March 2016
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

A Walk in the Woods and Wild Hog for the Table

  Understanding the skills and dangers of hunting is something you can learn from listening to more experienced hunters, but living it is just as important.

One of Cason’s favorite activities at the hunting camp is to scout. Being the first person to spot a big buck, a pack of wild hogs or sometimes even just a large squirrel brings a look of excitement to his face. He takes his mission quite seriously and sometimes goes off alone to "check the powerlines" for deer. After a few of these solo trips, he soon realized that by the time he returned to camp, the critter or critters were gone before he could bring any of us back to the site.

Recently, the four of us were at the camp for a few days and Cason asked me to go scouting with him. It reminded me of when Jason and I first got married and he would take me on "nature walks" through the woods and bottoms. At almost 6 years old, Cason is already starting his own tradition of being a nature guide in a very calm, yet informative manner.

As we start towards the first path, he begins telling me what we will be looking for as we walk. Deer tracks and scrapes, hog tracks and hangouts, and, of course, snakes because of all the rain and warmer weather. Every few feet, Cason stops to point out a sign that something wild has been right where we are standing. In the short distance from the beginning of the trail to the clearing, at least half a dozen tracks are accounted for and size estimations are calculated for each creature.

We crunch leaves and tromp through or jump over muddy puddles, surely scaring away any animals that might exist nearby. I am pretty sure that Cason knows the fun is not always in the finding. I can tell, besides just spending time together, Cason likes being able to educate me and share what he has learned about hunting from his Daddy and Pop.

Just past an enormous fallen tree, we get to the clearing that opens up into the green field. Cason wants to go further, but I remind him about the fresh hog tracks and that we only have a little BB gun with us. He quickly agrees to retreat.

A few days after this outing, Jason came home with three huge wild hogs that made me glad Cason and I had not run into them while we were alone. The three hogs were sows weighing about 185 pounds each. Although running into the three of them would have ruined our nature walk, these hogs would provide a lot of food for the family.

From one of these wild hogs, you can get about 65-75 pounds of meat, roughly 35-40 percent of the body weight. Every part of the hog meat is used for something. There are ribs – of course, the back strap becomes pork chops, and Jason makes sausage patties and links from what is left.

Even though the sows are tenderer than a boar hog, the meat is still drier than a non-feral hog. So, to make wild hog sausage, you will need to add 10 percent fat. Your local grocery store butcher can provide pork trimmings for about 50 cents a pound. Grind the wild hog meat and then mix in the fat. Depending on which type of sausage you are making, you will grind accordingly. For patties, grind the meat finer. For links, a little chunkier is okay.

For both sausages, Jason uses Leggs Old Plantation Pork Seasoning for flavor. One pack seasons 25 pounds of pork. The seasoning is really good, but, since we like a medium heat and stronger flavor, he also adds fresh sage, red pepper and cayenne pepper to the mixture for that extra kick.

Our nature walks may not bring our next meal, but they are important parts of Rolley Len’s and Cason’s learning experiences. Understanding the skills and dangers of hunting is something you can learn from listening to more experienced hunters, but living it is just as important.

Pork Patties

2 pounds fresh pork

1 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons onion, chopped

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 eggs, well beaten

1 Tablespoon pork fat

Wipe meat with a cold, damp cloth. Chop into very fine pieces. Mix with breadcrumbs, salt, onion, pepper and eggs. Form into patties. Melt the pork fat and fry patties on both sides over high heat until well done, about 15 minutes.

Pork Chops with Candied Sweet Potatoes

6 pork chops

6 boiled sweet potatoes

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon flour

Pat chops dry with a cold, damp cloth. Broil or fry at high heat until well browned on both sides. Place in a greased baking pan. Peel potatoes and cut in halves, lengthwise. Place in pan with pork chops. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Cover bottom of the pan with a little water. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently. Thicken pan liquor with flour and mix to a smooth paste with cold water to make gravy.

Pork Chop Casserole

8 small potatoes

2 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

3 cups milk

8 pork chops, ¾-inch thick

Preheat oven to 350°. Wash and peel the potatoes. Slice into thin pieces. Place a layer of potatoes in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Add dots of butter on top. Repeat layers until all potatoes are used. Pour milk over top. Lay pork chops on top. Bake until potatoes are tender and pork is cooked through, about 1¼ hours.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.