5 Tips to Better Bear Meat (or any other wild game)

Many people claim that bear meat is disappointing at best, and inedible at worst.  This has NOT been our experience.  (And here’s my Mountain Man’s explanation on why.)

So here it is folk’s, the first post written by the Mountain Man himself.

So 2016 Colorado bear season was awesome!! Jodi and I hiked 4.5 miles into one of my favorite bear spots, and spent all day sitting over a pond.  It was early September and HOT, and we just knew the bears would need a drink eventually.  So we sat there from first light into the afternoon, enjoying the beauty, and throwing acorns at each other in our sock feet. About the time I was getting tired and losing interest (sitting is very hard for us both), Jodi’s eyes popped open wide and she nodded towards the pond. I about came out of my skin!!!  The bear was about 40 yards away, right where we expected to see her.  I told Jodi it was a good one and she downed her!  The bear dropped like a rock and Jodi whispered loudly “I shot a freaking bear!!!!!”

Bear Hunt

Then the work began.  We cleaned it out, skinned it, and started packing what we could into our day packs so we would hopefully save an extra trip with the frame packs (late in the afternoon as it was, we would only have time for one trip that day.) Sorry we didn’t get any pictures of breaking the animal down, but as hot as it was we needed to concentrate on cooling it out and not on pictures. Our day packs had to have weighed 60+ pounds when we were done, and if any of you have packed 60+ pounds in a daypack, you know the suspension in these packs ARE NOT made for that kind of weight, at least the ones we use. We didn’t have belly straps, so all the weight was on our necks and shoulders. To top the 4.5 mile hike out, the hike in that morning had caused some serious blisters on Jodi’s feet because her new boots were not broke in. No worry though, the nut just took her boots off and hiked her 60 pound pack out in her SOCK FEET!  (Crazy girl.)

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Anyway, the next day we finished the pack out (Jodi didn’t have a second pair of boots, so she decided to make the second pack out in her flip flops because we were several hours from home, (WOW!)  We were extremely careful caring for and cooling the meat out, and it is outstanding, nearly indistinguishable from beef. I hear people say all the time that bears make good dog food. I say BS, they make excellent people food if you take care of it and harvest it in the mountains on the berry patch instead of the local trash dump.

The least we can do for the animals we harvest is to put their meat to use!!

5 tips for caring for game meat, so it’s excellent people food, and not just dog food

  1. Cool the meat out quickly!! Immediately after pictures, get the skin off, and get the meat broken down, and off the bone.  Hang the smaller pieces in the coolest place possible. Preferably the shade or a North facing slope. There are arguments to leave the meat on the bone, because less dirt can be introduced. I prefer to de-bone in order to prevent the bone souring issues. It’s up to you, just cool it out as fast as you can.
  2. Cleanliness is king. Put the meat in game bags after carefully de-boning. Take care in keeping all foreign matter off of it. Don’t overstuff the game bags, which will cause the meat to hold heat and spoil.
  3. Get it off the mountain and back to the homestead, or the meat processor, as quickly as possible. The less exposure to air and temperature fluctuations the meat is exposed to, the better.
  4. During processing, be very careful not to leave anything on the meat that you don’t want to put in your mouth. Remove ALL dirt, hair, striffin, glands and excess fat.
  5. During packaging, remove all air from the package that is practical. We like to stuff the meat in a fold top sandwich bag, press all the air out, then wrap it in a single wrap of white butcher paper. Freeze as soon as possible.

I know there is a lot of “as soon as possible,” “quickly” and “as fast as you can” wording in these tips, but it is mandatory to get your meat off the mountain and into your freezer as quickly as possible.

*Note (specific to bear meat) You want to remove as much of the excess fat as possible, bear fat can be rendered separately into lard, but the meat will taste much cleaner when it is not cooked in it’s own un-rendered fat.

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Irish Stew with Colcannon & Whipped Horseradish Cream

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I love all things Celtic, It’s in my blood and I always love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with my favorite Irish Foods.  But a few years ago, things in life had gotten really crazy and I realized MID-DAY that it was actually St. Patrick’s.  GASP!  How had I let this sneak up on me without notice? 

I was in a panic.  I had NO CORNED BEEF in the freezer.  (And I wasn’t about to load up in the car and drive to town with two small children for 1 item.)  So I hopped on Pinterest for inspiration and realized that there are a LOT of options for delicious Irish fare besides my beloved Corned Beef and Cabbage.  I realized that a traditional Irish Stew is much like my own stew recipe so that would be a piece of cake.  But I needed something more, something celebratory that wasn’t on my typical monthly menu.  And then I discovered….

Colcannon.  A yummy concoction of mashed potatoes, bacon, cabbage and leeks. 

And not JUST Colcannon… but Irish Stew served OVER Colcannon. 

The next year, I decided to add a little extra flare and added whipped horseradish cream. 

Irish Stew OVER Colcannon TOPPED with whipped horseradish cream.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Comfort food in it’s most glorious form.

So I am here to share the glory with you today, and it goes something like this…

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The easiest way to start any recipe is “mic en place” (or for us down home cooks, “get yer stuff together”.)  This recipe has many components and the best way to simplify is to get all of your ingredients chopped, sliced and ready to go. 

Slice your leeks, shred your cabbage and chop your bacon, carrots and onions (and stew meat if needed.)

Starting with the stew…

This stew can be cooked on the stove, in a Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker) or in a crock pot. (see cooking times/methods in the recipe below)

Beef would be the most traditional meat choice of course, but you can use venison or elk, here I used bear stew meat.  Whatever you keep on hand is fine.

Start by cooking your onions and garlic directly in your stew pot or pressure cooker.  The only need for an additional pan here would be if you are going to use a crock pot to cook the stew.  In that case I much prefer cast iron for the browning process.

When the onions are cooked, remove from pan and turn you heat to high.  In batches, start browning your stew meat, seasoning with salt and pepper during the browning process.  *Note- Browning the stew meat in smaller batches is important.  You don’t want to over crowd your pan when browning meat.  If you do, the meat will essentially steam rather than getting that nice dark sear that you are looking for.  Give the meat some space and room to breathe.

After your meat is browned, remove the last batch and deglaze the pan with a bottle of Guinness or other dark beer, scraping the bits from the pan as you stir.  Add in your beef stock, tomato paste and all of your meat and vegetables.  You can tie your herbs into a bundle with kitchen twine or if you aren’t fancy like that, just place them on top and kind of “smoosh” them down beneath the level of the broth.

See the recipe below for cooking times & methods.

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Now, let’s talk Colcannon.

Add your bacon to a skillet and fry until crisp.  Remove from pan and add cabbage and leeks to the bacon grease and cook until tender (fresh garlic is a nice addition here too, but I was out today.)

While that is cooking, you’ll need to start some basic mashed potatoes; I won’t be going into that this time but will in a future post.

When your potatoes are mashed and seasoned the way you like, fold in the cabbage, leeks and bacon.  That’s it, Colcannon is done. 

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Now the third (and most epic) feature of this recipe, the whipped horseradish cream.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Well, maybe it’s not a secret but I didn’t catch on to this until about 2 years ago so it was big news to me.  So here goes… if you want a great punch of flavor from your horseradish you need to add… wait for it…

Sugar.  Sugar makes the flavor of horseradish really pop. 

Anyways… begin whipping your heavy cream in a stand mixer with a pinch of sugar and some freshly cracked pepper.  When the cream is whipped to stiff peaks, fold in your grated horseradish.  (Freshly grated horseradish is light and folds in nicely here, but if you are using horseradish from a jar, I suggest adding the horseradish during the whipping process. 

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So now you have all your components and all you have to do is pile it up!

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Colcannon, Stew, Horseradish Cream.  It’s a beautiful thing.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or Tuesday, any day really will be a happy day when this is in your belly. 😉

Irish Stew with Colcannon & Whipped Horseradish Cream


Stew:

  • 2 lbs Stew Meat of choice
  • 1 lg onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen green beans
  • 6 lg carrots, chopped
  • 1 lg bottle (mine was 1 pint 6 oz) Guinness or other dark beer
  • 1 qt Beef Stock
  • 2 Tbl tomato paste
  • 4 sprigs fresh herbs or 2 Tbl dried (I prefer rosemary and thyme for this recipe)

Saute onions and garlic until translucent, remove from pan and brown stew meat in batches (careful to not overcrowd.)  Season meat with salt and pepper while browning.  After meat is browned, deglaze pan with dark beer, scraping up any bits from bottom of the pan.  Add beef stock & tomato paste and adjust salt to taste.

Crock Pot: Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low 8 hours.

Instant Pot: For tender meats such as elk or bear – Add all ingredients to pot and pressure for 2.5 minutes. For beef stew meat or chuck – Add meat to broth and pressure for 25 minutes, quick release pressure and add vegetables, pressuring for another 5 minutes.

Stove Top: For tender meats such as elk or bear – Add meat to pan and simmer for 1 hour, add vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.  For beef stew meat and chuck – Add meat to pan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, add vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Colcannon:

  • 8 oz diced bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (green onions will also do in a pinch)
  • 4 medium potatoes, mashed and seasoned to taste
  • Crisp bacon in skillet.  Remove from pan and saute cabbage and leeks until tender.  Fold bacon and vegetables into mashed potatoes.

Whipped Horseradish Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 Tbl grated horseradish (to taste)
  •  pinch sugar
  • freshly cracked pepper

Whip heavy cream in a stand mixer with a pinch of sugar and some freshly cracked pepper.  When the cream is whipped to stiff peaks, fold in your grated horseradish. (Freshly grated horseradish is light and folds in nicely here, but if you are using horseradish from a jar, I suggest adding the horseradish during the whipping process.)

To Serve:

Fill bottom of bowl with Colcannon, ladle stew over the colcannon and top with a dollop of the horseradish cream.

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Healthy, Homemade Velveeta Style Cheese

As I have said before, one of my passions in cooking is Redeeming Comfort Food.  Finding ways to enjoy those foods that are total guilty pleasures and making them GUILT FREE is super fun and completely supportive of a “homestead state of mind.”  Cooking from scratch and reclaiming your health with super nutritious foods is incredibly rewarding

So what is one of the biggest guilty pleasure foods of all time?  Processed Cheese.  We can all pretend to be above such highly processed, preservative ridden junk food but lets be honest here, it’s ooey-gooey, creamy and melty in a way that in many recipes, you just can’t get with good ole’ fashioned cheese.

Or can you?

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With 3 simple ingredients, this recipe uses real food to produce the same cheesy product with no chemicals, no preservatives, no additives, no artificial ANYTHING.

In fact, the addition of a good quality gelatin actually boosts the nutritional value.

So here’s how it’s done:

Healthy, Homemade Velveeta Style Cheese

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 16 oz grated cheese
  • 1 heaping, half tablespoon gelatin
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Grate cheese of your choice.  (I used a mixture of Cheddar and Colby Jack cheese this time, whatever you have on hand will do.)
  2. “Bloom” gelatin by sprinkling it over 1 tablespoon of water in a separate bowl.
  3. Bring milk to a boil on the stove.
  4. Add grated cheese to your food processor or blender.
  5. When milk is boiling, (be careful not to scorch it) remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture.
  6. Start blender/food processor and slowly add milk mixture until will blended.
  7. Immediately scrape out your cheese mixture into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hrs or overnight.

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The possibilities are now endless for you.  The world is your bowl of Queso, or Broccoli Cheese Soup… or Green Chili Chicken Soup…

You get the idea.

Any recipe that uses processed cheese is now free game!  Go crazy!