Out of ashes come growth - this old adage proved true this summer. We had a minor house fire requiring the replacement of the house electrical panel, my electrician and I started chatting about stuff, and he asked me about my family of webers. I told him how much I enjoy grilling and smoking with them, he informed me that he is an avid hunter, and asked if I've ever smoked game. I had not, and told him so. The conversation ended with him asking me if I'd be interested in a bear shank he had shot the previous fall, which had been in his freezer. In a moment of male posturing, I replied something like "hell yeah"!.
About 10 days later, he stopped by to drop off his bill, and asked if I was still interested in the bear. "yes", was my reply, thinking it will never actually happen. He excused himself for a minute, and returned to my kitchen with a large plastic bag, and a couple of packages of what turned out to be venison. His only request was that I give him some of the bear when I smoked it. Fair enough.
Finally, this weekend looked like it would be the time, as he was going to be around, and I had some time to smoke. Now, I'm starting to get nervous, reading seemingly contradictory things like "treat it like pork", "treat it like beef", it is tough, it is fatty etc. Combined with dangers of a potential parasite made me second guess my earlier bravado. The best advice I did get was not to eat bear shot at the garbage dump. Fortunately, this one was not.
I removed the shank from the freezer on Thursday night, and set things in place to start early on Saturday morning. Naturally, I could not sleep and woke up a bit before 6, giving me enough time to light a small pile of coals, heat water and take out the bear. The smoker was filled with Stubbs briquettes, a few chunks of mesquite, and a full water pan as well.
A moment of panic ensued, as I had to make a decision on what to rub it with. I selected a commercial rub and with a little trepidation, began to sprinkle it liberally on the bear.
Ended up chickening out a bit and going lighter on the rub than I normally do on pork and brisket as I was concerned about overdoing it, and having no idea what to expect from the meat. At 0603, this is what stared back at me on the smoker.
With a deep breath, I closed the cover and made my way to the coffee pot. A few checks of the temperatures and all was well around 275 or so according to the thermometer, a bit higher than I prefer, so after checking it at 10AM, I shut down two vents halfway to settle the temperature down slightly, as the cook was going a bit faster than anticipated. The temperature was already up to 140 or so and I had planned for a 6pm dinner.
At about 2:30 it was up to 180, and time to remove from the smoker.
After a couple of hours of rest in a cooler, my electrician friend stopped over, and we sliced into it and were very happy - nice flavor, not dry, and a great looking smoke ring on the edge pieces. The final product:
So, despite a lot of trepidation and worry, the actual cook went fine, and the end result was much better than expected. Nice to have something different under my smoking belt. The texture of the meat felt a lot like roast beef. Not as gamey as expected, actually quite mild.
Thanks for reading this long winded post.