Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wild boar running free

Twenty to thirty years ago eating wild boar was considered as a luxury. The meat was rare and rather expensive. It was only available during the hunting season, from the beginning of October till the end of January. And you only had it on very special occasions. But times have changed and today you can get the meat all year round. That’s mainly due to the fact that the hunt is no longer limited to the above mentioned months. And for once the environmentalist and animal protection organizations don’t protest. Over the last years the number of wild boar has rapidly increased and in some regions the animals even disturb the ecological balance and become a menace to the population.

Some years ago we were having lunch on the terrace of a restaurant in the tiny village of Willers, in France just across the border with Belgium. Suddenly we heard a rustle in the nearby undergrowth, followed by a snorting noise. Luckily the undergrowth was fenced in because to our surprise the snout of a fierce wild board appeared from between the branches. The animal stared at us with nasty eyes and stamped with one of his short forepaws. When my friend ticked with his knife against his glass, thus producing a sharp, high-pitched noise, the wild boar snorted again, turned around and disappeared in the bushes.

When the waitress came to serve our meal we told her what had happened and asked whether the boar was the restaurant’s pet. She looked slightly alarmed. “No, of course not. Was he back?” she enquired. It turned out that the boar which was a wild one, had been terrorizing the village for weeks. One day it had walked into the village square where it had chased after a little Yorkshire terrier belonging to one of the villagers. The little dog had made a narrow escape and the boar had been back regularly looking for a new victim. Hunters had tried to track it down, but the animal had always managed to disappear in the woods before someone could take a shot at it.

To reduce the overpopulation organized hunting is authorized all year round. The ‘civet de marcassin’ is the most common type of boar meat available. The low fat meat is cut in chunks with a diameter of 5 to 7 cm. It’s stewed on a low heat for two to three hours until it is nice and tender. The name ‘marcassin’ is in fact wrongly used as a ‘marcassin’ is a baby boar, a piglet, while the ‘civet’ is from an adult animal. The little piglets look particularly cute with their striped coat, which makes it looks as if they were wearing pajamas

In an earlier post – When Miss Piggy goes walkabout – I’ve written about an old practice that consists of breeding piglets with a wild boar and a domestic pig, thus creating a ‘sanglochon’, a half-breed swine with an
 extremely tender and slightly gamy tasting meat. The ‘sanglochon’ piglets are the cutest, with either a striped bottom and pink top, or the other way round.

Last week we had ‘civet de marcassin’ twice: the first time at La Bleue Maison and the second time, on Sunday, my home made version. Although they tasted slightly different, they were both delicious. I’ll post the recipe of my home made version tomorrow, in case you’re interested.



Ken Broadhurst said...

Martine, can you buy boar meat in your butcher shops in Belgium? I'm never noticed it for sale here, except in saucissons.

ladybird said...

Ken, My regular village butcher doesn't carry wild boar meat on a regular basis, unless I order it three or four days in advance.
However, this time of year, you'll find it in all our supermarkets: Carrefour, GB, Delhaize ... It's always fresh yet vacuum packed. When I make a 'civet de marcassin', I buy the meat in the Ardennes, where the wild boars 'live'. Almost all butchers have it for sale and it is freshly vacuum prepacked. They are nolonger allowed to sell it 'in bulk' - for sanitary reasons. But the quality is great!

Carolyn said...

That wild boar wanted your lunch! I'm sure the wine would not have been good for him.

Dedene said...

The marcassin are so cute and so tasty! I've never seen it for sale here in the Loiret either. I've only had it in Alsace and in Sologne.

ladybird said...

Carolyn, I don't really know, but do you think wild boar eat pigeons? Because, if I remember well, that's what we were having. Personally, I think it was the wine it was after. After all, it was 'kinda wild'. :))

Dedene, No 'marcassin' in the Loiret? Have you checked your local supermarkets?

But I agree with you, the meat is so tasty and tender when it's cooked according to the rules.