Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Invite a Boar to Dinner

A meal of boar sounds so exotic. So wild. So feral.

And, yes, that would be true if we were talking wild boar. But, in fact, a domestic boar is simply an intact male pig. As opposed to barrows, or castrated pigs. And, in case you're wondering, female pigs can be either gilts--never bred--or sows--those females that have had at least one litter.

Meet a boar. Photo courtesy of Dave Heafner

So, now that we've clarified that, on to the boar. Dave Heafner of Da-Le Ranch in Lake Elsinore and a longtime farmers market vendor is now selling boar meat from animals he and his family are raising. Since they're processing the boar at a custom facility, he's not allowed to sell individual pieces so he's selling them in packages of eighths, quarters, halves, and whole. A quarter, for instance is $6.75 a pound and generally runs between 25 and 35 pounds. Cuts can include neck bones, shoulder roast, shoulder steaks, pork chops, tenderloin, ribs, belly, leg roast, leg steaks, shank, foot, jowl, sometimes organs (if requested), and even sausage. Yes, that's a lot of meat -- but families have been known to get together and share orders.

Dave sent me some samples of chops that he cut up for his family and last week I prepared one simply indoors on my stovetop grill, accompanied by a savory apple pumpkin chutney, made with Jackie's Jams pumpkin butter, fresh sage leaves, and honey crisp apples from Smit Orchards.

This particular chop was about 11 ounces, so it was large enough for me to enjoy for two meals but some of the chops are smaller and suited for one portion. They come frozen, so defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before grilling. I just added salt and pepper to each side before putting it on the heat.

Give it about five minutes on each side. While it's cooking you can prepare the chutney. You'll be sauteeing the sliced apples with sliced red onions and sage leaves in olive oil. Then add a couple of splashes of Madeira and a pinch of salt.

Pull the chop off the grill and let it rest. Then remove the apples from the heat and stir in a couple of tablespoons of the pumpkin butter, which includes the piquant spices you associate with a chutney, and mix it up.

I cut off the long strip of fat along the side but the rest of the fat within the chop seemingly melted away, leaving a tender, moist, sweet piece of meat with far more flavor than the plastic-wrapped chops you'll find in the supermarket. The apples, onions, and pumpkin butter add an earthy, tangy sweetness that's intensified with the Madeira. It's truly a cozy fall meal, even better served with bitter sauteed greens like Swiss chard or kale.

Grilled Boar Chops with Apple Pumpkin Chutney
Printable version
Serves 2

Typically, chutney is a mix of fruit with spices and herbs. And that's what you'll find here, except that since the pumpkin butter already is filled with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, there's no need to add any more spices. I added common sage from my garden to give some warm pungency. Plus, sage is known for aiding in the digestion of fatty foods and is the perfect--and traditional--accompaniment to pork.

2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
2/3 cup red onions, sliced
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
A couple of splashes of Madeira
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons Jackie's Jams Pumpkin Butter

1. Oil the grill and heat to high. Season the chops with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook about five minutes on each side for medium doneness.

2. Heat olive oil in a saute pan and cook the onions at medium heat until they just turn brown. Add the apple slices and sage and cook for five minutes.

3. As the apples soften, add a couple of splashes of Madeira and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat to medium high and continue cooking until the apples start to brown. Add a tad more liquid if the mixture dries out. You want the liquid to just evaporate when done.

4. Remove the chops from the heat and let rest. Remove the apple mixture from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin butter. Plate the chops and serve with the chutney.

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