Spring bear season is firing up as the bears wake from their winter slumber. It’s well known that the spring is the best time for a prime bear pelt, but too many successful hunters ignore the potential feast at their feet.
Bear meat is much like pork, in that it’s susceptible to trichinosis, a disease caused by round worm ingestion. (Mountain lion (cougar) is also subject to the infestation.) It is a nasty disorder and could result in death. Fortunately, prevention is easy. Make sure that all meat from susceptible animals is thoroughly cooked—meaning, the internal temperature greater than 150 degrees for several minutes. So what do we do with bear meat?
One thing I really enjoy doing is making sausage, in this case a hot (spicy) Italian sausage. It goes great in any Italian recipe, and one of my favorites is spaghetti. You can also make a mild or sweet version of Italian sausage. When making sausage with wild meat I’ll combine it 50-50 with some pork butts that I buy on sale at the market, grind and then freeze. Here’s what you will need:
3 pounds coarse ground pork butts
3 pounds coarse ground bear meat (remove all bear fat)
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried basil
4 teaspoons paprika
4-5 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1½ teaspoons ground fennel seed
½ teaspoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Place the meat and red wine vinegar in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, paprika, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, brown sugar, oregano and thyme. Knead until flecks of spice are evenly distributed through the sausage.
Run the mixture through your meat grinder using the fine sieve plate (¼-inch). If you like your sausage in casings, feed the effluent into pork or sheep intestines (available at most meat markets) and make up links. Refrigerate the sausage at least 24 hours before cooking. If you prefer bulk sausage, eliminate the sausage casings and put the sausage into 1-pound wrappers.
The secret to great spaghetti is the sauce. This recipe takes a bit of time, but the result is worth it.
2 pounds of hot Italian sausage, browned
2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
Olive oil (enough to cover saucepan bottom)
Cut the linked sausage into 1-inch chunks and thoroughly brown in a skillet coated with olive oil. If using bulk sausage, crumble and brown. I usually start the skillet hot; then turn it down to about one-half heat to prevent burning. Make sure the sausage chunks are completely browned.
Coat the bottom of your saucepan with oil, sauté parsley and garlic until garlic is light brown. Be careful not to burn. Move this mixture to a large pot, add the cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, cumin, browned sausage and oregano. Stir. Bring up to a boil then simmer at least 3 hours. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from burning. Add the onion and bell pepper 10 minutes before simmering is complete.
All you need now is to boil up the spaghetti, drain it and serve with a generous portion of your sauce! Enjoy!