Spring and Fall black bear must be cooked differently for best results. After hibernation, the meat from a Spring bear is very lean, and if the bear did not feed well before denning up even some of the muscle mass may have been used to keep the bear alive. Fall bear that have stuffed themselves with fall fruit, nuts and agricultural crops (where available) will have a layer of fat and better tasting meat.
Like hogs, bear meat will take up the taste of what it eats. Fruit-fed bears are the best, while salmon-fed bears can be expected to be quite different. Almost any bear meat can be successfully made into sausage. Except in extreme cases, even lean Spring bear can be converted into high-quality soups and stews. The key to doing this successfully is to be prepared to boil the meat for hours (or use a pressure cooker) until it is tender. Don’t, and you will chew on a piece of bear meat for a very long time indeed.
For ribs, grill them with sauce until they are nearly done, and then boil them into a large pot until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened in the bottom of the pot. The meat will have shrunk back on the bones as is shown in the photograph.
Browned Meat Stews
Cut the meat into chunks removing tendons and muscle sheaths. Coat with mix of flour, salt and pepper and fry until brown in olive or canola oil. Do not overcook – just brown the meat. Drain and blot off excess oil. Pace meat in large pot and add water, a peeled eggplant, 3 small potatoes, 1 medium onion, and a 14-ounce can of stewed tomatoes. Cook until meat is tender to the fork, adding additional water as necessary. This may take two hours or longer, depending on the age of the bear.
Boiled meat stews
In this case the meat is not browned, but cut, remove any tendons and put into the pot. Use equal numbers of peeled zucchini squash and cucumbers. Add 1 medium onion and 2 medium potatoes along with a 14- ounce can of stewed tomatoes, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of margarine and 1/4 teaspoon of tarragon. Cook on stove eye or in Crock Pot until meat is fork tender. Again, cooking time will be between 2 and 3 hours. It it has to be finished faster, use a pressure cooker.
For more information and recipes go to my website www.hoveysmith.com where I have cleaning and cooking instructions for bear and other game in my books, Crossbow Hunting, and Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound. Although the last book has “deer” in the title, I also cover bear, hogs and other game animals.