I hope you are reading this recipe because you were a successful bear hunter! This particular bear in the photo that I’m using for the recipe lived its life mightily on the shores of Lake Superior in the old growth forest of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
I rendered down his fat and made some delicious cracklings, too. Rendering fat is something that should be taken slowly. Make sure you have the dedicated time to tend the fat frequently.
Cook time: 1-2 hours for a small batch or pot.
Crack, pour, or open your favorite beverage and take a moment to reflect on your successful harvest. Go back to the experience of the hunt, the trials and tribulations that ultimately presented you with this gift. Toast to that animal that gave its life so you can continue your's to the fullest.
Start with a clean, partially frozen chunk of bear fat. When it's frozen, it's much easier and less messy to cut. Trim the fat of any kind of meat or blood particles to avoid any kind of bad flavors added to the oil.
Cut the cleaned fat into around 1 inch cubes. They don't need to be perfect; this is just the general size we want each chunk to be prior to them melting down.
Take another sip of your preferred beverage and admire your dicing skills.
Fill your preferred cooking pot with the cubed fat. I like to use a big cast iron pot. Make sure your pot isn't preheated prior to putting the fat in it.
Start on a low to moderate temperature and begin to heat your fat. Imagine that the pot is full of ice cubes and you’re just trying to get the ice to drip and last long without boiling it away. This is a low and slow kind of endeavor. If it starts smoking, it’s way too hot! Remove from heat and stir repeatedly until it cools back down.
The fat will slowly start to render out and this is where you really want to stir frequently and take your time. Eventually the rendered oil will start to build up in the pot and fat cubes will start to float. Do not let the oil get hot enough to deep fry the chunks of floating fat. Remove from heat and stir if you feel the oil is getting too hot before returning to the heat.
When you have a good amount of oil and have rendered most of the fat out (at least 1-2 hours depending how much fat you use), you’ll be left with the cracklings, or the unmelted fat. They will just get crispier as time goes on and no longer emit oil. Remove these cracklings into a dish for a tasty snack (smash em’ if cooked thoroughly, you owe it to yourself, and they taste like crispy chicken skin), or crush them down to use in another recipe of your choosing.
Ladle the oil out of the pot and strain through a fine strainer or use cheesecloth to get the finer pieces of cracklings out of the oil. I usually strain the oil twice.
Pour the strained oil into your favorite storage container. Ball mason jars work great, and come in a variety of different sizes. I like to use 8oz jars to have a few on hand for gifts or for throwing quick in my pack to take along on a trip into the backcountry. You can also strain the oil through your favorite flavors; browned garlic is one of mine. I have yet to try straining it through something floral like lavender.
Let cool to room temp and then store in your fridge or freezer. Rendered bear fat has a pretty long shelf life when stored and used properly. It will last for several months in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer.
Let the cooking begin! Savory pie crusts, biscuits, bear fried in bear, soaps, salves; the uses are endless. Enjoy your harvest to the max and be sure to share with others.