Spring Bear Feasts
By, Prois Staffer & Montana State Coordinator, Margie Nelson.
While on our Prois spring bear hunt in Idaho this June I was fortunate to harvest a fine Black Bear sow. My compadres in “big ideas” and “crime” also were fortunate to harvest two additional sows and one particular beauty named Panda was allowed to grow and spread some fine genetics or we would have all tagged out.
This was a particularly fun trip with Kirstie Pike of Prois, Judy Sonne of Weatherby and Donna Boddington of The Boddington Experience….And then there was little ol’ me. Just me, Margie Nelson of me just being me. We had a super great time with our Outfitter Sparky Sparks of M2D Living the Dream at his Idaho properties. I have never laughed so hard in all my life!! Between our drives to Salmon to the taxidermist or having a beer in the most inappropriate bar I have ever been in, and the only bar in town I might add! Good times.
I had enjoyed an uncontrolled laughing fit at the expense of Sparky just about 10 minutes before I noticed movement behind the bait barrel, then the black bear circled around front. We watched this bear for about ten minutes trying to decide if it was a shooter or not and once coming to the conclusion that I should just take the shot. It was over. Or was it? My bear moved across the road and we weren’t sure it wasn’t a second bear, so now we had to run over there ever so cautiously and check it out. Took one more shot to seal the deal and I had my first black bear.
Why at this age was this my first black bear? Well, My Grandpa said he’d never shoot another bear after he got his, my Dad said he’d never shoot another bear after he got his and my son shot his fall bear with his bow and when I went to process it, I told him that he would never shoot another bear. Gaross!! KaKaMeMe! Yuck. Then while I was in Africa some guys from Louisiana told me that I needed to give bear a chance! So I became determined to make bear edible and good. And I did too!
I came home with some of Kirstie’s bear for sausage (pending) most of Judy’s bear and all of mine. I took the hind quarters of my bear and Judy’s and turned them in to ham. And it turned out fantastic. The shanks will be used for Osso Bucco and the back straps I am going to use Hank Shaw’s recipe for bear stew. The fat is in the freezer waiting to be rendered for waterproofing leather boots, making pie dough and possibly a few bear fat candles for the Bad News Bear Hunters. But for now, here is what I did with the hind quarters.
Smoked Black Bear Ham
Clean your hindquarters up and remove all the fat that you can. Then either purchase a net for your hams or roast or wrap it with string (I stringed it) Mix your brine up in a 5 gallon Rubbermaid container and put the hams in making sure they are covered completely by the liquid. Inject the brine also into the hind quarters to the bone and make sure you inject and turn each hind quarter daily for 7 days.
After 7 days get your smoker ready and use some good wood for smoke. I didn’t add cherry wood until the last two hours and it worked nicely (for a smoker I used a pit barrel and absolutely loved the ease of hanging the meat and the convection of the barrel smoked the hams beautifully) Take your hind quarters out of the brine and pat them dry with paper towels and allow to drain for about 15 minutes or so. Hook them and hang them and smoke for approximately 4-5 hours or until the internal temp gets to 180. Pull your hams out and let them set for about half an hour before sampling. Then use just like you would any other ham. I have had it with cheese on a cracker, Ham sandwiches with Miracle Whip……Yes, I said it! Miracle Whip! And made an awesome batch of ham and beans which gave me so many other ideas of what to do with a bear ham. Here is my Brine recipe….Now, go use that bear! It is good!
– 1 to 2 gallons ice cold water
– 2 tablespoons of #1 Insta Cure
– 2 cups coarse salt
– 2 cups brown sugar
-20 cloves of garlic
– 2 cups maple syrup
– ½ cup pickling spices
– 2 10-pound bone-in bear hind quarters