Wild boar – cinghiale - is a staple on Tuscan tables and restaurant menus, especially during the hunting season of fall and winter.
Those who live in the Italian countryside can easily buy wild boar meat from local farmers and hunters. Tuscan butchers also sell it, never skinning the meat as its grey fur is proof it is not an ordinary pig! Alas, the rest of us must be more creative in sourcing this delicacy. For Americans, wild boar meat may be found in gourmet food stores or chains such as Whole Foods (though it’s usually frozen). Fresh wild boar meat may also be ordered through websites such as Broken Arrow Ranch, a Texas purveyor of exotic meats and game (prices start at $9.00 per lb.).
This recipe is one of our favorites; the result is Tuscan comfort food at its best!
Cinghiale alla Maremmana in Umido
Cooking time: 20 min. preparation, 8 hrs. to marinate, 2 hrs. – 2 hrs. 15 min to cook. Serves four.
- 2 pounds wild boar meat, cut into stew-sized pieces
- 1 bottle red wine minus 1 glass
- 2 Tbsp. vinegar
- 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 onion, chopped into big pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 bay leaves
- Juniper berries, whole (to taste); approx. 1 Tbsp.
- Red chili pepper flakes (to taste); approx. 1-2 tsp.
- Olive oil, 5 Tbsp.
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) plain tomato sauce or tomato puree
Prepare the marinade with the wine, vinegar, chopped vegetables, garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries and chili flakes. Pour marinade over the boar meat, stir to coat, and marinate, covered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the meat and vegetables, reserving the liquid. Chop the vegetables into smaller pieces and sauté them in 5 Tbsp. olive oil for several minutes, preferably in an enameled, cast iron casserole or any heavy stew pot.
Now add the wild boar meat to the pot, salt and pepper it, and brown the meat with the oil and vegetables. Add one soup spoon of the wine; let it evaporate at high flame. Now add the reserved marinade liquid, the tomato sauce or puree and bring to a boil; reduce the flame to very low, cover and let simmer for approx. 2 hours, stirring from time to time. If the sauce becomes too dense, add a few spoons of wine, perhaps diluted with a few drops of hot water. The meat should be melt-in-your-mouth tender when done.
Delicious with roast potatoes, Tuscan bread and Fagioli all Uccelletto (white beans).