A few weeks ago, we sent our editorial assistant Ashley Day and intern, CJ Lotz, on an assignment: To find the best wild game restaurants in New York City. Their first stop? Public, where head chef (and hunter) Brad Farmerie cooked them a memorable, multi-course meal featuring eel, trout, venison wild boar, and more. Here’s a recap of their trip to Public, plus some curing tips from Chef Farmerie. Check out the video, then read on to learn how you can cure boar (or venison, elk, and fish) at home.
I asked Farmerie to breakdown his process for curing boar and offer some pointers on how to cure other wild game. He provided plenty of expert advice for novice chefs like myself as well as at-home top chefs. Here’s what he had to say. –Ashley Day
Temperature Control:** With curing in general the salt does most of the work. Bacteria need the right temperature and moisture to live, and salt draws that moisture out of the meat. Farmerie advises beginners to refrigerate throughout the entire process. Basements are commonly used for curing, but the refrigerator provides a controlled environment in which bacteria cannot survive. “If you’re going through this much trouble, the last thing you want is for it to spoil,” Farmerie warns.
Wild Boar: The salt-to-sugar ratio for fatty meats like boar is 50-50. “The salt does the work while the sugar hides the fact that you’ve used so much damn salt,” says Farmerie. Then add your own array of herbs and spices. For the wild boar I tasted (and loved), Farmerie used fall spices like cinnamon, fennel seed, clove, allspice, and black pepper, and forest herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and bay spice.
Cover the meat with your mixture in a pan and flip it once a day for two weeks. Then take it out, wrap in cheesecloth, and hang with string. To avoid mold, keep the meat well ventilated and don’t let it touch anything. Farmerie cures wild boar for three months at Public.
Venison & Elk:** For leaner meats, Farmerie suggests a quick cure for one or two hours before cooking, especially on a grill. Use 50 percent brown sugar, 50 percent salt, and rub all over the meat. This will give a nice textural contrast–firm outside, moist inside–and the brown sugar will caramelize.
Another option is a short cure before smoking these meats. Once they’re medium or medium well, refrigerate, and slice cold. You can serve this with cheese and almonds on bread.
Fish: It takes about six to seven days to cure fish like salmon or trout. The ratio is 60-70 percent salt and30-40 percent sugar. Good flavors are dill, fennel, or lemon peel. Mix the flavors with the salt and sugar and pack onto the fish. Everyday you’ll see more and more liquid released, but don’t worry: As moisture comes out, flavor goes in. Use a spoon to pour the liquid back on each time. After a week, rinse off the fish and enjoy.