The Bolgheresi live within sight and sound of the sea but are in fact meat eaters. And the meat they like most of all is from the wild boar that roam the macchia in the hills above the village. And, even if this is a stretch of the imagination, a dish which has become a cult over the centuries is wild boar head. The earliest wild boar recipe is from the mid nineteenth century which we owe to a chef, Vincenzo Tavarnelli, from the kitchens of the Counts della Gherardesca who have been lords of the manor from their castle in Castagneto Carducci since the days of the Longobards. A slightly more recent one dates back to 1897 and belonged to Augusto Morlacchi, friend and fellow buongustaio of our famous poet, Giosue Carducci.
Today you can taste this local delicacy at the Ristorante da Ugo or at the Vecchio Frantoio in Castagneto or at the Festa del Cacciatore which is held once a year in Donoratico. Here Marcello Berrighi oversees the preparation of sixty or seventy boar heads skinned, deboned, dewhiskered and singed by ten different cooks and halved before going into the oven in giant pans for four hours, twenty at a time. They are then left to cool in the freezer and sliced.
Meanwhile, at the Ristorante da Ugo the recipe goes back generations: Stefano Marroni’s mother, Perla, learned the recipe from her mother in the second half of the eighteen hundreds and they have been serving it in the same way every since. The heads – after the whole skinning and dewhiskering process – are sectioned and rolled and tied and then cooked for four hours in plentiful red wine. It is a very popular dish from November to January during the hunting season especially among the followers of the hunt themselves and the honours always go to the person who actually shot the wild boar to whom the head traditionally belongs. At the Vecchio Frantoio, Patrizia Bertini marinates the rolled heads with garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and orange rind, onion and a pinch of peperonicino. Then they are sautéed in olive oil to which red wine and water are added until the rind is buttery soft. She reduces to gravy the juices in the pan and serves the heads with polenta and white Tuscan beans.
So now that you know exactly what to do, all you have to do is find a wild boar head. In the unlikely event of you actually shooting one, discreet enquiries from your neighbours might, however, yield a dewhiskered head from the depths of their freezer!