From Field to Table: The Journey of a [Tasty] Feral Hog

When my 7mm Remington Magnum came down from its recoil, my first-ever feral hog was down, too. However, before I could bring the rifle back on target, the boar had struggled to its feet and made it into the palmetto-hardwood forest bounding the Gum Log Plantation food plot.

Though I would have to track ‘my’ hog into the forest, he had only made it some 15 yards before dropping in full-stride. Dragging the heavy boar back out into the open was a chore, and was accompanied by the unsettling sound of other feral hogs crashing into the brush around me.

I was just finishing with the photographs when Jacob, one of the Gum Log guides, arrived in his 4-wheel buggy.

Later, Jacob would also act as the initial meat processor by gutting, skinning, quartering and hanging my boar in the walk-in cooler.

I love hunting. So, taking my first feral hog gave me a huge amount of satisfaction. But, the successful harvest was only the first of many steps leading to delicious meals.

While driving home from far south Georgia towards my home in the northeast Georgia foothills, I contacted Drew Copeland owner of The Meat Shed in Eatonton, Georgia. Not only does Drew and his 12 or so employees process about 2000 whitetail deer each season, they also work up species as diverse as Pronghorn Antelope and alligators.

Drew obviously believes he is not busy enough by being one of the region’s best-utilized processors of wild game; he and his family have a storefront, The Meat Shed Specialty Meats from which they sell — you guessed it — specialty meats.

But, my phone call to Drew wasn’t to order specialty products, but to organize a hog drop, if you will. He told me that I should come to his storefront to deliver my cooler full of ice and quartered boar.

Approximately five hours later, I did just that. After helping me carry the cooler into the store, Drew asked for my instructions on how he should process my hog. I’m certain I looked like I felt – i.e. clueless – when I answered “You have any recommendations?” He did.

For hogs, he generally recommended focusing on sausages of various sorts. I chose link sausages with a 50/50 division of smoked bratwurst and jalapeño-cheese. I was particularly excited about the latter, being a good Texas boy who loves his jalapeños.

Drew said the processing should be completed in approximately 10 days, and that they would give me a call when it was ready for pickup.

At the time I was blissfully ignorant of the painstaking and customized preparation that would yield the mouthwatering sausages from my feral hog.

Here are some of the many steps through which Drew and his staff went:

The meat is carefully removed from each of the quarters,

…taking special care to remove excess fat and any connective tissue.

Once trimmed, the meat is sliced into small chunks ready for combination and grinding with additional fat.

The grinding also mixes the meat and fat, but hand mixing follows, thus assuring a uniform distribution of the hog meat and added fat. The hand mixing also acts to break up any clumps that might have formed during the grinding.

Once the sausage mixture is ready, it’s placed into one of two extruders – one for loose meat and . . .

…the other for links.

Each of the extruders uses pressure to force the meat through its inner workings, but the loose sausage filling is pushed by hand while the link extrusion involves a mechanical press.

The final product from each type of extrusion is packaged meat – whether loose . . .

…or in link form.

The unsealed packages are transferred out of the preparation room into another area where they’re placed into a machine that vacuum seals each sausage-filled package.

The Meat Shed staff finish their work by freezing the now-sealed packages and making a phone call to announce the happy news to their client.

As stated previously, I was most excited by the prospect of the jalapeño-cheese version. However, before I discuss how Frances (my wife) and I decided to enjoy these spicy little numbers, I need to reflect on the fact that the bratwurst were wonderful as well.

In fact, though we enjoyed the spicier sausages a bit more, all of our friends preferred the smoked bratwurst. Apparently, our friends weren’t breastfed on hot-as-hell chili and Tex-Mex. But, I digress.

Our next step was to grill some of the jalapeño-cheese links and taste-test to determine what side dishes would best accompany their flavor, texture, etc.

It took only a single bite to provide the answer; the best mixture of sides would be fried eggs and buttermilk biscuits. This Meat Shed creation was, at least for Frances and me, a stereotypical breakfast sausage.

We’ve actually never yet prepared them for breakfast, but rather several times as ‘breakfast-for-dinner’. But, whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner, the produce from my first-ever feral hog is not only feeding our friends and ourselves, but also providing memories of a hunt that started the whole wonderful chain ending at our table.

 

Mike Arnold writes about firearms and hunting at his blog Mike Arnold, Outdoor Writer.

A huge note of thanks goes to the owners and staff of Gum Log Plantation and Drew Copeland and all the wonderful staff at The Meat Shed, without whom this article would not have been possible!

All images courtesy Michael Arnold.

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    We are getting a lot of squeal out of the hogs lately here on ttag. And yes, that brinner looks good enough to eat.

    1. avatar Philthegardner says:

      Love organic pork. But I never shoot boars. I always go for the sows because they don’t stink and you have more meat options rather than just sausages. I for one love em smoked.

  2. avatar JR Pollock says:

    Looks delicious! You’re doing your part to tackle the feral hog problem, and getting a tasty bunch of meals.

    1. avatar Herb Allen says:

      Now there’s a complete breakfast! Supplies are unlimited.

  3. avatar GaPharmD says:

    The truth about sausage??

    1. avatar Ing says:

      …is that it’s delicious.

      If there were feral hogs where I live, I’d definitely be shooting them and sausagizing them.

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Yup. Same here!

  4. avatar Hooda Thunkett says:

    Just curious: what steps would you take to avoid brucellosis?

    http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/diseases-in-wildlife

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      It looks like the processors are wearing gloves during processing, and thoroughly cooking kills the bacteria…

  5. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    1) 7mm Rem Mag for a hog?! How far out was the shot, lol? Did the piggie lift off the ground and spin when the bullet hit? Yowzers.

    2) I see that the butchers remove “unwanted” fat and gristle, then add back some “extra fat” for the resulting sausage. If you’re going to live high on the hog, you may as well get all the taste you can into those links, I suppose. 🙂

    1. avatar Mark Martin says:

      When hunting wild hogs, you cannot use the larger the caliber, the better…..

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I found 8×57 170g RNSPs (@2720fps) knocked pigs sideways out to 200m.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I got a hold of a batch of 190 grain 8×57 years ago. Harsh from the bench in an as issued 98k. Never shot these at game. I imagine they would have done the job.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I Haz a Question,

      I had the same thought with regard to adding fat. Why not just use the fat that the hog already had? There seems to be plenty of it.

      Side note: I hate fat. I would want that sausage as lean as possible — not only WITHOUT added fat, also with as little natural fat as possible. For that reason I prefer turkey breakfast sausage and lean venison summer sausage.

      1. avatar Dani in WA says:

        I think it’s about creating an even distribution in the sausage.

      2. avatar Perry says:

        Boar fat contains the “gamey” boar taste. Domestic hogs have lots of extra fat, and they’ve been neutered so the fat isn’t tainted.

        I just returned from my first deer hunt. My nephew explained it to me.

    4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I Haz a Question,

      Regarding caliber, if I went out hunting for feral hogs, I would probably use a large caliber rifle. If I was confident that shots would be within 125 yards, I would want .45-70 Government, .450 Bushmaster, or .44 Magnum. If shots would be beyond that, I am thinking .30-06 with 180 grain soft-point bullets.

  6. avatar Nanashi says:

    They can stick sausage in plastic, but can they stick it in the hog’s own intestines?

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      Hog intestines are contaminated with fecal coliform?

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Geoff,

        I believe all hog meat is contaminated with all manner of bacteria and worms. The only safe answer is to cook it thoroughly.

  7. avatar Randy Arnold says:

    Great article. I am getting hungry just looking at the bratwurst.

  8. avatar Hoyden says:

    Hmmm, just North of Crisp County (Cordele), not too far from Bacon County (Alma) and Coffee County (Douglas), and you went through Bibb County (Macon). Breakfast capital of the Southeast.

  9. avatar Dude says:

    No need for gloves while skinning the hog?

    1. avatar RCC says:

      Dude
      In Australia between brucellosis and Q-fever (don’t think you have this in USA) plus various worms you would be crazy not to use gloves. Usually about 4 pairs in my pack and more in the vehicle.

  10. avatar Mark Webb says:

    Wild hog or feral hog, there is a difference.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    Big boars are only good for sausage. You really can’t get good chops from them.

  12. avatar NORDNEG says:

    I had a chance to dine on one my neighbor got, it was sooo bad, even my dog’s wouldn’t eat it. Not saying it couldn’t be good, but the one I tried will probably be my last try… yuk…

  13. avatar NORDNEG says:

    I had a chance to dine on one my neighbor got, it was sooo bad, even my dog’s wouldn’t eat it. Not saying it couldn’t be good, but the one I tried will probably be my last try… yuk…

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      The best eating are the sows. Young boars can be ok, but once they start getting 150+ lbs. I just kill them and give them away. And hogs have to taken care of immediately. On a really cold afternoon I’ll gut a deer, pack ice in cavity and deal with it the next day. Not a hog. Come to think of it, the last few years I’ve given all my hogs away. Hate cleaning the stinking SOBs. Had to do it too may times when I was young. I just ask recipient to give me a little sausage.

  14. avatar rt66paul says:

    I hear the hogs that have been eating sugarcane are very tasty.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      This wouldn’t surprise me. I know for certain that venison from deer and elk taste different based on the animals diet.
      The best tasting deer I ever harvested lived in the alfalfa fields that I had permission to hunt. Yum!

    2. avatar The Rookie says:

      Makes sense. Most any critter is probably going to be affected (taste wise) by its diet. Nutria are supposed to be very clean tasting because of their plant-based diet.

      As an aside, the best roast pork I’ve ever had was a spit-roasted wild boar. Had it at a wild game roast some family friends used to host. The only thing that even came close to being as good was the stewed bear meat.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        Considering feral pigs are not only scavengers but are also cannibalistic, this is going to affect the flavor.

  15. avatar Sam Hill says:

    I don’t get it, wheat, oats, corn, green beans, and watermelons are harvested. Euphemisms to keep from saying I killed the hog is bs. At least you ate it. Every fall where I grew up, the neighbors got together for a hog killing. Right next to the hog pen was a nice big oak tree. They’d take turns dropping them hogs with a .22 then hang them by the hind legs, cut their throats, bleed them out while the blood was still hot. Dunk them in boiling water, skin’em out cut’em up, grind ’em up, blanch the meat throw a handful of salt, and two hands full of sage, make patties, pack them in sterilized Mason jars. Sausages and gravy all winter, spring, and summer. God, I miss a big hog killin’,and living in the country, and most of all, being young and harvesting watermelons from the neighbor’s patch, around midnight.

  16. avatar Widdler says:

    Everyone hunts them where i live, it’s the most abundant game we have. I’ve eaten them every way there is, just about anyway. Sows are more tender and fatty for sure, but a boar cured right isn’t bad either. 30-30 reigns king around here for hog, everyone and their uncle owns one. Run them down with dogs in thick brush (forest), usually head shots taken within feet not yards. Biggest concern is not hitting the dogs.

  17. avatar Josh says:

    I’d ask for some medium spicy Italian and Cajun andouille, plus some kielbasas…I need to go find me a hog and stock the freezer…

  18. avatar Turkeyhunter1960 says:

    I have taken lots of hogs well into the 300# range out to 200 yards with 5.56NATO Ball ammo. Brain shots. They almost always drop in their own shadow.

    It is not how big and fast the bullet is, but where it hits that makes up 90% of the performance.

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