Friday, June 9, 2017

Spring Black Bear - Good Eating

On-line descriptions of bear meat as greasy and gamey give this tasty fare a BAD RAP.  I have NEVER found that to be true for the black bears we harvest in May and June (here in Alaska).  In fact, they are so lean (after a long winter in hibernation) that there is too little fat to save for lard.  

If you have been interested in trying bear meat but disappointed by the paucity of available recipes (almost always a stew), perhaps the list below of some of my preparations will be appealing. Since I am the kind of chef who cooks with a “bit of this and a bit of that,” the following meals are descriptions, rather than detailed recipes.
The backstrap is slim, like a flank steak, but as tender as a beef fillet.  We grill it and flavor it like any beef steak.

The huge hams (shoulders and butt)  I smoke (over local alder wood)  between 170-200 degrees F for 10 hours.  The meat looks like roast beef but in taste and texture is more like smoked pork loin.  We cut them up to use in sandwiches, such as reubens and ham and cheese, and as a meat in entree salads, pea soups, and bean dishes. I don't flavor them when smoking, in order to vary the recipes later for all those pounds of meat... over many meals.