Hog Heaven

Crown Roast of Wild Pork

Serves 10-12

Of course, you’ll need to leave the backstraps (tenderloins) attached to the ribs when you butcher your hog; you will also want to remove some of the shorter ribs, so figure about eight or nine useable ribs per side on a wild hog. (On the one shown here, I used a third rack of ribs, as I was serving 10 people.)

Use an upside-down pizza pan inside a large roasting pan as the “rack” for the crown roast: It allows the heat to circulate underneath and prevents scorching the bottom of the roast. Plus, you can build your gravy right in the roasting pan after lifting out the pizza pan with the roast.

This recipe was adapted from Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Crown Roast” recipe.

See the finished crown roast at the bottom of this post.

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves only

1/2 bunch fresh sage, leaves only

2 cloves garlic, gently smashed and paper removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

10 pounds pork rib roast (about 12 to 14 domestic hog ribs, or 18-24 wild hog ribs)

Apple Pecan Stuffing, recipe follows

Gravy, recipe follows

Watercress, for garnish, optional

Special equipment: ventilated pizza pan and large square roasting pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set rack on the bottom third of the oven so the roast will fit completely inside.

In a small mixing bowl or mortar and pestle, combine thyme, sage, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, and mash to break up herbs and garlic. Add oil, about 1 cup, and combine with pestle.

Take crown roast of pork and clean the bones of meat with a boning knife (French them) and make a small cut into the meat in between each rib so you can wrap it into a circle easily; save the scraps. Rub the pork all over with the herb mixture. With the ribs on the outside, wrap the rack around onto itself so the ends meet and secure with kitchen twine, if necessary, so it holds its crown shape. *Cook's note: if you are doing this by yourself, using a skewer to help hold its shape while you wrap the kitchen twine around the roast.

Place in a roasting pan. Add the foil packet of vegetables for the gravy to the pan alongside the roast, and any scraps that you’ve trimmed ( they will help add flavor to your gravy). Set aside to bring the pork to room temperature prior to cooking.

Fill the cavity with Apple Pecan Stuffing.

Cover the stuffing and the tips of the rib bones with foil then place the whole roast in the oven and bake for 2 hours and 20 minutes, an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone should register 150 degrees F when done. About 30 to 45 minutes prior to doneness, remove the foil to brown the stuffing and create a crust. Remove from the oven, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with Apple Pecan Stuffing and Gravy. Garnish with watercress, if desired.

Apple-Pecan Stuffing

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing

1/2 bunch fresh sage

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

1 1/2 cups raw pecans

2 eggs

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 1/2 cups pork or chicken stock

5 cups sourdough bread (crusts removed), hand-torn into 1-inch pieces

1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Add the heavy cream and butter to a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the butter is just melted; set aside to cool.

Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil, sage and thyme sprigs. As the oil heats up the herbs will crackle and fry, infusing the oil. Remove the sage and thyme and set aside on a paper towel to drain: These can be as a garnish, if desired. Add onions to the pan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. Remove onions from pan and add apples. Crush the pecans and add to the pan. Add more oil, if needed and season with salt and pepper. Gently sauté until pecans are lightly toasted and apples are just cooked slightly — about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk the egg and chicken stock into the saucepan of cream and butter; and salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the torn sourdough, caramelized onions, apples, pecans and chopped parsley in a large bowl, and pour the liquids in the saucepan over them. Using a wooden spoon, mix the stuffing until well combined.

Scoop stuffing into cavity of pork crown roast and cook accordingly with roast.

Gravy for Crown Roast

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

3 ribs celery, roughly chopped

1 medium turnip, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup apple liqueur (recommended: Calvados)

4 cups pork or chicken stock

Place carrots, onion, celery, turnip, apple and garlic on a large sheet of foil and sprinkle generously with olive oil. Fold the foil into a packet and seal all the edges by folding them in twice. Place the packet in the roasting pan along with the crown roast.

Once the roasting pan comes out of the oven and meat is removed to rest, purée the vegetables in a blender or a food processor set to its highest setting until very smooth.

Add the butter and olive oil to the roasting pan over medium heat, and scape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes until it’s golden and uniform. Add the apple liqueur, continuing to scrape the bottom of the pan. Gradually add the stock, stirring as you go to ensure there are no lumps, and then add the puréed vegetables. Let simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with roast and stuffing.