wood pigeon

Wood pigeon or wild dove introduction.

In these latitudes autumn is a special season for diffrent rasons. At this time the trees lose their leaves and the days become shorter. It is the time to enjoy nature, and hunting is a very popular activity in the Basque Country.

The wild pigeon hunting (“paloma torcáz” or “paloma bravía” in spanish) is already like a tradition and since ancient times the pigeons completes its migration in autumn. From the north of Europe to the south where they have a better climate. When they arrive in the Basque Country they have to cross the Pyrenees and their passage is concentrated in some specific points. Through the coast, Fuenterrabia and Irún. Through the mountains, from Urrugne to Sara, Etxalar and Roncesvalles. Where they pass depends on meteorological factors such as wind. With very strong southern winds they are concentrated on the coast. On the contrary with the north winds they cross the mountain areas.

wood pigeon

Basque hunter with pigeons

The pigeon in the Basque cuisine

The wild pigeon is very appreciated in the Basque gastronomy because it is a very wild animal which feeds mainly on acorns and corn. This makes its meat have a very special texture and taste. It reminds me a lot of the Spanish Iberian ham. It may be because they share the diet of acorns.

They can be cooked in many ways. The most traditional are in their sauce or grilled capucin style. The one I personally like the most is the French Basque style. La Palombe au capucin. It is split into two parts, baked or put on the grill to seal the skin. Once sealed, we proceed to the special part. It is spilled over burning iberian pork fat that finishes cooking the meat. The result is a meat that is well done on the outside but raw and bleeding on the inside. I have to confess that this is one of my best gastronomic discoveries. Every year I have to eat the pigeon like this, even if it is only once a year.

I will share with you this video where you can see the way they cook them at the French Basque. It is very spectacuar.