There are a lot of exciting things that come with harvesting a black bear. For me, many of these are the multitude of culinary experiences that come after the harvest. Rendering fat, slowly braising roasts, burgers, or chili; it’s all fun, interesting and delicious. Bear meat is a favorite, and the quickest to run out in my family. Couple this with friends and neighbors that are excited to try something different, and it can be tough to keep a supply around. Of course, sharing a dish is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a hunter.
This recipe for a smoked ham, from The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook, is the perfect way to prepare your bear so that there is plenty to go around. It can be served hot out of the smoker, or days later in soups, on sandwiches, or with a side of eggs.
In full disclosure, I strayed slightly from the official recipe in a place or two and recommend referring to The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook for the original recipe. With that said, here’s how I did it, and it turned out great!
Instructions, as told by Hunt To Eat Ambassador, Michael Cravens:
I prepared the brine on the stove top combining the water, salt, sugar, and remaining ingredients in a large stainless steel stockpot. After bringing to a boil and stirring until the sugar and salt were completely dissolved, I removed from the heat, allowing it to cool, and then chilled overnight in the refrigerator.
The following morning, I thoroughly injected brine into the ham until I was satisfied that it was completely saturated. Next, I submersed the ham into the stockpot making sure that it was completely covered in the brine. During the following five days, I removed the ham on two more occasions and repeated injection process.
After five days in the brine, I removed the ham, rinsed with fresh water, and patted dry with towels. I let the ham rest and approach room temperature while I prepared the smoker. I love the big smoky flavor I get with mesquite, but any good smoking wood would do just fine. As the smoker was coming to temp, I made a last minute decision to remove the bone and truss the ham with some kitchen twine. I decided to do this largely for aesthetics and because I thought it would be fun to try.
I smoked the ham directly on the rack between 200° to 225° for approximately eight hours until the center temperature reached 160°. In the final hour or so of smoking, I basted the ham with pure maple syrup three separate times.
Once removed from the smoker, I let the ham rest for about thirty minutes before slicing and serving to friends and family.
Ingredients (recipe from the MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook):
1 bone-in bear ham (mine was approximately 8 pounds)
Pure maple syrup
For the Brine:
2 gallons water
2 1/2 cups kosher salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
20 black peppercorns
8 juniper berries
6 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Prague Powder #1
For more recipes, check out the Hunt To Eat Blog.
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