All too often I have heard horror stories about the edibility of the collared peccary better known as the javelina. When I killed my first archery javelina, I remember seeking advice on how I should go about cooking it. One response I received went something along the lines of digging a hole, burying the javelina over hot coals strapped to a board, digging that up after a few hours, and eating the board and throwing away the javelina. That was really encouraging to a new hunter like myself at the time (even with it being a joke) and insight on how misunderstood javelina meat is. The fact of the matter is that javelina meat can be great—especially in tacos, which is what I am going to show you how to do today!
You’ve heard many people say throughout time that good table fare starts in the field. This couldn’t be truer or emphasized with javelina. If not handled correctly, you can get a pretty foul taste in the meat, which is why I think so many have had a bad experience with it. Javelina also has a few other names they are known by: “stink pig” and “skunk pig.” People call them this because, when threatened, javelina will emit an odor from a gland on its back. That odor smells exactly like a skunk and these rodents look very much like a pig, hence “skunk pig.” So, just like the tarsal gland on a deer, if you hit your knife on that gland, the meat will likely taste as the javelina smells. Try to keep the hair off of the meat as much as possible, too. Many folks I know will actually have two separate knives for processing: one knife for skinning and then another clean one for butchering. Try not to touch the hide and then touch the meat. You want to avoid cross-contamination. Be as clean as possible and you’ll be fine.
Here is a recent recipe my wife and I cooked up from my brother’s archery javelina this past January:
The first thing you’ll need to do is marinate the meat. I like to do this by placing the quarter in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and covering it with a roasted garlic marinade. From there, I will let that sit in the fridge for about 12 to 14 hours. This works out great if you let it marinate all night long so that you can wake up and start cooking it.
Once your meat is done marinating, take it out of the bag and place it in a crockpot. The leg I used barely fit, but it worked! If it doesn’t for some reason, just bone out the quarter and try to keep it all in one piece. Add 32 oz. of beef stock to the crockpot. Set it on high and let that go for about six hours or until the inside of the meat reaches 200 degrees. This is the temperature that will let you shred the meat apart.
When the meat is ready to be shredded, take it out of the crockpot and start ripping it up on a tray. Shred it up as best as you can and try not to leave any big hunks intact.
Now that you’ve got the meat all shredded up, empty out the stock in the crockpot. I do this just in case any off flavor escaped into the stock. Put the shredded meat back into the crockpot and add in 16 oz. of fresh beef stock. I like adding the stock back in for the moisture. Now is also the time that you want to add in your seasonings. Mix up that seasoning so it is equally distributed throughout all of the meat and stock. Let it sit on high for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. The only reason I do this is so that the meat can warm back up again for serving time.
Time to eat! My favorite way to prepare these tacos is meat, red onion, cheese, sour cream and then top that with lime juice. So good!
This recipe is nothing fancy and I think that’s a good thing. I am no culinary ninja, so if I can do it, you’ve got this in the bag! With it, I hope that you get a good perspective of javelina meat no matter what your prior experience was with the stuff. With how much opportunity there is to hunt these fascinating little critters, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be taking advantage of it and stocking up on some future javelina tacos of your own!
1 rear quarter of a javelina
1 bottle of roasted garlic marinade (or your favorite marinade)
2 32 oz containers of beef stock
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
Soft taco shells (white or corn; whatever you prefer)
Diced red onion