BEAR…IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER

Posted: December 18, 2019 in Food, Recipes, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,
Recently, I received a wonderful surprise delivery of fresh venison and bear meat from my buddy, Bruce, a hunter.
Bruce was fortunate enough to get two deer this year, and was nice enough to share some of that meat with me. I save the tenderloins to cook very simply: I slice them into medallions and dust them with a little bit of flour before sautéing them in a pan with butter, onions, and mushrooms. Those medallions, along with some farm fresh fried eggs, are truly the breakfast of champions! I learned all about that from my father-in-law, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a hunter from a very young age out of necessity: he was 1 of 17 children! Hunting with his father was simply the only way they could feed his large, poor family.
I also make jerky with the venison backstrap, which I think is superior to beef jerky. Wonderful flavor. I bring bags of it to work and it’s quickly devoured by my co-workers.

Bear meat is very dark, almost like liver.

I’ve only had bear meat once before, and again, that came from my father-in-law, who made summer sausage out of it. It was pretty tasty, but somewhat gamy…nothing a swipe of mustard couldn’t fix!
So when Bruce brought me some ground bear meat, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. He suggested that it’s best used in a recipe where you add seasonings to it…we’re talking meatballs, tacos, etc….or a chili or stew, where you cook it low and slow. Either  way, the meat needs to be cooked thoroughly, as it’s common to find a parasite in bear that can cause trichinosis. The general rule is “season it like beef, cook it like pork.”
I did some research and found that bears are omnivores, so the meat tends to taste like whatever they ate last. If that happens to be salmon, the meat can have a fishy, unpleasant taste. If he last ate berries, it could be really good. Bear fat can ruin the taste of the meat, so it tends to be butchered very lean, which also makes it somewhat dry and flavorless.
I figured the tacos were the way to go, since I use a lot of seasonings. Here’s my basic taco seasoning recipe…
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
olive oil

Sauteing it well!

 

I start with some olive oil or bacon fat in a pan, and saute onions until they’re translucent. Then I add the bear meat, and cook it well, adding the seasonings at the end.

I topped the seasoned bear meat with cheese, beans, and a tomato and onion salsa. I also drizzled a little bit of Thousand Island dressing on the top. (Personal preference) I used flour tortillas and the tacos were actually pretty tasty!
These days, when black bear populations get out of control in some areas of the northeast, hunters are allowed to step in and reduce the population. But back in the early 1900’s, bear meat was commonly hunted and cooked. We can thank Teddy Roosevelt for saving the bear when, ironically on a bear hunt, he refused to shoot a bear that was tied to a willow tree. A toy company marketed a stuffed bear to commemorate the incident, and the teddy bear was born. After that, bears had a cuddly image (think Smokey and Yogi), that kept people from eating it.

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