions until they get nicely browned, then add the mushrooms, garlic, basil, ground fennel, salt and pepper. Stir it all together.
- Add the chopped pig meat, and stir it into the pearl onion/mixture. The meat will cook gently among the pearl onions and spices rather than brown. When the meat is about half cooked (it will turn whiter), add the chicken base and water, and raise the heat to high until the pot comes to a low boil. Lower the heat so the stew simmers slowly, then cover and simmer about 30 minutes.
- Serve hot, with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and a tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan cheese on each serving.
PS: This recipe is from my new cookbook The Wild Bowl:100 soups, stews and chilies for wild game. Half the book is dedicated to venison recipes, with the other half divided into wild bird recipes, waterfowl recipes, bear recipes, wild turkey recipes and, of course, wild pig recipes. Is your favorite wild game recipe a chili? There are at least 24 wild game chilies in The Wild Bowl, plus some soups and stews that aren’t labeled ‘chilies’ but have a definite chili bite.
If you don’t have an electronic scale in your kitchen, there’s an easy way to ‘weigh’ your meat. Two cups of chopped meat is about 1 pound. So for this recipe, that calls for 1 ½ pounds of wild pig, 3 cups is close enough.
That photo you clicked on to open this recipe? Doesn’t the meat look luscious? There’s a reason. Usually when you make soups, you brown the meat. In this one, I call for browning the onions, not to the point of burning, but browned. On more than one side. That gives you the sweet caramelized taste the dish needs, while leaving the meat as moist as you can. Commercial meat wouldn’t need this, but wild pig is pretty lean, and if you use wild turkey instead, even leaner.
I posted this photo earlier on the Pozole post, but I thought I’d tell you the story behind it.
One year I wanted a really young pig to put on my water smoker. John was after a medium sized pig so I paired up with my friend Sam Mann, and we spent several evenings together, trying to catch a dumb young pig. The locals said, ‘Just shoot the Mama and the babies will hang around.’ Well, we did, and they didn’t. In fact we began to think the pigs were onto us, having shot one Mama, her four little pigs—two on each side of the corn feeder—zipped into the cover. The ones on the right, zipped left. The ones on the left zipped right. Sam and I were left stunned at the speed of their exit. even with the guns pointed in the right direction, not a chance at a shot. Then not 10 seconds later, the 2 that had zipped left zipped back across the opening as, at the same second, the two that had zipped right crossed back to the left. Like a silent movie at warp speed. We were done, Sam and I, cracked up, laughing, done for the night. Unloaded our guns, picked up Mama and headed back to the ranch for a good stiff drink. But you’ll notice there is a quite small pig on top of that pile of eating pigs. That one went on the water smoker and was incredible.
PS Sam is an avid hunter, just like her brother Richard Mann who’s a very knowledgeable gun writer. (Comes from being a railroad cop and an MP.) Check out his blog https://empty-cases.com/blog/