STORY BY BRI VAN SCOTTER
When it comes to describing Brian Quaca, the term “hog wild” is an understatement. Also known as the Pigman, Quaca was given the by the many hunters he’s taken hog hunting over the years. The name not only stuck but is now his trademark. Pigman lives up to every ounce of his name. Notorious for being willing to take a hog by any legal means necessary and on the record for killing 500 hogs in about five hours, it’s safe to say Pigman is wild about hunting hogs.
You can catch him in action on his self-titled television show, Pigman, that airs on The Sportsman’s Channel. As a Texas native, Quaca never has to look for long for pigs to hunt in his home state. But don’t let the name fool you, he is also an avid turkey and whitetail hunter as well. And it was no surprise to hear he is equally passionate about hunting Javelina—a medium-size pig-like animal. According to Pigman, Javelina are good eating as long as you get the musk gland off. If you don’t, well then you will quickly find out why it’s so important to remove it once you taste the meat. Just like larger hogs, larger Javelina aren’t as tasty as the smaller ones according to Pigman. However, javelina are underrated when it comes to eating, but Pigman prefers a hog tenderloin more than any other cut on a hog.
When asked how he prefers to cook a hog tenderloin, his answer was simple, on the grill! Keep it simple with salt and pepper and throw that baby on the grill. Although if he wants to jazz things up he will cut the tenderloin into pieces and sauté it with onions and mushrooms. When going whole hog, Pigman prefers “the right-sized ones,” which is a hog that is about 40 pounds. Pigman leaves the head on, cuts the legs off, and sets it on three beer cans inside a grill. His “right-sized” hog cooks for five to six hours at 250 degrees until you can pull the meat right off the bone. It’s his take on a Hawaiian style pig roast.
But in order to get the meat, one must process the hog. With all the hogs that Pigman has processed, his best tips for processing wild hogs is to wear safety glasses and Latex gloves. Safety glasses help to prevent getting blood in your eyes, due to the fact that hogs carry Pseudorabies. The cuts he’s taking home are the backstrap, tenderloin, and ham. You might think ribs would be high on the hog list for smoking, but according to Pigman, hogs don’t have enough meat on the ribs to even mess with. But eschewing the ribs, Pigman says people need to be pay more attention to the meat in the neck, as the neck meat is tender and makes great stew meat.
In the spirit of showcasing underrated cuts, I happened to have wild hog neck meat in the freezer. Keeping true to Pigman, I placed the neck meat on the smoker at 250 degrees and smoked it for three hours. Then, I marinated the smoked neck in a mixture of guajillo pepper, chipotles, crushed tomatoes, and spice. Simmering the smoked neck in the marinade for an hour leaves it more than tender. Then I shredded the meat to create the filling for Birria Tacos—a classic Mexican street food—that are utterly delicious! These messy-to-eat tacos can be made not only with hog meat, but beef, pork, or venison as well. Smoking the meat prior to making Birria tacos is not a traditional method. However, I find that taking the extra time to beautifully smoke the meat adds depth and flavor to the taco meat. Give it a try—you won’t be disappointed!
Smoked Birria Tacos
2 lbs. hog neck meat (or substitute beef, pork, or venison roast)
3 dried guajillo peppers, softened in hot water for 20 minutes (can substitute dried pasilla peppers)
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf
1 white onion, small diced
Corn tortillas Diced white onion
Grated Mexican blend cheese
1- Preheat a smoker to 250°.
2- Season the wild boar neck or roast with Kosher salt and pepper. Once the smoker is up to temp, place the neck in the smoker. Let smoke until an internal temperature reads 145°.
3- Once the neck is fully cooked, let sit on a clean sheet tray while you prepare the marinade.
4- Remove the dried guajillo peppers from the hot water and gently rough chop them.
5- Add them to the bowl of a blender along with the crushed tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, and paprika. Blend until smooth.
6- In a four-quart Dutch, oven add about 1 Tbsp. of oil (vegetable or avocado oil) to the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot add the diced onion. Sauté the onions until they are golden brown. Add the marinade to the pot along with the wild boar meat. Cover and let simmer on low for two hours.
7- After the meat has simmered for two hours, use two forks to gently shred the meat while in the marinade.
8- To make the tacos, take a clean skillet and add about 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil to the pan and set it over high heat.
9- Take a tortilla and gently dip it into the simmered meat marinade, lightly coating both the front and back.
10- Place the tortilla on the pan then build your taco while the tortilla is frying. Add shredded meat, cheese, onions, and jalapeños if desired.
11- Fold the tortilla over the top. Cook on both sides until the tortilla is slightly crispy. Repeat with the remaining tortillas the enjoy! Garnish the tacos with chopped cilantro.