Garden & Gun

HIGH ON THE HOG

IN AT LEAST ONE RESPECT, IT’S A PITY WE AREN’T FRENCH. If we were, few would sneer, or snort, or wrinkle their noses and push back from the table when presented with a serving of rich, cognac-colored . But place a crock of wild-hog stew on most American tables and that grating sound you hear might be chair legs scraping hardwood. ¶ That’s changing, and in ways that should delight hunters, cooks, and others who have embarked on this most postmodern of culinary journeys: the path to loving the wild hog. That feral hogs are an overpopulated blight on the South and beyond is undisputed. That they have an emerging place in both restaurant and home kitchens is an increasingly accepted truth. Rich and robust, wild hog meat can span the flavor spectrum, from sweet to earthy, as the animals tend to take on the terroir of their environs, be they acorn-rich hardwood ridges and bottoms or cornfields bordered by wild swamp. And the fact that they root up and wreck both wild and cultivated landscapes puts them at odds with those trying to conserve fragile wetlands and plots of heritage vegetables alike. ¶ “They are a morally unambiguous animal to hunt, and I love hunting for them just about anywhere,” says Jesse Griffiths, an Austin, Texas, chef whose hunting and butchering classes—and cookbooks, including his forthcoming Book—have changed many minds about wild game. “They are invasive and destructive, and by hunting wild hogs, you feel that you are accomplishing an ecologically good deed. And they’re actually delicious. But there is so much misinformation and myth about cooking wild hogs.” ¶ And therein lies the problem: A wild hog comes with only two hams, but a lot of buts. But they’re tough. But they’re gamy. But they’re hard to cook. ¶ These five chefs, and their five recipes, should help do away with those conjunctional interjections. Their inspired dishes elevate the fulsome elegance of wild-hog meat while tamping down the uncultivated aspects that have saddled it with a bad rap. And they should inspire you to give wild hog a try, if only on a plate. Butcher shops and meat purveyors such as the Ingram, Texas–based Broken Arrow Ranch and the renowned D’Artagnan are good starting places. ¶ “What’s fun about these big meats is that they give you so much room to move,” says chef Matt Bolus, of the 404 Kitchen in Nashville. “They handle plenty of pepper heat and strong accoutrements like mustards. You

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