By Melonie Flomer
ELLERBE — Chuck Hall and his sons Graylen and Blake are no strangers to the great outdoors — or to cooking up unique and tasty creations featuring wild game.
They got a chance to show off their skills Tuesday at First Baptist Presbyterian Church in Ellerbe in the 14th annual Richmond County Wild Food Cookery Contest. Hall has competed in the event all 14 years. This year, Hall’s entry is described as one of the most unusual dishes ever brought before the judges: Wild Boar Barbecue Sliders.
Popular with hunters and wild game enthusiasts, the contest attracts not only Richmond County residents but people from far and wide. Past events have seen numbers of attendees approach 300. While Tuesday night’s event had far fewer participants and visitors than in years past, there were still plenty of contestants willing to brave the cold temperatures to serve up some wild creations and no shortage of folks lining up to taste them.
The event is coordinated by Sarah Mammarella and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office in Rockingham as well as the Sandhills Rod and Gun Club and the Martha Faye Crafters Club.
Hall, who lives in the Cartledge Creek area, has won several competitions in the wild fowl and fish category.
“One year I made a duck pot pie that won,” said Hall, 39. “I cut the slices of duck meat, sauteed them in red wine and a little bacon fat and cream of mushroom soup and spooned that into individual pie pans. I made my own homemade dough, like a biscuit dough, and rolled it out to cover the tops. Then I baked them at about 350 degrees until the crusts turned golden brown. You don’t want to saute the duck too long. You want to serve it almost rare.”
The recipe is one that anyone should feel free to try at home. A gift from Hall.
Diverging from his usual habit of entering the wild fish and fowl category, his favorite, this recipe falls under big game. For the contest, the game can either be hunted by the preparer, or given as a gift. In this case, Hall’s friend gave him the boar.
“He gave me a whole hog,” Hall said. “We cooked the ribs that night and ate them ourselves. It turned out really good, so I said ‘well, I’ll enter it.’ The rest is history.”
The ribs are long gone, but Hall’s idea of hickory smoking the rest of the boar meat for eight hours and then pulling it off the bone before chopping the pork with a cleaver pleased everyone who tasted it. Sons Graylen, 8, and Blake, 11, helped do some of the work, chopping and mixing the succulent meat with sauce. Hall’s got his own secret barbecue sauce, but the recipe he provided with his entry suggests that anyone’s favorite sauce will do just fine.
To offset the savory smoked flavor of the meat, Hall used sweet dinner rolls for the sliders.
Next year, he plans to return to his preferred category, preparing duck in a unique and gourmet fashion.
The event is about “people being creative and showing that they can fix dishes that people don’t normally eat,” said Sarah Mammarella, a registered dietician with the Extension Office. “Everyone enjoys it.”
Hall earned top honors in the Big Game category with his entry. John Allen won first place in the Wild Fowl and Fish division with his Canada Goose salad. Other award winners included: Bill Pattan, Wild Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables, black walnut pie; Carolyn Quinn, Most Authentic, Artichoke Cake; Alex Chappell, Youth, Bunny ‘n’ Biscuits.
Mammarella said there were more than three dozen dishes entered into this year’s contest.