Core Stories

Field to Table: Bourbon Blueberry BBQ Bear Roast

Safe, Simple, and Salivating

Cabin fever is a real thing, and after a long winter, many hunters are itching to get back out into the woods. Spring bear is an amazing hunting opportunity to kick-off your year and is the first big game season to open up in many areas. There is also no better time to be out in the bush. Everything in the forest is in full bloom, the animals are out, and you should be, too.

Spring also is the time to clean up your grill and start taking advantage of some great outdoor meals. Combine the weather, spring hunting, and some success in the filed and what better reason to fire up the grill than to cook up this delicious recipe using a roast from your recently harvested Spring Bear.

Demystifying Bear Meat

There are a lot of preconceived notions about bear meat. We hope to dispel some of those with this recipe. When treated properly, good bear meat eats like a cross between beef and lamb, maybe just a touch sweeter. In the spring time, the majority of a bear's diet consists of young tender grasses, no different than any domestic livestock. The fat on bear meat can retain a lot of “terroir” from what they have been eating, so it's important to process the meat properly. If you shoot a coastal bear off a salmon stream, there is a very good chance the meat will have some fish smell to it. If this is the case, remove as much of the fat as you can before you freeze it. An interior bear or a fall bear found up high in the blueberries will have a much different flavor, and you will not have to be as scrupulous with removing the fat.

If you have a chance to cook some in the moment after the kill, you will quickly figure out how to best approach the fat removal. If you feel that the flavor of the meat you are working with is on the strong side, we would suggest finding a different recipe, something very strong in flavor that will help to cover up some of the strong taste. The bear used in this recipe was very mild and we were able to leave some of the fat on it. A lot of people have neglected to take these steps, and more often than not, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

Trichinosis can also be a big hurdle for some hunters to overcome, but when cooked properly, bear meat is completely safe. This article from Hank Shaw will give you a complete understanding of the risks involved and how to be safe.

One of the great changes we have seen over the last couple years amongst hunters is a desire to try new recipes, techniques, meats, and cuts that in the past might not have made it to the dinner table. One of those new techniques that has become more common is sous vide cooking. The process of cooking “under pressure” at low temperatures in a water bath. Sous vide is a natural fit for game and provides lots of great benefits over more mainstream techniques. This recipe was cooked using the sous vide method, but there is also very simple directions for cooking it in the oven prior to the roast.

Lastly, one of the key ingredients of this recipe is the charcoal steak rub. These rubs are becoming very popular and for good reason. Shake it on any meat before cooking and you instantly get a deep rich hardwood grilled flavor with none of the hassle of even starting a fire. You can find lots of charcoal rubs online, and they will all work, but this one from Sebastian & Co is a cut above the rest.

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 4-5 servings.
Serve with soft buns and your favorite coleslaw.


Bear Roast

  • 3-4 lb bear hind leg muscle, cleaned of any fat and connective tissue.
  • Wild boar or cougar meat will also work great.


Bourbon Blueberry BBQ Sauce

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce or your sauce of choice


Garlic Brine, Herb Brush, and Seasoning

  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/8th cup of salt, coarse
  • Bunch rosemary
  • Bunch thyme
  • Charcoal steak rub

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Prepare The Bear

Oven Method

  1. Trim the bear muscle of all fat and connective tissue.
  2. Wrap the bear very tightly in saran wrap so it is completely sealed, and then wrap it with aluminum foil. The whole package should be completely air tight.
  3. Insert an oven safe thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the roast and cook at 175ºF until the centre reaches 160ºF, approximately 12 hours.

Sous Vide Method

  1. Trim the bear muscle of all fat and connective tissue and place into a sous vide bag or a ziplock bag. Insert a thermometer into the centre of the thickest part of the muscle and have the gauge stick out of the bag.
  2. Set the water bath to 160.5ºF and submerge the meat into the bath so the top of the bag and the thermometer remains out of the water. Use clothespins to hold the bag and thermometer above the water.
  3. Cook the bear until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160ºF. For this recipe the bear cooked for 14 hours.


Garlic Brine

  1. Bring water to a boil and add the garlic and salt.
  2. Remove from heat and allow the brine to cool completely.
  3. Using butchers twine or an elastic, bind the herbs together into a makeshift brush.


Bourbon Blueberry BBQ Sauce

  1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a pot, bring to a boil, and reduce by half.
  2. Add blueberries to the pot and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to splatter the syrup - it is extremely hot.
  3. Add bourbon and reduce the liquid by half again.
  4. Add BBQ sauce to the pot, bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat.


Roast
The Bear

  1. Remove the slow-cooked bear from the bag/wrap and transfer to a very hot grill or smoker.
  2. Brown the outside of the bear and baste the meat regularly with the garlic brine and the herb brush. Be liberal with the brine as the bear has no other seasoning.
  3. Once the bear has browned on all sides, approximately 5-7 minutes, dust the roast liberally with charcoal rub.
  4. Cook for a couple more minutes until the charcoal rub has created a crust on the bear.
  5. Remove the bear from the heat and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Slice and serve on its own or with soft buns and your favorite coleslaw.
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