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.
All images courtesy Michael Arnold.