Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Boar and Porcupine..but not in the same pot.

It started raining again the night before last and as P says (and he's usually right),"Once it starts it doesn't stop." So while the rest of my US Eastern seaboard friends are having fun shoveling their walks and sledding on their Fleixible Flyers, I'm looking at the fog and wondering when I can do laundry again and listening to the drop, drop, drop of the rain off the roof.
Peter, of course, has a new mission...to get that porcupine in the garden. To be honest, I don't think there's anything left for the poor animal to eat since it's eaten all of the winter vegetables. P was talking to a guy who walks up our road every day and the guy said that the people higher up the mountain are having a terrible time with the porcospini. They get into the potato field and eat everything. The Casentino potatoes are a specialty and when P plants our potatoes I'm right with him on capturing the beast. I don't want to lose our little plot of potatoes. But how many porcupines are there? P is now devising a trap along the lines of two chambers of netting. A larger chamber for the animal to enter into and a smaller chamber where there is bait. He's figuring once the animal is in the smaller chamber of netting it won't be able to back out because it's spines will get caught. This is what keeps him up at night. He actually mentioned eating it in a stew if he manages to bag it. No thanks.
Now, onto other beasts. Yesterday was an easy lunch of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Who can ask for more? Pasta, bacon and eggs, and cheese. Today will be leftover cinghiale ragu'. I just want to eat a salad. I feel the need for green. Lunch is the centerpiece of the day but sometimes I just want to glide past that centerpiece. On Friday night P brought up two bags of wild boar (from that wonderful humming freezer in the cellar) that our neighbor Purgatorio got for us in November. I marinated two large pieces in a substantial amount or red wine (to cut down on that gamey taste), chopped onion, carrot, celery and a few bay leaves. In the morning I was all set up to cut it into small pieces but there was a pretty thick bone in the larger piece which called for bringing out the meat cleaver and P's muscle. Little shards of boar bone flew around for a few seconds and then I washed it all and selected pieces for the cinghiale in agrodolce that I was cooking that morning and the boneless pieces for the ragu the next day. Boar meat isn't pink or pretty like the antiseptic packages of beef or pork we get in the market. It's dramatically dark red and purple and to be honest, it has a bit of a strong smell It also leaves an oily residue on your fingers, even the lean pieces.
"Agrodolce" means sour and sweet. Sometimes you might see it written as dolceforte, or sweet and strong. Of course, I started wondering where this preparation came from and I did a little research. It dates back to the time of The Crusades when the knights returned from the Holy Land influenced by the aristocratic Middle Eastern traditions which included using sugar as a kind of sweet salt. The vinegar was used as a way to preserve the meat. In my preparation, after the meat cooks a good three hours in red wine, I heated some sugar, bitter cocoa powder and vinegar and added it to the pot along with pine nuts and raisins. There is just enough of the chocolate flavor to give it a mystery and just enough of the vinegar to keep you guessing. Very nice. This is a very old recipe in Tuscan cuisine and you don't see it around much any more.
Unlike the ragu' I made the next day with the remaining meat. This is something you'll see on almost every menu in every trattoria in Tuscany. Because this is a very hearty sauce it's traditionally served with a noodle that can handle all that brute strength, pappardelle. To lighten up the whole experience I made something called a lemon pudding cake for dessert. I'd found the recipe on the internet and it looked fast and easy. I'm still wondering how it was supposed to come out. What I got at the end wasn't really pudding and not really cake either. But it was lemony and that's what I was shooting for.
So, that's it for the wild boar in the freezer this year. We'll have to put our order in for more when the boar hunting season starts again on November 1. God knows there are enough of them to go around for everybody. I just hope I don't run into one in the garden. I'll take the porcospino any day.


  1. You'll have to let us know about the 'spino. Sound like an interesting predicament it would get into w/ P's trap! Can't help spotting Lucy in so many of the pictures very patiently looking longingly at whatever feast you've laid out. She seems to be so optimistic that somehow, some way, some of that fantastic cooking will come her way. For Keyl and me, it's like "where's waldo" -- "Looky for Lucy" xxoo

  2. That pasta looks delicious.. I have had cinghiale In Tuscany and you are right .. it is rich & hearty .. but very good .. I love the Pappardelle pasta too ... one of my favorite ..
    Well I guess snow might be better than rain .. not sure .. but it does look pretty here and hopefully it will melt soon !
    I love your description of agrodolce & the history behind it .. you not only cook fabulous old world Tuscan meals but you find out the" WHY & WHERE" of it ! LOVE IT !!!