When cleaning out my freezer in expectation of shortly having some fresh deer meat to put into it, I found a set of last year’s bear paws that I had planned to cook, but had not gotten around to doing. What better time to work up a dish with them than Halloween week?
Wanting to keep this a nearly all-American meal, I picked a fresh puff-ball mushroom out of my cemetery plot from behind the house, bought a small pumpkin and looked for ginseng root. I could not find that locally (It grows in North Georgia, but not where I live.), so I substituted ginger. I also added two large cans of tomatoes, two small cans of whole kernel corn and an onion. I selected an interesting hatchet from Fox for pumpkin busting, and I was soon videoing my first experience with cooking bear paws. There are Asiatic recipes for bear paws, but I was interested in seeing what could be done with home-grown ingredients.
I documented my cooking with a 15-minute video which you can see on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/hkvBWzq_R-s and cut this down to the 5-minute blog version which appears below.
The paws yielded more gelatin than meat. In in my next effort I will add a pound of lean bear meat to the recipe as well as another similar-size pumpkin. Alternatives could get quite fancy including using the gelatin to make any of a variety of aspics such as a chilled tomato aspic ( see Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking which calls for boiling calf feet as the source of gelatin). I found that when the soup was refrigerated it set up firmly, but reliquified when warmed.
In the longer version of the video, I said that I was going to feed the boiled foot bones to my dogs, but thought better of it when I examined them more closely. Dogs cannot (or will not) crush these small rounded bones and would be tempted to swallow them whole, and they could be choked. I took the precaution of pre-crushing the bones with a two-pound hammer and then mixed them with dry dog food. When I feed dogs bones, I dole them out a few at a time and then follow with bulky dry food. My dogs are Labs and do not have any problems processing occasional bones through their digestive systems using them as I do as an occasional treat that is always supplemented with dry food.
I describe my initial attempt as yielding a soup that was “eatable, but I would not go out of my way for it.” This means that it is a product of average quality that could easily be served to other people, but not “out of the ordinary.” It taste like a typical tomato-based vegetable soup without much meat. One could almost pass this off as a vegetarian soup if you omitted the lean meat and only used the paw-derived gelatin – an unkind act for a hard-core vegetarian, but a way to get some animal fats and protein into them. Most people these days have no idea that gelatins are an animal-derived product.
“It comes from a box, dosen’t it?” Yes, but some animal died to produce it. I just derive my gelatin from somewhat closer to the source. If I am going to take an animal’s life, I am going to use as much of it as possible. Often this leads to some interesting adventures in wild-game cooking, as occurred here.