For us in the deep South the 4th of July typically requires some sort of hog meat, and wild hogs work very well in providing it.
Sometimes I have gone a little exotic with whole roast wild boar’s head which provided both sliced meat and Brunswick stew, while on other occasions I have only char-broiled a side of ribs.
For those who do not know what Brunswick stew is, this is a meat-based stew which employs a variety of game meats to which is added tomatoes, corn and perhaps other vegetables. In my part of Georgia this traditionally started with a boiled hog’s head along with deer meat, raccoon, squirrel or whatever wild-game meats might be available.
Commercial Brunswick stew is now mostly made of chicken, which is something of a travesty. In coastal South Carolina snapping turtle was a common additive and this is truer to the original nature of Brunswick stew. One definition I read called this dish, “a meaty stew made from the eatable parts of the head of a hog.” On reading this to Thresa, my late wife, she quickly informed me that there were no eatable parts on the head of a hog.
Well there are. A roast boar’s head was a part of the English cooking tradition and gave rise to many Boar’s Head taverns and even a line of cured meats by that name.
A boar’s head also is part of the annual Christmas feast in Oxford, England, and is brought out with ceremony and its own song.
The head should be boiled and the hide scraped prior to cooking. Unfortunately, my head was previously frozen and the scraping was not successful as boiling did not loosen the hair. I skinned it and then roasted the head giving the results seen. The leaner portions of meat from the neck and head along with some roasted deer provided the meat base for the Brunswick stew to which was added tomatoes, corn and butter beans.
Both Brunswick, Georgia, and Brunswick County, Virginia, strongly assert that they originated Brunswick stew.
Like the bar-b-que that this dish often accompanies, it is very difficult to find a restaurant that does true justice to both.
The meat from wild porkers is usually best when the animal weighs about 200 pounds, has been feeding on crops or acorns and is quickly cleaned, cooled and processed.
Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning wild hogs or working with the meat. This is also a good policy when cleaning with any wild game animals or working with fresh meat.