The black bear harvest for 2012 is something over 2,600 animals at this point and now those lucky hunters who bagged a bear are wondering how to prepare this meat for the table.
At a wild game dinner at New Hope Baptist Church in Duncansville a few years ago, the undisputed game dish of the evening was a huge pot of bear stew. Master minded by Ed Figart of Claysburg, he was immediately besieged by requests for the recipe.
Figart is a friend of mine and no voice was more incessant than mine, asking him to write down the recipe so I could share it with you folks.
Like many cooks, however, he didn't have a recipe. He just threw it together. The other day I forced him to spend a few moments with me telling me what the ingredients were for this stew. It would work for venison, beef or bear. But when someone makes a dish out of bear meat and people are still nagging for the recipe a year later, you know it is something special. So here it is.
Figart's Bear Stew
n Begin with 2 pounds bear meat, cut into small pieces. Brown it in oil with a large onion.
n After meat is browned add a 32oz. can of beef broth to the meat and bring to a boil.
n When it boils, add one package of McCormick's Stew seasoning, turn the heat down and let the meat cook until it is tender. Set aside to cool.
n When cooled skim off any grease from the top and discard.
n As the meat cooks, cut up 6 large potatoes into small pieces along with some carrots, celery and green pepper.
n When meat is nearly done, throw the vegetables into the pot with the meat along with a second package of stew seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. When the vegetables are almost done, add a package of frozen peas.
n When stew is done stir in a mixture of flour/cornstarch and water for thickening until stew is consistency you desire. Let stand until it cools completely, during which all the flavors blend. Refrigerate it until next day, then reheat and serve.
My dear friend, Susie Schroeder of Altoona brought me some venison she had cooked with her special recipe and it was so good it really did melt in my mouth. I nagged her for the recipe so I could share it with you and here it is:
Susie's Secret Venison
1/4 stick of butter
2 pounds venison steak
1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
8 ounces sweet pickle juice
1 can stewed tomatoes
McCormick steak seasoning
n In a large frying pan melt butter.
n Brown steaks in the butter then add the sweet pickle juice, stewed tomatoes, diced onion, peppers and McCormick's seasoning to taste.
n Cover with water and cook on low flame for about an hour or until tender.
Not only does the pickle juice - use only sweet pickle juice - give this recipe a unique flavor, the juice also is a tenderizing agent for the meat. You'll love this recipe.
I have many recipes for venison but my contribution to this column will be to offer a few practical suggestions for plain and practical cooking of this most healthful meat.
First, be careful not to overcook venison. Venison is not marbled with fat, as domestic meats are, so it does not require as much cooking time as the exact amount of beef would.
My own indication of how to cook venison steaks or chops, for instance, is that when they get to the place where I would say to Myself," they just need another minute or two", take them off the burner then! Since there is no fat in the meat, cooking venison well done generally means it will be dried-out and tough.
Venison that has been cared for properly has a wonderful flavor and does not need soaked in anything or mixed with anything to be delicious. I do often marinade my venison in something but that's not to cover up some "wild" taste, but simply because I like the flavor of various marinades.
Venison hamburger is delicious in spaghetti and meatballs. Use your usual mixture of flavorings into the meat and cook just as you would if it were beef. If you don't tell folks what the meatballs are made of, they will not detect it.
Crock-pot cooking is another recommended way to keep venison moist and tasty. Put the potatoes, carrots and onions in with it and you will have wonderful pot roast or venison stew.
I guarantee you that there is no "pink slime" in venison.