Wild pork bacon is whole different kettle of fish compared to domestic bacon. If you’re a pig hunter or attached to one, I am sure you’ve had some good and very bad experiences with it.
Here’s my rules when it comes to getting that wild pork transformed into bacon:
- Sows only. No boars – this is the #1, never-to-be broken rule.
- Youth over age
- Good, fat condition
- A really good wild game butcher who changes his brine for each batch
Follow these and you should end up with edible, not too gamey or salty bacon.
When it comes to cooking with wild bacon, its best hard and fast – use the BBQ or a hot cast-iron pan for fried bacon. If adding to casseroles or anything that slow cooks, add about half of what you would with domestic or it will overpower everything. If it is being added to more delicate flavours, cook separately and add at the end. And if you have managed to get a too-salty batch, soak in milk overnight first.
So come to wet and windy weekend, there is bacon that needs cooking and a kumi kumi squash with a skin so bleeding hard that I can’t pierce it with my knife (my grandfather lets the kumi kumi self-sow year after year around his compost bin, the result being the most disease-resistant, toughest squash you’ll ever meet). The only answer to the kumi kumi is to roast it whole and salvage the flesh later.
Wild Bacon & Roast Kumi Kumi Risotto
First roast your kumi kumi until tender. Cut open and scoop out the flesh, discarding the seeds. Keep aside.
Step 1: Put a pot of chicken stock on to simmer (about 6 cups). Then in another large pot start off your risotto in the usual manner: in olive oil (and butter if you like) sweat off 2 shallots, 3 cloves garlic and 2 springs rosemary, all finely chopped. Add 2 cups arborio rice and fry until starting to colour. Slosh in 1/4 cup white wine (or in my case feijoa vodka as it was the only suitable alcohol I could find in the house) and cook until absorbed.
Step 2: Turn down the heat and ladle in some of the chicken stock. Keep it at a simmer, stirring frequently until all the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladle full of stock. Repeat process until most of the stock is used and the risotto is cooked to your liking. In the meantime pan fry about 6 rashers of wild bacon, remove fat and rind, chop and set aside.
Step 3: Add in the roasted, mashed kumi kumi and stir till blended through. Then add 4-5 chopped semi-roasted tomatoes, the wild bacon and 2 handfuls of rough-chopped New Zealand spinach. Cook until the spinach has just wilted, adding more stock of needed. Taste, season with cracked pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
To serve: Pile shallow bowls with torn mizuna greens. Add a couple of ladle-fulls of the risotto on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley. The mizuma will wilt slightly as you eat the risotto, its fresh peppery taste cuts the richness of the risotto while holding its own against the strength of the wild bacon.
Wild Bacon – locally hunted
Kumi Kumi Squash - Pop’s garden. Kumi Kumi is an heirloom squash brought out to NZ by the early settlers and widely adopted by the Maori. You will find them lurking around compost bins in most old-timers gardens.
Rosemary & Parsley – from my vege patch. I am currently growing an heirloom Dalmatian Parsley – it’s quite slow-growing, and resembles the Italian parsley in taste and looks, but appears hardier and less likely to bolt.
Shallots, Garlic, Mizuna Greens, New Zealand Spinach – all from the vege patch (shallots and garlic now strung up to dry).
Semi-dried tomatoes – From my vege patch. I have halved the surplus Roma tomatoes, slow-roasted them till almost dry then packed them into sterile jars topped up with olive oil. I have also frozen some on trays and bagged them for frozen free-flow roasted tomatoes.
Lemon - Dad’s garden.
Olive Oil, Arborio Rice, Chicken Stock - Pregos, Nelson. I use Massell Stock Powders as they are gluten-free.
42 Below Feijoa Vodka - available from most liquor outlets.