I count myself to be a very blessed man. If I were to take stock at this very moment, I could say I gave it a solid go, and that life is truly good.
Such stock was taken recently when I was strapped to the side of an MD 800 helicopter, bow and arrow in hand, dangling 3000 feet above the hot and humid Florida landscape. Who shoots pieces like this for a cookbook? I do. Imagine my New York City editor’s fear and confusion upon telling her we were going to do a wild-boar hunt in my latest book, A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen. The best part? I’d left the whole part about dangling from the helicopter out of the pitch. Something tells me that might have been a book contract violation.
And so it goes on Greg Arnette’s Franklin Ranch, located just outside Osteen, Florida, on over 8000 acres of pristine Florida beauty. Shooting bows and arrows, riding in fan boats and helicopters, and killing wild boar are all par for the course.
For those not in the know, Greg Arnette is the same cat who founded Arnette Sunglasses nearly three decades ago. Part engineer, adventurer, pilot, and general all-around good guy, he possesses equal parts West-Coast surfer/snowboard levity with the charm of a Southern gentleman.
I should know—he invited me to spend a weekend at his home, despite the fact we’d never met before.
My wife, a snowboarder at heart, actually met Greg in Utah through friends of friends. Upon chatting, she instantly knew the two of us would hit it off. After speaking to Greg several times on the phone, and humbly telling him he didn’t have to do this over and over, I caved to his unabashed insistence and booked a trip to come enjoy his version of a man’s paradise. It was the difference between two forks in the road, and I’m glad I took him up on such a generous offer of Southern hospitality.
As a cook, I’m always hankering for wild game. I believe no game tastes better than that you’ve rifled down through your own scope. Not much of a firearms guy, Greg informed me that we’d only be hunting via bow and arrow—a much more difficult, dangerous, and chancy method—especially for wild Russian boar. But now wasn’t the time to be risk-averse.
The truth of the matter is that wild boar are a problem for much of Florida, if not the rest of the country. Boasting liberal kill limits (if any) the folks who write the laws also apparently agree that open season is a good thing in hunting down these feral beasts.
Perhaps the helicopter was a bit part of the “entertainment” side of the business. This ain’t West Texas—and I wasn’t using an AK-47 to rifle boars down on the move. Instead, we used the ol’ chopper to fly into virgin hunting grounds.
An hour or two passed, with many a skeeter-bite and a near head-to-head combat with a raccoon while in the tree stand—and then, you heard the pack. Heart. Beating. Out of chest.
Pulling the bow off of the rest, drawing back, and quietly releasing the arrow from the bow right into the most humane shot—just the way we practiced. Done and done.
Of course, seeing as I believe in harvesting the animal out of use, and not hubris, we tracked down the sow and instantly went to work on butchering every part down to celebrate amongst a group of friends—and cold beer.
Such is the beauty of our wondrous bounty—becoming one with the earth and its movements—understanding the care and responsibility of the sacrifice.
Plus, it tastes darn good.
Wild Boar Chops
Due to the natural leanness of the meat, I like to brine my boar chops in a simple solution, which ensures that they will stay moist and juicy. From there, I grill the chops over an open flame until they reach a perfect medium doneness. Carolina-style, I pair them with a mustard-based barbecue sauce that packs sweetness and heat, and acidity, making these boar chops the envy of everyone on the ranch.
BRINE AND CHOPS
½ gallon warm water
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 bay leaves
4 cups ice cubes
10 (10- to 12-oz.) double-cut bone-in wild boar chops with bones frenched, trimmed (2 racks)
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole grain mustard
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. ground red pepper
1 Prepare Brine and Chops: Combine first 4 ingredients in a large plastic bowl, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in ice until melted. Add chops to brine mixture; cover and chill 3–24 hours. Remove chops from brine, and pat dry with paper towels; discard brine. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, light 1 side of grill, heating to 350°–400° (medium-high); leave other side unlit. Sprinkle both sides of chops with ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Place chops over lit side of grill, and grill, covered with grill lid, 4 minutes. Rotate chops 45°, and grill, covered with grill lid, 5 more minutes to create grill marks. Turn chops over while transferring to unlit side of grill; grill chops, covered with grill lid, 14–18 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 145°. Remove chops from grill; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand 5 minutes.
3 Meanwhile, prepare Sauce: Combine mustard and next 4 ingredients in a medium-size heavy saucepan with metal handle, and place over lit side of grill. Bring to a simmer. Transfer pan to unlit side of grill, and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until mixture thickens.
4 Spoon a generous amount of sauce on 1 side of each serving plate, and move spoon in a quick, smooth motion to thinly spread sauce across the plate. Place 1 chop in center of sauce for each serving. Serve immediately.
See More “Copters, Arrows, and Wild Boar Chops” Photos Hear