In our journey to raise American Guinea Hogs in Canada, finding the real breed has been a challenge. Initially, it appeared as though there were lots of breeders and pigs available… but it turned out that we only had one authentic dealer within 4 hours of us, and one “not-so-authentic-dealer” roughly the same distance. We ended up with two perfect pigs from the first breeder (and picking up a third additional for a friend, whom we have since inherited), and a boar from the second “not-so-authentic dealer”…
After 8 months, we had to conclude that our little boar Prosciutto was just that… far too little. He also suspiciously didn’t look remotely like a guinea hog. Of course, the little guy was frisky with our gals, and looked like a chihuahua frantically trying to hump a labrador retriever – whether our gals were in heat or not. And clearly he was motivated as he managed to knock up all three of our sows.
So after trying to sell him unsuccessfully, we decided we couldn’t keep him with our gals. Raising a male pig separately isn’t exactly the best of ideas, considering we had an authentic Guinea Hog boar coming to our farm within days… and risking a battle to the death on our farm with two boars as contenders was not something we wanted to risk. So, we came to the sad conclusion, that little Prosciutto had to be butchered. Sigh. Sorry little buddy.
So we got him butchered. One horny little pig, that the butcher recommended that we leave the bone in for the cuts due to his small size. Prosciutto then came home to us, wrapped in butcher paper in a cardboard box, with neatly stamped with titles of “CHOPS”, and hand written “Ground Pork” on various packages, and ready for the freezer. I had read about boar taint, which is a smell and taste that can affect the meat, and was concerned. I had talked to the butcher about it, and he advised that he had never smelt it, and I shouldn’t worry since the boar was fairly young, and probably wouldn’t be affected… if boar taint even did exist. Fabulous.
Several weeks went by, and I decided to make pulled pork, and found a fantastic recipe that called for a pork shoulder. Even better, I could throw it in the crock pot, carry on with the day, and by the evening, it promised to be delicious. Finally, I was about to taste my first home-grown pork, even though he wasn’t meant for the butcher, I was still interested in how the pork would taste.
I lifted off the lid to the crockpot after several hours of cooking, and leaned in for the smell that my nose had prepped itself for – of sweet BBQ glory mixed with angels singing – only to be met with the most pungent and vile jab to not only my olfactory receptors, but to my eyes and tear ducts as well, of DISGUSTING MUSKY PIG PEE!
Now, I am NOT the cook in our family, and never will be. I can bake, sure, but that’s following specific instructions in recipes and frankly I think any monkey can do that – the key is collecting good recipes. Cooking however, is an art form, and that spontaneousness coupled with awareness of taste combinations, and somehow pulling it together is something I don’t think I will ever have. So after instantly slamming the crockpot lid down, to encapsulate the stench, I was so stunned… and instantly thought it was something I’d done. How the hell did I manage to shove a stinky pee-filled barn into a crockpot? I ran over the list of ingredients… there was no way that they could have gone off that much to produce that horrific odour, or at least I didn’t think it was chemically possible. No way.
So, like a dumb idiot that re-tastes the milk that’s way past it’s expiry date, even after the first disgusting mouthful, I very carefully lifted the lid again, and inhaled… gently this time. And low an behold, I swear that smell got even worse. Musky pig urine so strong I couldn’t deal with it. I closed the lid, praying that it would seal back in that stench, and waited for the professional to get home. The Chef would know what to do. I was sure that he would just say something brilliant like, “Oh, it needs citrus – that’ll cut it.”, or “Tarragon, that smell aways happens in crock pot pork.”. So I left it cooking, and waited for my culinary saviour.
Fast forward 3 hours, and the Chef comes home. After some frantic texting earlier, he already knows what’s in store. Of course, I’ve also been on the web for 3 hours, researching more about boar taint. The Chef walks into the house, he walks to the crock pot, fearlessly puts his hand on the lid, lifts it, and has a deep sniff in… I am completely frozen awaiting his reaction. This man can identify obscure sausages and cheeses from around the world, knows all his Mexican peppers and their heat scores, and has at least 5 different mustards in our fridge at all times. He pauses, I wait, he waits, he has another sniff…looks at me and says, “Smells great hon. I don’t pick up any taint.”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
It turns out that only a portion of the population can pick up the smell of boar taint, and I sadly am one of them. How the Chef, or the butcher, cannot smell it is beyond me, as it’s equivalency – for me anyway – is being hit in the face with a pig-urine-filled frying pan.
Since the Chef will happily eat it, I have to just stand back and gag, we packaged it all into tupperware for the freezer so he can eat it… alone. Oddly, other men have tasted it and have said it’s delicious, but a girlfriend of mine can taste the boar taint, so I have my own theories on it’s musky flavour, and who can pick up on it. Meanwhile, quite a bit of it has become the dogs’ favourite treat…
Happy farming and good luck in your culinary adventures!
P.S. For a more detailed read of Canada’s issues of raising this pig, feel free to read: The Problem of Raising the American Guinea Hog in Canada