Answers from the Kountry Butcher, Elk Grove, CA
Whether new to the sport or carrying on a family tradition how a hunter treats his game before it gets to the butcher can ultimately determine the quality of what ends up in the ice box and on the plate. We at Cooking Wild thought who best to ask but the butcher himself about how to avoid mistakes and make the right decisions with a freshly killed wild boar.
Cooking Wild: What are your dos and don’ts with a wild pig? What can you do to assure the best yield from your kill?
Kountry Butcher: Gut and skin the animal immediately (less than one hour after the kill). Keep the animal clean by wrapping it in a cloth bag, not plastic or burlap. Do not use an ice chest or ice — only use dry ice! You can stick one block of dry ice in the chest cavity and roll the animal up in cloth-type wrapping, such as a sleeping bag, so it keeps the animal dry and cool. Do not piece out your animal. The more cuts you make, the more you will lose when the butcher has to cut it. Whole animals yield the best.
CW: Regarding hair: What don’t you want? None? A little? What else do you not want to see on the wild pig?
KB: Your animal should be as clean as possible, with no hide or hair. It shouldn’t have its feet or head either, and don’t forget to take out the throat (otherwise it will rot the neck). Also, the rectum needs to be removed so the bladder doesn’t explode when the animal goes across the meat saw. This keeps urine off your meat.
CW: Should you bleed the wild pig? How important is this process, and should it be immediate?
KB: This should always be done immediately. The best method is cutting the throat as close to the head as possible.
CW: If you’re in field for a day, how should the wild pig be kept?
KB: This depends on temperature. If the daytime high is lower than 60 degrees and you have access to a shady area, hang the animal in the shade covered in a cloth-type game bag. Keeping it dry, cool and clean is the key. Wet, moist ice chests grow mold and bacteria. Again, dry ice is best. Stop at a store and put a block of dry ice in an ice chest on your way out of town when hunting in warmer months. Even if you don’t get an animal, it’s a small expense.
CW: Do you have advice for the hunter regarding field dressing the pig?
KB: Don’t cut the tendons when skinning your animal; this is how butchers hang them. Hang the animal to skin it so you keep it as clean as possible. Try to pull the hide as much as possible instead, making fewer cuts with your knife. (By the way, hogs don’t pull well, but all other animals pull really easily, such as deer, elk, antelope, etc.
CW: Which has the better meat: young or old hogs?
KB: Young, non-pregnant females are best. CW: What is the perfect size for a wild pig?
KB: A 150-lb. live-weight wild hog is best, or those having a 60- to 80-lb. carcass weight
CW: What are your tips for making the meat taste less gamey?
KB: Shoot a young female that has been eating well. You can usually find them near fresh crops.
CW: If cost is no object, what is the best way to utilize a 100-lb pig?
KB: This depends on your individual taste buds and the type of hog you have (male, female, young, old). If it’s an old boar we suggest all sausage. If it’s a young female you can try chops, steaks, hams and sausage. Pepper Sticks are the No. 1 item hunters order at our shop.
Cooking Wild Magazine, Spring 2010