Around the end of August and the beginning of September, if you live near the garrigue (scrubland) or woodlands in Provence, you can hear the pop, pop, popping of gunfire, heralding in the shooting season. Near us in the Alpilles there are signs to beware of the chasseurs. The day for shooting seems to fall on a Wednesday, I don’t know if this is for the whole of France or just Provence, but after they’ve gone the dogs get very excited sniffing around the abandoned make-shift hide-outs, ever hopeful of finding a discarded baguette.
Hunting is tightly regulated in France and you have to have a license and pass an exam which is part theory and part practical. It is evidently quite tough and tests the applicant on their knowledge of wildlife, biology, habitat, which animals are protected and which are not along with general rules and bylaws. The practical part of the exam accesses the individual’s ability to shoot.
Despite the English maintaining that the French like to shoot anything that moves., out of 648 species of birds and mammals that exist in France, only 64 species of birds and 24 of mammals can be hunted and hunting days are limited to certain days of the week.
One of the species the French certainly do and can hunt is sangliers, or wild boar. I’ve never come across one myself, but apparently if confronted by one, especially a female with young, you need to watch out as they can be quite ferocious and will attack if they feel provoked.
Friends who live in the Var, (further east above St Raphael) which is wooded and more hilly than around les Alpilles where we live, complain a lot about the wild boars, as they wreak havoc in their gardens, destroying their vines and vegetables and digging holes. However boars are very intelligent and a friend put an electric fence around his vegetable field and after a few years the boars stopped bothering him, having learned that the fence would give them a shock.
Boars can also be a liability for people who own pools, because they cannot get out if they fall into the water. Someone I know came back to their house having been away for a while to find a dead boar floating in their pool. Not a very nice home coming sight, not to speak of the expense of having to drain the pool! To avoid such a catastrophe, friends of mine built their pool with a sloping shallow end, so the boar can get out if it falls in. It works for Scotty dogs too!
I don’t know anybody who hunts, and killing animals is not my thing, but I was recently given a loin of boar by a friend whose partner goes hunting in the Ardèche. I asked her how to cook it and she said, “oh you know in the normal way, wine, vinegar, herbs, garlic, shallots……and make sure you marinade it over night…..”
So I did a little bit of researching in my various cookbooks to see what they had to say about it.
Jacques Médecin (whose life was as colourful as his recipes) in his Cuisine Niçoise, Recipes from a Mediterranean Kitchen tells you to make a marinade with 2 carrots, 2 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 200 – 300 ml olive oil, 6 pinches of thyme, 1 bay leaf 2 tsp black peppercons, 3 sprigs of parsley, 120ml grappa 500 ml red wine 120 ml vinegar for 1 haunch of wild boar. He says to cook the garlic, onion and sliced carrots in the olive oil and then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Let it cool down and then place the haunch in the marinade and leave in a cool place for at least 10 days but no longer than 20 days!
J.B Reboul, La Cuisinière Provencale, the bible of Provencal cooking, says to bring to a simmer 1 lire of good vinegar, one bottle of white wine and 3 litres of water then add a pinch of salt, some pepper corns, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, chopped onions and carrots and cook for 15 minutes. Then put it in a stoneware pot and when it has cooled down add the boar meat, but there’s no mention for how long it should marinade.
Stéphanie Deméry, step mother of my friend Regine Deméry gives a recipe for a red meat marinade in her book The Traditional Cuisine Provençal using 1 quart of white wine (quart?) 1 carrot, 1 onion, i bunch of celery, 2 cloves, 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf and a handful of peppercorns and advises to marinate the meat for at least 12 hours. This seems a bit more like it.
I decide to make up my own marinade following along the lines of the above and adding a few extra ingredients that I think will go well with a gamey piece of meat. Here it is.
- Loin of Wild Boar marinated in herbs and wine
- 1 kg rolled loin of Boar
- 250 ml of red wine
- 250 ml of red wind vinegar
- 1/2 onion peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 Bouquet garni of dried thyme, rosemary and bayleaf
- 7 peppercorns
- 5 juniper berries
- 3 shallots
- 3 cloves
- 2 strips of orange peel
- 150 gms mushrooms (wild ones if you have them)
Mix together all the marinade ingredients
Score the fat of the rolled loin with a sharp knife and cover with the marinade.
After 24 hours, take the meat out of the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Then heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large casserole dish and brown the meat on all sides. Then add the marinade with the onions and the carrots, herbs etc. and when it starts to simmer, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the pre-heated oven at 170°c.
Cook for 1 1/2 hours, then add the chopped mushrooms and cook for another 20 mins. Take out of the oven and serve.
The meat tasted very good, but the carrots took on the vinegary taste, so I would probably discard them after cooking. If you like a thicker gravy you could strain the marinade and make a roux with some butter and some flour to thicken it before pouring over the browned meat and putting it in the oven.
Let me know if you have cooked wild boar and what you did.
Here are some links for stories of boars that got away!