What to Do With the Bear Once You've Shot It: A Brief Outline of Bruin Gastronomy in NYC for New Jersey Hunters
In response to the rising bear population of northeastern New Jersey, the state's Department of Environmental Protection authorized a six-day bear hunt this year, commencing on December 6. State biologists predicted that as many as 400 cubs would be born next January, adding to an existing estimated population of 3,400, if a hunt was not authorized to thin the ranks. During the most recent hunt, in 2005, 298 bears were killed by hunters.
So let's say you take rifle in hand and go hunting. What if you bag a bear? The ethical thing to do is get all your friends together and have a big bear barbecue.
While eating bear sounds unspeakably exotic (or unspeakably repulsive) to many of us, bear was a staple on the menus of early restaurants in New York. Of the bear's flesh, Peter Lund Simmonds wrote in 1859 in The Curiosities of Food, "In North America, bears' flesh was formerly considered equal to pork, the meat having a flavor between beef and pork; and the young cubs were considered the finest eating in the world."
Simmonds further rhapsodized about bear, quoting one Dr. Brooke: "The fat is as white as snow, and extremely sweet and wholesome, for if a man drinks a quart of it at a time, when melted, it will never rise in his stomach." Hunters, take this tidbit of information to heart, and if you happen to bag a bruin on a cold day in December, hack off some fat, render it over a campfire in a pan, pour yourself a quart or so, and take a glug!
In the 1964 edition of The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer gives a further reason for rendering the fat right away: "Remove all fat from the bear meat at once, as it turns rancid very quickly." She goes on to note that all species of bear, except black bear, are edible, especially if marinated for 24 hours in an oil-based marinade. After that, the meat can be used in any stew recipe, requiring two and a half hours to cook a cub, and four hours for an older animal. Rombauer further cautions, "Bear, like pork, can carry trichinosis, so be sure the meat is always well cooked through." Hunters -- there's another word to the wise: no bear carpaccio!