Whole quarters come to us in many sizes – often they necessitate breaking down, either to fit in the freezer or to stretch the mass of meat and enjoy each cut on its own merits. Every now and then, though, we find ourselves with a surplus, or an interesting quarter that inspires something just a little different. This will be a go-to for any predator leg I find in my possession – especially if its a cougar or smaller black bear, but it works equally well with the rear-quarters from smaller deer or antelope.
- 1 ham works with any meat – bear or mountain lion preferred, venison works great too
- Kosher salt
- Instacure (sodium nitrite)
- Brown sugar
- Pickling spice
- Bay leaves
- Juniper berries optional
- Combine the following brine Ingredients in hot water, then dilute with cold water or ice: For each gallon of brining liquid; dissolve 9oz or 260g each of salt and dark brown sugar and 1 Tsp Instacure along with 1/2 cup pickling spice and several crushed bay leaves. Optionally add muddled juniper berries and extra cloves to taste.
- Doc Ham by perforating thoroughly with a pick, fillet knife, or large fork making sure to allow liquid to penetrate the thickest parts of the leg.
- Submerge the ham in the chilled solution and allow the ham to brine for 4 days, agitating regularly.
- Discard brine and re-submerge the ham in cold water for 6-12 hours. This will help moderate the saltiness resulting from a longer cure while still allowing all the deeper tissue to be reached by the brine.
- Remove & pat dry before taking to the smoker.
- Smoke over fruitwood at about 200 degrees until the ham reads your desired temperature. You can choose to baste your ham if you’re into that; honey or any sweet syrup will do. Lately I’ve been using sorghum syrup as it’s mellow & provides a little depth like brown sugar, but not so much as molasses. I pull venison at 140 degrees and predator meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tristan Henry is a lifelong Oregonian and perennial student of wild food and wild places. Tristan spent his youth in wetlands and on farms of rural western Oregon, where he cultivated a sense for stewardship and love for cooking. After college, he relocated to central Oregon, where he manages a small advertising agency, co-chairs the Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, chases elk with his bow, and wanders the hills with his wife and dog in search of food and fun.