Javelinas, or less affectionately stink pigs, as they are often called, are delicious. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Gamey, chewy, dry – just a few of the descriptors I heard about the Indiana whitetail I chased growing up. If you’ve ever had properly prepared Midwestern whitetail, you know first hand just how tasty they are when prepared correctly. “Prepared correctly…” Those are the operative words and typically the reason an animal gets a bad rap as table fare.
I’m suspicious when another hunter tells me a particular game animal is unfit for the table…and then immediately want to cook one myself. Ever heard that black bear are greasy and gross, or only good for grinding? Well I’m here to tell you, that ain’t the case folks. More times than not, the hunter or the cook, not the animal, is to blame.
“This is the best meal I’ve ever had” – my wife after her first bite of blackberry back strap from a young boar harvested in coastal Alaska in June.
I was able to apply a lot of rules and learnings I’ve followed from harvesting and processing other wild game, and I was excited to see how my this particular animal would taste as a final product. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the peccary, javelina, or skunk pig, and find out how to bring one to the table with style and flavor.
If it’s a red meat with very little fat, then you cook it low and slow to medium rare or rarer. Overcooking ungulates should be a lashable offense. If you want a piece of meat as tough and dry as leather, overcook a piece of deer or elk. If your red, wild meat is dry or chewy, that’s on you. The same goes for all other wild meat, including javelina.
Skinned out, the texture and color of javelina meat looks like the offspring of Bugs Bunny and Petunia Pig. In doing my research before the hunt, I discovered that javelina can be tough and chewy, not a recipe for cooking the day you get it home or high heat grilling. And, much like my experiences with bear and whitetail, I heard “grind” and “gross” quite a bit when soliciting input from experienced southwest hunters.
The first takeaway here is that you need to understand the animal you’re cooking, the cut your cooking, and match your preparation to the meat. The second, people can’t be trusted.
My Javelina Experience
I decided to go with a hind quarter roast for my first attempt. When I got the meat home, I washed and dried it thoroughly and then let it age in the fridge for four days. The day prior to prep I dropped the quarter in a marinade of my own concoction and let it sit for 24 hours. I wrapped and labeled the rest of the meat for the freezer.
I added some homemade chicken stock, rendered pig fat, water and various seasonings to a crockpot and let the roast cook on low, all day long.
The result? A roast as juicy and tender as any domestic cut of pork cooked the same way.
Admittedly, my wife said the cooking javelina “smelled like pee.” Her nose is weird. She smells all kinds of stuff that we don’t, because my girls and I loved it! They took the leftovers to school for lunch the next day. I even ate some reheated roast with fresh eggs and avocado for breakfast the next morning.
Preparation is usually the culprit when a meal underwhelms. However there are a few other things to which you have to pay attention in order to achieve ideal results in the kitchen.
This should go with out saying, but with all game meat, you have to get the animal opened up and the meat cooling as soon as possible, especially if hunting in hotter weather. Plus, you have to field dress it with attention to detail.
Do your best to keep dirt and hair off the meat and never let stomach bile or intestinal fluids touch the meat if you can help it. I’ve seen more deer ruined by the field-dresser cutting the stomach than by any other means.
If you do end up with bile on the meat, get it rinsed off immediately. My javelina’s notorious scent gland likewise required special attention in order to keep spoiling fluids off the meat.
The last thing is to get the meat cleaned, dried and on below 42 degrees as soon as possible.
Consider aging your meat. A javelina is probably a little small to age; by the time you cut off the rind there might not be much left to eat, but other animals benefit greatly from aging.
When I was living back in Indiana and the weather was cold enough, I’d hang a deer for a week or more in a barn. In instances when the weather wasn’t cooperative, I’ve quartered them and aged them in my fridge. My wife loved that. The results were the same – tender, delicious meat.
The next steps include correctly butchering, wrapping and packaging your meat for the freezer. I recommend wrapping everything in a layer of plastic wrap first and then freezer paper. Wrap it tight and keep air out.
Wrapped this way, I’ve enjoyed 2+ year old whitetail steaks that tasted as fresh as those that never saw the freezer and bear breakfast sausage even older. Things get lost at the bottom of the meat pile when you move as much as we have.
Care for and cook it right. And when a buddy tells you he has no use for his javelina this year, take the meat off his hands and never ever tell him how good it was.