They told me bear meat tastes like People – I didn’t want to ask how they knew.
My rugged hunter man went off into the woods and shot himself a decent-sized he-bear. When he came and announced the news to me I thought, “What are we going to do with all that meat?”
I’ve heard that it is a tough, sweet, oily sort of meat, not exactly everything we’ve come to love about good old Black Angus! But, being the types to embrace adventure – culinary or otherwise – I decided to do my best to cook it into some edible form and Alex promised to eat it with an open mind.
From the various hunters and other adventurous cooks I interviewed, I realized that bear is not a distasteful meat, just a misunderstood and often poorly prepared one. It tends to be on the tough yet mild side and the fact that the animal itself lives all winter on hoarded stores of fat means that there can be quite a bit of grease, but that is easily pared off with a sharp knife, leaving you with less fat than most beef. It seems this meat wants to be spiced up and simmered long. I thought – “Chili!”
I used my crock pot and cooked the daylights out of it while I was at work and we ate it with homemade corn bread and a wild greens salad – a perfect, rustic, simple autumn meal.
1 lbs lean bear meat, ground
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes plus 1 can water
4 oz cooked black beans
4 oz sweet corn (frozen or canned or fresh)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how hot you want your chili to be)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
The first thing is to fry up your onions, garlic and bear meat (*or* ground beef, since I suppose not everyone has a package of bear just sitting in their freezer, waiting to be used!) Start with about a teaspoon of olive oil or butter in a hot frying pan, add your diced onions and minced garlic and cook them over medium heat until they are translucent and fragrant. Next, add the ground meat with a little water. I don’t like to add more fat to fry the meat with when a quarter cup of water will keep things from sticking just as well. Break the meat into small pieces while it is cooking. Once the meat is thoroughly browned, turn off the heat and set the pan aside.
If you are using a crock pot, now is the time to rescue it from its shelf or box. If you are going to cook your chili on the stove top, get out an eight or more quart stock pot with a thick bottom. Pour the tomatoes, water, corn, beans and spices into the cooking apparatus. If you are wondering about the cocoa powder, let me tell you – it does wonders for a chili! It does not make your meat taste chocolate-dipped, rather it adds a depth and darkness of flavor that is hard to beat. Simply trust me and add the cocoa.
Now, scoop in the meat mixture and turn on the heat! As I said before, I let the chili cook on high in my crockpot for several hours. If you are cooking on the stove, let it simmer on a lower heat for an hour or two, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom. If you need to, cover it up or add water by the cupful if it seems to be losing too much moisture. It does need to cook for some time so that all those lovely flavors get a chance to work together and make something fabulous.
It will be fabulous, let me assure you, whether you use beef, bear, moose, venison or even ground chicken. You don’t necessarily need to be a huntsman to enjoy the fruits of field and forest. Enjoy!