Sweet and Sour Wild Boar

Cinghiale in agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Wild Boar)

In Fall, Lazio, secondi piatti, Winter by Frank29 Comments

Genuine Italian cookery generally has straight-forward taste profiles. As I’ve said before, one of the best ways to tell if a recipe is really Italian is to count the ingredient list: you should have your doubts about any recipe with over, say, seven ingredients; more than ten, and you should turn the page. Well, here’s the exception that proves the rule: cinghiale in agrodolce, or Sweet and Sour Wild Boar, a complex dish involving nearly twenty ingredients, creating multiple layers of flavor. And even more unusually, especially for a meat dish, it mixes sweet and sour and savory all in one dish.

I never actually came across this dish when I lived in Rome, perhaps because it is so involved it’s impractical for restaurants, or perhaps because it really doesn’t suit modern Italian tastes. But Sweet and Sour Wild Boar is a traditional Roman dish (although apparently the Tuscans claim it, too). With its exuberant layering of flavors and use of candied fruits and nuts, it is an obvious remnant of the Middle Ages, although chocolate was added only after Europeans discovered the New World.

If you can’t find wild boar at your local market and don’t want to order it online, you can substitute an equal amount of pork shoulder for a fine result. The dish is both earthy and elegant at the same time, equally fit for family or company.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) wild boar meat (or pork shoulder), cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Olive oil or lard

For the marinade:

  • 500 ml (2 cups) red wine
  • 250 ml (1 cup) red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, slightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of marjoram (or thyme)
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 4-5 whole peppercorn

To finish the dish:

  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • 25g (1 oz) bittersweet chocolate
  • 100g (4 oz) prunes, soaked in red wine until soft
  • A handful of pinoli nuts
  • 50g (2 oz) candied orange and citron (optional)

Directions

Put all the marinade ingredients in a saucepan and bring them just to the boil. Remove from the heat and cover the pan. Let the ingredients steep until the marinade has cooled completely.  Place the meat in a large bowl, then pour the marinade over. If it’s not enough to cover the meat completely, top it up with some more wine and vinegar. Let the meat marinate in the fridge overnight.

The next day, take the bowl out of the fridge and let the meat return to room temperature. Fish out the meat chunks and pat them dry.

In a large sauté pan, sauté the onion very gently in olive or lard until it is soft and translucent. Raise the heat, add the meat chunks, and brown them lightly, taking care that the onion doesn’t burn and season with salt and pepper as you go.

Now strain the marinade liquid into the pan, leaving all the solids behind. There should be enough liquid to almost, but not quite, cover the meat chunks. Cover the pan and simmer for a good 60-90 minutes, until the meat is perfectly tender. Add any extra marinade, or a bit of water or wine, from time to time if things are getting a bit dry.

When the meat is just about done, add the finishing ingredients to the pan. Stir gently and simmer uncovered, until the chocolate melts completely and the sauce has reduced to your liking. Taste and adjust for seasoning: a bit more sugar if you find the sauce too sour, a bit more vinegar if too sweet, and a pinch of salt if it needs it.

Serve hot, with slices of toasted bread or polenta.

Sweet and Sour Wild Boar

Notes on Sweet and Sour Wild Boar

Like many dishes with a long history, there are plenty of variations on this basic theme. Instead of onion alone, the soffritto can be made with the usual ‘holy trinity’ of onion, carrot and celery; many recipes call for a bit of prosciutto (or prosciutto fat) as well. Instead (or in addition to) the prunes, you can add some raisins at the end. The traditional recipe calls for candied fruits, but these have all but disappeared from our supermarkets, so I’ve indicated them as optional here. The oldest recipes for Sweet and Sour Wild Boar call for even more fruits, including sour cherries and muscat grapes. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I imagine you could experiment with the kinds of dried fruits that are more popular these days: tropical fruits like pineapple or mango, or maybe dried cranberries. You might even want to try one of those dried fruit and nut mixes that are sold in bulk in the natural food stores. It would give the dish a different flavor, but one that would be in keeping with the spirit of the dish, if you ask me. Artusi has an interesting take on the marinade—his recipe calls for white wine along with the vinegar and usual aromatics, in which the meat should rest for a full three days.

For a more elegant presentation, Sweet and Sour Wild Boar can also be made as a kind of pot roast rather than a stew;  the boar meat is kept whole and tied, rather than cut into chunks. Cooking times are longer, of course, more like 90 minutes to 2 hours, and you may want to extend the marination time, too. The finishing ingredients are melt together in a separate saucepan (along with, say, half a cup of water) and then the juices from the braise, strained through a sieve, are added to the saucepan. Pour the resulting sauce over the roast, which you will have sliced and arranged on a serving platter.

Cinghiale in agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Wild Boar)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) wild boar meat (or pork shoulder), cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Olive oil or lard
  • For the marinade:
  • 500 ml (2 cups) red wine
  • 250 ml (1 cup) red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, slightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of marjoram (or thyme)
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 4-5 whole peppercorn
  • To finish the dish:
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • 25g (1 oz) bittersweet chocolate
  • 100g (4 oz) prunes, soaked in red wine until soft
  • A handful of pinoli nuts
  • 50g (2 oz) candied orange and citron (optional)

Directions

  1. Put all the marinade ingredients in a saucepan and bring them just to the boil. Remove from the heat and cover the pan. Let the ingredients steep until the marinade has cooled completely. Place the meat in a large bowl, then pour the marinade over. If it's not enough to cover the meat completely, top it up with some more wine and vinegar. Let the meat marinate in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, take the bowl out of the fridge and let the meat return to room temperature. Fish out the meat chunks and pat them dry.
  3. In a large sauté pan, sauté the onion very gently in olive or lard until it is soft and translucent. Raise the heat, add the meat chunks, and brown them lightly, taking care that the onion doesn't burn and season with salt and pepper as you go.
  4. Now strain the marinade liquid into the pan, leaving all the solids behind. There should be enough liquid to almost, but not quite, cover the meat chunks. Cover the pan and simmer for a good 60-90 minutes, until the meat is perfectly tender. Add any extra marinade, or a bit of water or wine, from time to time if things are getting a bit dry.
  5. When the meat is just about done, add the finishing ingredients to the pan. Stir gently and simmer uncovered, until the chocolate melts completely and the sauce has reduced to your liking. Taste and adjust for seasoning: a bit more sugar if you find the sauce too sour, a bit more vinegar if too sweet, and a pinch of salt if it needs it.
  6. Serve hot, with slices of toasted bread or polenta.

In addition to the total time indicated, you will need to marinate the boar meat overnight.

http://memoriediangelina.com/2014/12/19/cinghiale-agrodolce-sweet-sour-wild-boar/

Comments

  1. My husband and I had this wonderful dish while vacationing in Umbria this fall. We were told this is a typical dish for Christmas, so I have decided to prepare it for us over this holiday season. In Orlando Florida, wild “hog” is available. My first question is: If I were to prepare it has a roast, do I dissect the shoulder bone out and then tie it up as a roast or leave it bone in? Is there a preferable cut of the hog i.e., the tenderloin? Secondly, can I replace cocoa powder for bittersweet chocolate?
    Thank you for providing this recipe, I hope it comes close to what we experienced in Italy. Buon Natale!

    1. Author

      Yes, if preparing as a roast, then bone and then tie it up. Shoulder would be a nice cut as it will does well under long slow cooking. And although I haven’t tried it myself, cocoa powder should work just fine as a substitute for bittersweet chocolate—perhaps adding a bit more sugar since it has none of its own.

      Buon Natale anche a te!

  2. This sounds just AWESOME!!! I found this recipe on 20 Feb 2015 as I was browsing your fantastic web site. Food, and its aromas, trigger memories, just like the title of your blog, “Memorie di Angelina”. This particular page brought me back, in an instant, to a dish my Mother used to make, called “Coniglio All’Agrodolce”. I can still picture, and recall the flavors of the dish, specifically the raisins in the sublime sauce. This was at least 55 years ago!!! Do you happen to have a method for preparing Rabbit this way? All I remember was the pieces of rabbit that had been browned and then roasted (All’Umido?) in wine, vinegar, the raisins and ……..?
    Thank you so much for rekindling buried memories. Grazie mille!!!

    1. Hey Frank…just to let you know made your recipe for cippolline in umido the other day…loved it! Ate the leftovers room temp. with some great bread and proscuitto for lunch the next day!

    2. Author

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Enzo! As for the rabbit dish, I haven’t had it but it sounds awesome. No reason you couldn’t make meats other than boar in a similar fashion.

  3. I made this dish for the New Years’ Eve and it was a great, great treat for my family. All of us were pleased by this and said ‘thank you’ to you, Frank.
    All blessed wishes … and Happy New Year!

  4. I had boar in Umbria when I was there last October. I had not eaten it for a long time. It’s nice especially when it’s cold outside.

  5. We’re with Linda – now we just need to find a boar! This sounds delicious, and slightly reminiscent of some oxtail recipes (coda alla vaccinara) with the bittersweet chocolate. We’re not usually big fans of agrodolce, but this sounds complex and wonderful.

  6. Thanks so much for this and your website. I sometimes cook for a company in Tuscany and we make a turkey thigh version of this. I’m going to try yours next week with pork shoulder. Buon Natale!

    1. Author

      Buon Natale anche a te, Tony! And I’m now anxious to try the turkey version, sounds incredible.

  7. Oh Frank. This is terrific. I ate this dish in Siena, where it’s called “dolce e forte.” I’ve always wanted to recreate it at home and now I have the recipe. I just need the boar!

  8. First, let me say wild boar is fantastic! I love this dish…we made a Roman stuffed pork loin a couple of weeks ago and like this dish agrodolce. Stuffed with dried fruits like apricots, prunes and nuts such as pine nuts and pistachios…it was delicious and I absolutely know this wild boar agrodolce would be too! We have to get ours from Alberta and it’s not easy to come by! Wild boar proscuitto is to die for!

    Grazie Frank and Buon Natale!

  9. Thanks, Frank. I read this recipe early this morning and knew I just had to make this! It seems perfect for the Christmas season. My marinate is prepared and is cooling now so it will be tomorrow’s dinner along with polenta and crusty bread. Mine will include, as you suggest, the candied citron & orange, along with dried sour cherries and the prunes. I live in Florida and while there are plenty of wild boar running around free for the hunting or trapping, I’m using commercial pork this time. The recipe is very reminiscent of a Mexican dish my wife sometimes makes: Chile Rellenos stuffed with Picadillo. The picadillo has all the same ingredients plus some cinnamon and then of course much different as the picadillo is then stuffed into chilies and served with a tomato based broth.

  10. Earthy and elegant – what a perfect description. I have never tasted wild boar. You may call me “Adri of the Meek Palate.” My mom called me “Adri the Picky Eater.” I am just not at all adventuresome, and yet, from your vivid and evocative description I can well appreciate the complex flavor profile of this iconic dish. Thanks for presenting this one. I enjoy seeing something that I don’t run across very often. I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season. Buon Natale!

    1. Author

      If you like pork, I bet you’d enjoy boar. Worth a try some time if you ever want to take the plunge. 😉

      Buon Natale anche a te, Adri!

  11. un buon piatto di selvaggina è sempre gradito specialmente se accompagnato da un rosso corposo, da tenere in grande considerazione ! Buon fine settimana Frank !

  12. Pingback: Cinghiale in agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Wild Boar) | Food Blogger Style

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