The wild boar head in question was actually wild boar brawn – listed in Larousse Gastronomique as Hure de Porc, potted head, or head cheese. In a nutshell, the brined and slowly cooked head is turned into a terrine. Cooking the pig’s head is typical old fashioned nose to tail eating where no parts of a pig are wasted – this dish is common throughout Europe. Head cheese can also be made with cows and sheep, but pork is by far the most common ingredient.
Wild boar are native to Eurasia, North Africa and the Greater Sunda Islands. Like the pig, wild boar have also been introduced to the Americas and Australia. In Britain, wild boar were hunted to extinction, probably by the 13th Century. There were moves to reintroduce them in the 17th Century, but as they were regarded by farmers as an agricultural nuisance, the new stocks didn’t last long. In the 1980s, wild boar were brought to Britain from France to be farmed. As this proved successful, other stocks have been introduced and bred from as far afield as Eastern Europe and Sweden. Today in Britain, there are real wild boar that have escaped and gone native. Across Europe the boar has been more successful than in Britain and in fact populations are exploding. In the vineyards of Europe the boar can be a particular problem, as a mother and babies can devour an entire harvest in a night or two! As they are hunted to keep their numbers in check, it seems only right to eat them – like deer and other game, their meat is lean and they haven’t been subjected to intensive farming. In short, they have lived decent lives.
I’ve eaten brawn made with pork quite a few times, but was excited by the chance to try the stronger wild boar flavour. The cabeza de sanglier was excellent in a bocadillo de queso – a Spanish cheese (manchego) sandwich in a baguette, where the bread is rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil (pan con tomate). It was also delicious served with a green salad, vinaigrette and pickles.