In the Jun/Jul 2019 issue’s Ground Game column, Built for the Ground, I talked about javelina as a great bowhunting spot-and-stalk quarry. One point I tried to emphasize is that despite their reputation to the contrary, they actually make good eating with proper handling in the field and preparation in the kitchen. I wrote a sidebar describing a great javelina meal I recently enjoyed with our friends Doug and Olga Borland but forgot to include it in the text for the print magazine. To keep it from going to waste, I’m providing it here.

Doug and Olga’s Javelina Reubens

The evening after I finished the first draft of this piece, several visiting bowhunters from Alaska and I headed to Doug and Olga’s rented place near Tucson to watch the Super Bowl. The game wasn’t particularly exciting, but the food was great, highlighted by the best Reuben sandwiches I’ve ever eaten—made with meat from Doug’s javelina. Here’s how they did it (with minor subsequent modifications in our own kitchen).

Javelina Pastrami

  • 3-4 lbs. boneless javelina meat
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp pink salt (optional)
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp pickling spice (see below)
  • 1 tbsp. coriander seed
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns

1. Crush coriander and peppercorns, toast lightly in dry skillet over medium heat, and set aside for rub.

2. Brisket is the classical source of meat for pastrami, but there isn’t enough of it on a javelina to make this practical. Use backstraps instead, or meat from the round cut into rectangular sections.

3. Add all ingredients except meat and rub (coriander and peppercorns) to 1-2 quarts water. Heat on stovetop, stirring until contents are dissolved. Cool brine in refrigerator.

4. Place meat in non-metal container (glass or ceramic) and cover with brine. If necessary, place plate with weight on top to keep meat submerged.

5. Keep meat and brine refrigerated, and soak 2-3 days.

6. Remove meat and rinse thoroughly, washing off all remains of brine. Allow to air dry.

7. Cover outside of meat with rub and then smoke. (see below).

8. Slice smoked meat across grain into thins strips.

9. Serve between slices of dark rye bread, with sauerkraut and mustard or Thousand Island dressing.

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seed
  • 2 tbsp. hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp. whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground mace
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves

1. Crush seeds and peppercorns in mortar and pestle, or grind in blender. Combine with other ingredients.

2. Store mixture in sealed jar in refrigerator and use for up to a year.

Smoking Javelina

Smoking meat is a broad subject beyond the scope of this discussion. I have used many methods and currently prefer my Traeger grill for ease and simplicity. Because javelina meat is so lean, be careful not to smoke it too long. Like all pork, it still needs to be cooked thoroughly. If in doubt, finish it in a low oven to a minimum internal temperature of 145°.