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Thread: Questions on Processing Black Bear Meat and Rendering Fat

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    Member Steven_JR's Avatar
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    Default Questions on Processing Black Bear Meat and Rendering Fat

    I'm hoping to get some information on tip/tricks to processing black bear for quality table fare. Black bear has been on my list to hunt for a few years, but I've been hesitant as my first priority with any game I take is quality meat and I've heard bear can be hit or miss. It looks like I'll be able to pull it off this spring, so I want to have a solid plan in advance.

    In general, I've heard the two best times to harvest bears is early spring before they hit the salmon streams, or late fall once they've gorged themselves on berries. As I mentioned, the current plan is to head out in early spring (in SE AK), so I'll have to wait on a berry bear until later. I'm interested in saving both the meat, and the fat for rendering. I can do most processing myself, but I don't have access to the extra tools needed to make sausage, bacon, etc and will have to send it somewhere to do it. In no particular order, some of my questions are:


    • Does anyone have recommendations of places to have bear meat processed into bacon, sausage, etc? I'll definitely coordinate with them in advance, I'm just looking for any recommended places. Juneau, Anchorage, or in the Valley are all acceptable locations. Quality over convenience/price.
    • In general, is it recommended to leave any fat on the meat for processing? I know fat is needed to make sausage, is it preferred to use the bear fat, or mix in some other fat? Does fat cook ok on roasts (like a pork loin), or should I remove all but what is marbled into the meat?
    • I know the meat needs cooked well enough to kill trichinosis, so medium-rare steaks are out of the questions, but otherwise I'm assuming roasts, burger, and stew meat are all fine. Any other cuts you'd recommend?
    • I've heard of rendering the fat, but I'm not sure what exactly the process is. Does anyone have tips/tricks, or a general how-to to get me started? How do I store it afterwards? I've heard fall berry-bear fat is the best for rendering, but I'm assuming spring bear fat is ok as well, is that true?
    • Anything else I'm missing?


    Thanks in advance!
    -Steven

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    I'm not an expert on bear meat by any means but I do have a little experience.

    The only processor in the Anchorage area I found that does bears is Mike's Meats in Eagle River. I haven't asked in a few years but I doubt it has changed and if it has, someone will correct me no doubt.
    We have always trimmed as much fat off bears as we could. The fat has the strongest taste and to me, not that good. Mix with pork works well, again in my experience.
    You definitely do not want to undercook any bear meat. Can't recommend any other cuts.
    I have no idea about rendering fat. The spring bears I've taken or helped skin didn't have much fat on them after hibernation. Fall bears do.
    Personally I would rather eat fall grizzly that have been feeding on berries than black bear. To be honest I have not tried berry black bear.

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    Member Steven_JR's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tip on Mike's Meats, I'll give them a call. You make a good point on the lack of fat on spring bears, maybe I won't be rendering much if I get one this spring.

    Still taking advice/tips if anyone has some to offer!

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    Rendeing the fat is easy. Put large clean pieces of fat in to a container that can be heated slowly. When warm the fat tufns to liquid, stri it through a cheesecloth into a storage container that has an air tight lid.
    Extremely simple and very good eating. I will be pure white znd look identical to a can of crisco.

    Sping bears are excellent table fare, sausage, burger, etc.....
    Fall bears IF they have not been feeding on salmon are also great.

    We trim most of the fat off when processing the meat for the freezer.

    Good luck, post pics of your success.

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    I trim all fat off then cube it. I soak it in "corning" spices like for corned beef. Soak it for 10 days, stirring twice daily. Then I can it in jars following canning recommended times. It is the best bear meat I have ever had. Everything breaks down and it is fork tender and easily falls apart.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    With my wife's black bear, we took half of it to Indian Valley to be made into bacon and the other half to Glenn's (off of Muldoon) to be turned into bacon burger - basically burger that has bacon ends ground into it instead of suet. Both were phenomenal! Next time I would also take a couple solid parts of the hind quarter to Indian Valley to be made into pastrami. They gave me a sample of their bear pastrami, and it was excellent.

    I much prefer Indian Valley's bacon to Mike's Meats. Just my perspective...

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    Member Steven_JR's Avatar
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    Fantastic, that's just the information I was looking for. I'm not sure how I missed it when searching before.

    Brian, thanks for the heads up on Indian Valley bacon. And I never thought of pastrami, my wife loves that, guess I'll have to see if they have a sample available! Bacon burger sounds good too, and I can do that one myself!

    Thanks everyone! It sounds like the consensus is to remove most/all of the fat from the meat before processing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    With my wife's black bear, we took half of it to Indian Valley to be made into bacon and the other half to Glenn's (off of Muldoon) to be turned into bacon burger - basically burger that has bacon ends ground into it instead of suet. Both were phenomenal! Next time I would also take a couple solid parts of the hind quarter to Indian Valley to be made into pastrami. They gave me a sample of their bear pastrami, and it was excellent.

    I much prefer Indian Valley's bacon to Mike's Meats. Just my perspective...
    We had some moose pastrami made at Alaska Sausage this year, and it was amazing. Made 30 lbs and with Christmas and such, it's all gone. Great stuff!
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    I do not have any experience with salmon but in my opinion, when people have a problem with the taste of bear meat its due to the fat (I often hear people say that the meat is greasy and tangy).

    The fat on a bear goes rancid very quickly and impacts the taste of the meat just as quickly. Therefore, I recommend that you do not leave any on the meat at all.

    I believe it was Dr Ken Nordberg in his excellent book Do-It-Yourself Black Bear Baiting & Hunting (out of print and getting expensive to by old issues-new issue coming?) list timeframes for getting the fat of the bear or getting it to a cooler to insure the best quality. If it is 40 degrees you have 12 hours, 50 - 6 hours and 60 - 3 hours. When I go bear hunting, I take a freezer and generator with me to handle the problem and I have had nothing but delicious meat.
    As for cuts, roasts, burgers and stew is fine but I do not bother with steaks, since by the time you cook them to well done for trichinosis and since the cuts are tougher than beef, the end product is like shoe leather.

    As for rendering, when done right it is excellent.

    Hope this helps

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    Member 0321Tony's Avatar
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    I've of my favorite things to do with a fall berry black bear if I am back packed in somewhere is to take some of the back strap and cube it up then take some of the fat and render it down in my jetboil then cook the meat in the oil. A little salt and pepper and it is fantastic. Bear fat is great to cook with. As far as trichanosis goes there have been very ew cases of it that I could find on the cdc and most cases were multiple people from a single bear. The chances are slim and I always take the back straps and put them on the grill wrapped in bacon and cooked to a medium rare. It might get me one day but I love black bear meat from the early spring and late fall on berries and can't stand an over cooked steak. The rest of the meat we make into sausage and meat sticks. Can't wait till they start waking up again.

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    Member Steven_JR's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the information! I definitely feel better prepared if I get lucky enough to take a bear in the future. Just got to wait until they start waking up!

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    I personally put all fat on spring bears back into the grind meat because there is so little. We like roasts, sausage and hams. The past few years we have just done smoked hams from the hind quarters; they are excellent. Pioneer meats in Wasilla does bear, and will do small batches. Mat Valley meats is on and off with bear; sometimes they will do it, sometimes not, and they will mix batches. The exception is hams; you get your hams back for sure. And they have a terrific brine.

    If we have enough fat to render, we found that grinding it first makes the cook time WAY faster than just cubing it. After draining off the rendered fat, throw some salt on the chitlins and have a snack. Oh, my goodness! Makes my mouth water thinking about it.

    When you cook roasts, use a meat thermometer. Sear the roast first in an extremely hot cast iron skillet, then roast in a cast iron dutch oven. Searing it keeps the meat's juices inside it, helping it stay moist and tender. Remember meat continues to cook for a bit after removing from the heat, so don't over cook it. USDA guideline is 145* with 3 minutes rest before eating. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/...perature-chart.

    The biggest mistake people make cooking meat is overcooking. It comes down to how you approach cooking. Are you more afraid of getting sick, or of ruining the meat? I respect the meat too much to want to ruin it by poor cooking, so I take extreme care to just bring it to temp and quit cooking it. The line between perfect, excellent meat, and overcooked, awful meat is usually very thin and very easily crossed. If you fear sickness more, you tend to err on the side of overcooking, and end up making poor meat inedible, and good meat poor and nearly inedible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    With my wife's black bear, we took half of it to Indian Valley to be made into bacon and the other half to Glenn's (off of Muldoon) to be turned into bacon burger - basically burger that has bacon ends ground into it instead of suet. Both were phenomenal! Next time I would also take a couple solid parts of the hind quarter to Indian Valley to be made into pastrami. They gave me a sample of their bear pastrami, and it was excellent.

    I much prefer Indian Valley's bacon to Mike's Meats. Just my perspective...
    You prefer the peppered or plain with Indian Valley? thanks
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpdeines View Post
    You prefer the peppered or plain with Indian Valley? thanks
    I thought we would prefer the peppered, but the difference in flavor is almost imperceptible (we did half of each). We'll get the plain from now on.

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