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!