On Tuesday's "Talk of Alaska" radio programme on KUAC, there was a discussion of eating wild game. It is no surprise, in a state that has abundant salmon runs, caribou herds that number tens of thousands of individuals, moose walking down Main Street, halibut larger than a person that the consumption of wild game should be a topic of frequent conversation. Or that in a state with so much frontier-style individualism, and a living Native heritage of subsistence, that it should be prevalent.
One caller gave a recipe for making ham out of black bear. The following is my paraphrase of his commentary, recorded here as much for my own records as for anyone reading: Unlike a cold cured ham such as proscuitto in the Italian tradition, where you have to have the skin left on – scalded and de-haired, he skins the bear and uses the pelt otherwise. Then, taking each of the four legs from knee to shoulder or knee to ball-joint; brine the leg in a brine of one cup salt and one cup brown sugar per gallon of water for 10 days. Then rinse the leg in clear water for 24 hours, changing the water for fresh every couple of hours. This is to get all the excess salt out of the flesh. You use the salt to cure the meat, but you don't want it staying in the finished product. Then using a smoker, hot smoke the hams at 170 until the meat reaches a safe temperature. Black bear carries trichamonis which is tranmissable to humans. The bacterium dies at relatively low temperatures, but you want to be sure that the meat's internal temp raises to at least 150. Then eat and enjoy! He recommends thin slices bear ham on rye with mustard, or fried with eggs for breakfast.
Take the belly fat and treat it just as you would bacon. This is apparently where the term "Canadian bacon" comes from. Originally, Canadian Bacon was made by frontiersfolk out of black bear, and it wasn't until civilized commercialism came along that it morphed into a different preparation of pork belly.
Take the rest of the fat from the animal and render it down to lard, store in sealed jars to use in baking and pies. The caller never eats pig products anymore really, only bear. While I plan on raising pigs, at least for the next few years, and don't know if I will ever shoot a black bear; if I ever do, or if a hunter aquaintance doesn't want to eat his bear, I can guarantee that I'll be making ham!
In other news, I hear that lynx tastes like chicken.