GAME THAT LUMBERS, ROOTS AND HOPS
What do bears, boars and wild rabbits have in common? Not all that much (except that they live in the wild), but for the sake of convenience we present them here as one group.
A big vegetarian
The bears that lumber about and even sometimes climb in European forests are brown bears. They are 130-250 centimeters tall and chunkily built with sturdy legs and a short tail. The males weigh 100-300 kilos and the females 60-200.
The brown bear is mainly vegetarian, eating a menu of berries, ants, grass and herbs, with the odd salmon, moose calf or reindeer for variety. Bear meat, an exclusive option, has a mild gamey character, largely because the fat content is higher than in other game.
Hunting strictly regulated
If you find Swedish bear meat, you’re in luck, as hunting is strictly regulated. Like wild boar meat, all bear meat must be tested for trichinosis to avoid spreading this infectious disease. If you want to be extra careful, make sure the meat reaches a cooked temperature of at least 65°C.
If you find a bit of bear at your butcher’s – buy it!
– Ulrika Brydling, former owner of Marmite in Åre, northern Sweden
Wild boar is back
Once prevalent, wild boar became extinct in many countries but have now been reintroduced and some populations have spread in the wild after having escaped from farms. Wild boar can be up to two meters long and a meter high, but are often considerably smaller.
Wild boar are omnivores; acorns, hazelnuts and roots form the basis of their diet but they also gobble up larvae, insects and carrion. Although wild boar has darker meat than the domesticated pig, the flavor is quite mild. The meat is fattier than that of most wild animals, and young boar has the best flavor.
Bear and wild boar are tested for trichinosis
Like bear meat, all wild boar meat must be tested for trichinosis to avoid spreading this infectious disease. If you want to be extra careful, make sure the meat reaches a cooked temperature of at least 65°C.
Good with pork – good with wild boar
What goes well with pork goes well with wild boar too, everything from prunes to strong oriental flavors are the perfect match.
A hare grows bigger…
Hares are vegetarians and most of them are active at night. Forest hares are roughly half a meter long and weigh between 2.5 and 4.5 kilos. Field hares are bigger, up to 70 centimeters long with a proper-sized tail.
While field hares chew grass, forest hares like twigs and thin branches, but both eat bark and herbs. The meat has a good texture and really tastes more like chicken, but with a clear taste of game.
…than a rabbit
Rabbits come from the same family as hares but are smaller and mostly nocturnal. Wild rabbits grow up to 45 centimeters long and weigh a couple of kilos.
Rabbits are vegetarians and eat grass, herbs, bark and twigs. Wherever rabbits turn up in the wild, they breed like... well... rabbits. They are also hard to hunt as they move quickly and are mostly active at night.
Rabbit is often found on the menu in Italy, France and Spain. Experts say that rabbit was the original meat in the famous dish of Valencia, if not the whole of Spain, paella.