Wild Boar weekend

The Slow Food Johannesburg Wild Boar weekend was the culmination of a food journey begun 8 months earlier to follow 2 piglets, from a herd of free range European wild boars, from birth to slaughter.

Eighteen Slow Fooders attended the Wild Boar weekend at the end of November. It should ideally have been held in winter, but because of the World Cup, we decided to delay the event.

On the Wednesday prior to the weekend, 6 of us went to see the 2 adolescent boars being shot, skinned and gutted. The male and female boars were both shot cleanly and quickly while they were grazing with their fellow boars. Their throats were cut and they were then washed. Next, they were hung from tree next to the cold room while they were skinned and gutted. The carcasses were then hung for 4 days. We ended up with 2 carcasses ( +/- 40kg)  that were available for our group to butcher and eat.

Robyn Campbell who attended the weekend was asked to write up the process of carving up the boar:

Spending a Saturday morning in a fridge full of carcasses may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for the Slow Fooder’s that chose to follow a litter of European Wild Boar from birth to the cold room, this was the food journey come full circle.

Two groups were designated to ‘break-down’ the carcasses of the two boars, which was done under the instruction of Elsabe, a professional butcher. Elsabe explained the prime cuts to us, and showed us how to separate them. We each took turns to dismember the carcass, starting with the fillet, and ending with the vertebrae , which we marinated and later braaied as an entree.

In keeping with the ethos of Slow Food, it was a hands-on, nose-to-tail exercise.  Nothing was wasted. Meat scraps and fat were set aside for use later in sausage making; bones were scraped clean and reserved for stocks; the head was saved for making brawn.

These days, it’s rare to have an opportunity to interact so intimately with one’s meat. Splicing through sinews, and sawing through bones, the visceral nature of the work reminded us that 72-hours earlier, this had been a living creature, rootling freely in the veld for food.

For most Slow Fooders, this was their first experience of ‘proper’ butchery, and proved to be profound on a number of levels.

As our sow’s anatomy diminished and dinner began to take shape, our understanding, and respect for the animal increased. We learned which parts of the animal work hardest and therefore deliver the best flavour. We discussed at length the best way season and cook each cut, especially those we’d normally never eat, or that we usually throw away. Seeing the whole animal before us changed the eating habits of many. With culinary creativity, every part of our sow could be made delicious, and deserved to be eaten.

Later, a few of us made the trimmings and tougher cuts into sausages, free from the usual chemicals and fillers that constitute most mass-produced bangers or boerewors. We earned our supper and our breakfast, and we were privileged to do so.

We cooked a wide variety of meat cuts for Saturday’s supper, with the aim of allowing everyone to taste the differences between the leg, ribs, belly, fillet, rump, backstrap, and neck cuts. Being free range, the meat was succulent and well-marbled with a delicate pork flavour, and a hint of lamb.

For breakfast on Sunday, we cooked the sausages made the previous day, and sautéed the boar’s liver, kidneys and heart. The remaining meat was divided up and taken home by those who attended the weekend.

Slow Food Johannesburg would like to thank Elsabe, Louis and the team at the Wild Boar Lodge for being such gracious and accommodating hosts. And thanks to all the Slow Food members who contributed food, drink and their cooking skills in order to make the weekend so memorable.

This was an amazing educational and bonding experience for all who attended and is one that we would like to repeat.

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