By now, the fact that I’ve got a nerdy side shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you.
Things that should have tipped you off:
1- I have a website.
2- I take pictures of my food at restaurants.
3- I’ve made my own sous vide machine.
But just in case that isn’t convincing enough, here is another one to add to your list: I love(d) the show LOST.
So, you can imagine how excited I was when two of my favorite things, cooking for my friends and LOST, came together on the same night. The series finale fell on a Sunday, and I decided that I was going to make the most of it. And yeah, I started planning a themed menu.
If you’ve never watched the show, you might not get this. But if you have, I think you will totally understand. If you were planning a menu for a LOST finale party, what would you cook? What is the single biggest food that comes to mind that the survivors ate on the island?
If you guessed Dharma labeled canned goods, you are probably right. However, given the recent shortage of Dharma brand food at Kroger these days, I went for obvious choice number 2:
I’m admittedly inexperienced with boar. In fact, I think that the only time I’ve eaten it before was in a sausage, which isn’t the best way to get a taste for the pure flavor of the meat. But as soon as the thought occurred to me (at 2 AM one night when I couldn’t sleep) I knew that I was going all-in with this plan. I was cooking wild boar, come hell or high water.
Thankfully, I found the folks over at Broken Arrow Ranch, an online provisioner of free-range venison, antelope, and wild boar meat. I knew that I would be cooking for about 10-12 people, and was immediately drawn to their 6 lb bone-in wild boar leg.
Of course, while I’m here, I might as well look around, right? Oh crap…they have boar belly. Yes please. And why not thrown in some boar ground for chili? You only live once.
10 lbs of boar and $40 in overnight shipping charges later, my meat is en route. I rush home early from work the next day.
BTW…have you ever had to tell your boss that you have to duck out early because you have 10 lbs of boar meat potentially thawing on your doorstep? No? It’s kind of embarrassing.
Quite a spread huh?
As soon as I saw the boar leg online, I knew that I was going to break out the ole Weber kettle and get my BBQ on. I wanted to use my fall-back mustard/vinegar BBQ sauce, but I thought it would be keeping with the LOST theme to also put together a Hawaiian BBQ as well. But eating two whole BBQ sandwiches is a tall order for most people. The solution? Pulled Wild Boar Sliders.
Recipe: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sliders w/ “Island BBQ Sauce”
1 bone-in wild boar leg (mine was 6 lbs
BBQ rub of your choice
1 lbs bacon
1 gallon water
1 cup of Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons of cracked black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
For Island BBQ sauce: (I didn’t measure this out exactly, so feel free to adjust according to taste)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (low sodium is recommended unless you like your sauce REALLY salty)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
Before you do anything, you need to make sure you have allotted enough time to do this properly. Though they share many similarities with their domesticated cousins, if you treat this exactly like your run of the mill pork, it probably won’t work out as well as you want.
The biggest difference between boar and pork is the fat content. Boar is much leaner, the meat is darker, and the grains are tighter. This means you have to be much more mindful of how it is prepared, as it has a tendency to dry out much faster than pork. But the trade off is that the flavor is stronger…specifically, it is nuttier and the more intense than standard pork.
Often times when I smoke a pork butt, I don’t bother with brining or injecting the meat; the excess fat usually provides more than enough moisture, though I’ll sometimes inject a marinade for a flavor boost. However, I chose to both brine AND inject this boar leg, and on my next go-round I’ll probably go even further over the top. When it comes to steps to ensure the moistness of the meat, you really can’t overdo it with boar.
The first thing that you want to do is trim the excess fat (of which there isn’t that much). That seems counterintuitive after what I just said, but the kind of excess fat on boar meat isn’t like the extra fat on pork. It doesn’t add very much moisture and can significantly contribute to a gamey taste that some may not like.
Next, combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a stock pot and bring to a low simmer. You don’t really need to boil this…just heat and mix until all of the salt and sugar have combined. Set aside to cool.
Once the brine is cooled, submerge the boar leg in the brine and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. If I’d had the time, I would have brined this for at least 2 days.
Remove from the brine and inject your marinade throughout the meat. Cover the meat in your rub and refrigerate for another 12 hours.
Set up your grill/smoker for indirect heat. Feel free to use whatever kind of wood chips that you want. On this day, I used a mix of apple and Jack Daniels chips, and it gave a great smoke flavor.
Watching your temperature is extremely important. You want to keep it between 200-230, and as low on that scale as you can get. If things get too hot, this can start drying out quickly, which you obviously don’t want.
There are a few more moisture retaining steps that I don’t usually bother with for pork. Drape the boar with the strips of bacon. This isn’t so much for the flavor as it is for the extra fat drippings to help keep the meat moist. Next, and this is a step that I waited too long to take, you want to wrap the boar in foil.
Yes, yes…I know. But what of the bark? The glorious crispy bark?
Well, I ask you: What good is a nice bark if the meat is dried out? It is a sacrifice that I’d recommend that you make. Unfortunately, I waited until the last 3 hours of smoking to do it. My recommendation: after the meat hits 140 degrees, wrap it in foil. The smoke doesn’t really penetrate after that point anyway, so just try to keep as much moisture as you can.
Smoke the meat for 1.5-2 hours per pound. Mine was on for about 11 hours. If you are working on a kettle setup like mine, make sure to turn the meat periodically so that one side isn’t facing the coals the whole time. Otherwise, it will be uneven.
While the boar smokes, mix the ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until it thickens.
Now comes the tricky part…when to take the meat off of the grill?
If you pull it too early (when it hits 180 degrees) it will still be moist, but won’t really pull the way you want it to. If you wait until 195 or so, you run a high risk of drying out the meat. You don’t have a wide margin for error here.
I pulled mine off right as it broke 191 degrees. The majority of the meat was moist enough, but it definitely had dry patches. If I had to do it over again, I would have pulled this off around 185 degrees and left it wrapped in foil. In theory, it would have come up 5-8 degrees, and would hold there. It is the sustained temperature north of 180 that you want, as that is when all of the collagen breaks down.
So, my untested theory of how to do this is to pull the meat at 185 degrees, keep it wrapped in foil and covered, and let it sit for an hour. It should pull beautifully.
Bad news guys…I’d been up since 6 AM working on this boar, took a mid-morning break to walk a mile for autism, and spent the rest of the afternoon sipping beers and tending to the grill. So, by the time everything was ready to serve I was completely exhausted and forgot to take any pictures of the actual sliders. Whoops.
As is always the case with my food, I think I was overly critical of the outcome. There were dry patches, and it pissed me off because I went so far out of my way to prevent it. Though they could have been stroking my ego, all of my friends thought I was crazy. They loved it, and didn’t leave a scrap behind.
I guess that says something, doesn’t it?
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