A hearty, hefty pot roast.
While elk and venison are the staples of many Montanans’ diets, black bear is often overlooked. This furry creature is, however, a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of spring. Montana’s generous two-month spring bear season gives hunters ample opportunity to explore new areas and restock the freezer after a long winter.
Despite their tastiness, black bears are omnivorous, and with that comes the danger of parasites not found in grass-consuming ungulates. Trichinella spiralis, a microscopic nematode worm, is the primary concern. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees is the only way to ensure that this nasty freeloader is killed. For that reason, it is best to cook bear meat in roasts or stews so as to avoid the temptation of a medium-rare burger.
When it comes to cooking, a few things differ from a traditional venison pot roast. Bear meat has ample intramuscular fat, making it unnecessary to use any bacon, as is common practice with leaner cuts of game meat. Bear meat also has a more subtle flavor than deer, and can be easily overpowered by wine. A can of beer and fresh fruit—huckleberries, plumbs, or wild strawberries—are the perfect pairing. In this variation, we used rose hips de-seeded and frozen whole, then thawed prior to cooking.
3 lbs. black-bear roast, deboned
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 cup wild-game broth or chicken stock
3/4 cup fresh fruit
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed whole
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
30-rack of cheap beer (Budweiser, Busch Light... you get the idea)
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop. Generously coat the bear meat in salt and pepper, and douse it with flour. Sear for two minutes on all sides. Remove the roast and add the onions and garlic, searing them for another two minutes. Deglaze the pot with one can of beer and the broth. Add the meat back in, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover, and place in the oven at 250 degrees for five to six hours, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If desired, remove the meat and reduce the sauce on the stovetop to thicken it up. Serve with mashed potatoes and the remaining beer.
Eli Fournier is a semi-amateur chef who occasionally ventures away from the familiar ground of peanut-butter-and-jelly tortillas. Last year, he starred in the first round of the cooking show “Chopped,” but was disqualified under the false pretense of “playing with his food” after bringing a live forest chicken into the kitchen.