Category Archives: Food

Buck Bad Venison

Hunter-chef Hank Shaw’s latest book takes on bucks and bulls, from kill to freezer to pan to plate.

By Randy King

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It was still dark when Hank Shaw and I sat down in the Idaho sagebrush. It was opening day of general rifle mule deer season and Shaw was on a mission. He was going to write a book on cooking venison and I was trying to help get him a buck. As we sat waiting for the sun to begin illuminating the hill to the east, a bull elk sounded off. Then another. It was too late for the rut, but the elk serenaded us anyway.

It felt like such an honor to be deer hunting with Shaw. The man’s a legend among the “cook what you kill” movement. His website, honest-food.net, is a James Beard Award winner – think Oscars for foodies – and I had met him a few years prior when he was promoting his first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook. I’d interviewed him for a local paper and was thrilled to find another person in the wild game chef sphere. He became a go-to source for my wild game culinary questions – a valuable one too. And he had single-handedly gotten me to look at the plants – not just the animals – around me as food. My wife made fun of me for being a “weed eater” as I examined and cooked the contents of my lawn one spring. And now this well-known and well-published author was looking to me for a deer. I did not want to disappoint.
AS SHOOTING LIGHT neared, I was feeling confident. I had hunted this general area hard in archery season and had even missed a doe near the spot we were sitting a month prior. In fact, I’d sent Shaw a map with two X s proclaiming the locations where he was likely to get his buck. We were overlooking one, playing the waiting game as the deer slowly moved uphill, away from the water and into bedding areas, as the morning began.

As the light grew so did our field of view. Two bull elk crested the horizon, antlers silhouetting on the ridgeline in the distance. We waited and glassed and waited and glassed. But nothing came; it was time to move to X number two.

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We were slowly backing out of our location and making a wide swing to a different ridgeline when Shaw caught sight of the first deer of the morning. “Flat head,” he declared in new-to-me terminology for a doe.

The deer was about 200 yards off and feeding away from us. A good sign, but not a buck. We glassed the sage and juniper country for a while longer, then Shaw caught sight of another deer.

“I think it’s a little buck,” he said. I had the better optics and gave the mule deer a gander. Sure enough, a little forked horn was feeding away from us. “Perfect shooter,” I replied.

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Hank Shaw is a West Coast hunter-chef who is coming out with his third book, Buck, Buck Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and Other Antlered Things, just in time for fall seasons. (HANK SHAW)

We were hunting a management unit that limits harvest of general season bucks to no more than 2 points on one side. This created a “trophy unit” for those lucky enough to draw the tag. It also created a “meat unit” for those who do not care about such things, so this 1½-year-old buck was a great legal option.

Shaw and I slipped in behind a large juniper in the distance and began to close in on the little buck. The lone tree created just enough of a shield to get us within 70 yards or so. He was in the lead when we caught better sight of the buck’s antlers. It was not a forky but a 2×1. Shaw turned and whispered to me, “You shoot this one; I want a forked horn at least.”

I slipped in front of Shaw and took up my shooting stick, anchoring it in a sage, and bore down on the buck. I watched as his ears flicked; I could see his chest move as he breathed in and
out. Then out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of something else. I took my eye out of the scope to see another buck looking right at us. Quickly I pulled up my binoculars to check if he was legal – a perfect little 2×2! I turned to Shaw and handed him back the shooting stick.

“A forky!” I exclaimed, a little louder than I should have. Now both deer were looking at us.

Shaw took the stick back and began to pull up on the buck when it started to stot off.

“Shoot, shoot, shoot!” I exclaimed, perhaps a little too pushily.

“I don’t shoot running targets,” Shaw said, quieting me down and making me check my ethics. I would have shot; I felt a little ashamed. Both deer crisscrossed several times and then stopped under the shaded canopy of scrub brush at about 100 yards, broadside and looking at us. Shaw pulled up his .270, fired and one of the bucks dropped. I pulled up on the other buck, which looked at us for a few seconds, but could not squeeze the trigger. I was hoping to shoot my first whitetail that year and wanted to save my tag for later in the season. Plus, my main mission was now a success: Shaw had his Idaho mule deer on the ground.

Unfortunately in the chaos, he had shot the 2×1 he’d wanted to pass on. To this day, I feel guilty about pushing him into shooting. But his buck was legal and he seemed happy to have it, so no harm, no foul. What I know about little bucks is that they are delicious – this one would be no exception.

You learn a lot about a person while dragging a buck up a hill. You learn if they are tough, if they are patient and if they have grit to get a job done. Shaw does, and that was good to learn. We trudged the little buck up to a fence line, crossed and situated it in a meadow. I left to get the ATV.

We were back at camp by 9:30 a.m. and rested the remainder of the day. With meat secured, Shaw soon left for his home in California. We have since foraged, fished and hunted together a number of times, and fast forward three years and Buck, Buck Moose is about to hit the shelves. I might be riding coattails here, but I feel like I helped. Shaw needed a buck for his book and he got one. Oh, and by the way, he got it within 100 yards of one of those Xs on the map I sent him.

Shaw’s new book includes tips and photographs on “seam butchery,” a good way to disassemble large muscle masses like thighs. (HANK SHAW)

Shaw’s new book includes tips and photographs on “seam butchery,” a good way to disassemble large muscle masses like thighs. (HANK SHAW)

Randy King Book three, Hank – what is this one about?

Hank Shaw Buck, Buck, Moose is something of a follow-up to my last book, Duck, Duck, Goose. Where the duck book covered all things waterfowl, this one, as you might imagine, covers everything you might want to know about prepping and cooking venison – in all its forms. One of the reasons we named the book as we did was to give people a sense that it wasn’t just about whitetail deer – sure, deer bucks, but also antelope bucks, and moose and elk, etc … Also, well, we did think it was a fun title.

RK There are other venison cookbooks on the market. What makes Buck, Buck, Moose different?

HS It is far more comprehensive, in all respects. The book covers everything from the moment you have the deer on the ground all the way to the freezer, and beyond. I go over food safety, detail general differences in the various meats by species and region, and I offer a style of butchering that can literally be done with a pen knife and a pocket saw – although I’d suggest a proper boning knife and a Sawzall, if you have them.

Buck, Buck, Moose also looks at venison cookery from a nose-to-tail and a global perspective. You will see recipes for venison from all over the world. Why? Because every culture in the world has at least a historic tradition of eating deer, elk, gazelles, moose, antelopes and the like. Similarly, it is important to me to open up to home cooks new ways of cooking the animals we bring home to feed our families. I’ll never ask you to eat innards because I think you ought to out of some moral obligation. But I will ask you to try my recipes for things like hearts, livers, tongues and kidneys because they taste amazing. Give them a go and you’ll see.

RK This book was funded via Kickstarter – full disclosure: I am waiting for my copy – why did you choose the self-publish route versus the traditional publisher route?

HS Primarily for editorial control. I was able to create exactly the book I wanted to, and include as many photos as I wanted to, with no restrictions. It is liberating. Another huge reason is because many (but not all) mainstream, big-city publishers flat out told me they had no idea how to sell this book to the people they normally market books to. Remember, for the most part, people aren’t buying venison, they’re hunting it. It was an eye-opening look at a little sliver of this cultural divide we’re experiencing in this country. I don’t blame the editors for passing on the book, but it may have proved to be a blessing in disguise.

RK You are about to start the book tour – mind telling me what that entails? The life of a traveling author seems so glamorous, after all.

HS Oh, God. Yeah, it’s basically like a rock-and-roll tour, only with no explosions, groupies, money or drugs. Long hours in planning every detail – a 55-event tour has innumerable moving parts to it – driving endless miles solo, being in and out of airports (who doesn’t love the TSA?), nights in hotels watching ESPN. You lose your voice at least twice every tour, and Nyquil becomes your best friend because you invariably get sick meeting so many people.

But those are the down sides to this sort of tour. The upsides are the events themselves. Book dinners, presentations, parties, cooking demonstrations and classes. They’re all fun in their own way, but what really keeps me going on all those days on the road are the people I meet. Long-time readers, people who’ve never heard of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, rich people, poor people, rural, urban, left, right, black, white: I see all kinds when I am out there. And seeing each night how so many people of such disparate backgrounds come together over a shared love of wild food cements why I put myself through this. Gratifying is putting it mildly.

RK What is your “date night” recipe in Buck, Buck, Moose?

HS Oh, there are many of them. There are more than 120 recipes in the book, and most could be done for a date. But if I had to choose one, I’d say either venison loin with Cumberland sauce or Steak Diane. They are both classic dishes many modern cooks snub, but they are classics for a reason. Both are fairly easy to make, and taste more fancy than they are. If I were back in my 20s, I’d memorize these two dishes: They’d be an ace in my pocket for a hot date.

RK Give me a “top three” pieces of advice for cooking venison.

HS 1) Never cook the loin, tenderloin or whole-muscle roasts from the hind leg more than medium, and cook the shoulders, neck and shanks longer than you think you need to. 2) Don’t grind everything. I like burger as much as the next guy, but unless you are shooting lots and lots of deer (some people do), for the love of all that’s holy, please don’t grind the luxury cuts. 3) Don’t forget the bones for stock! Bones and little bits of sinew and gristle make the best stocks and broths. The only caveat to this is if you live or hunt in a place where there is widespread chronic wasting disease, where you might not want to keep the bones.

RK What exactly defines venison? A cow is not venison, but a moose is? What is the line in the sand for determining what is classified as venison? Is a wild goat venison?

HS Venison to some means deer and only deer. But most people in the English-speaking world use “venison” to mean any deer or deer-like animal. So elk, moose, all the deer and antelope, as well as caribou, would all be venison in this sense. This is the way I use venison in the book. The French use venison to mean all wild game. While I would not call wild goat or sheep or muskox or bison venison, you could use all of these meats as a stand-in for venison for any recipe in this book.

RK Can you tell me about your two prior books?

HS I’d mentioned my last book, Duck, Duck, Goose, which is a fullcolor, hardcover, comprehensive waterfowl cookbook. My first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, is something of a primer on the wild world. Experts in each of the many fishing, foraging and hunting sections of that book may not learn too much from the techniques I describe (although most will pick up at least a few new tricks). But the real value of the book is to open up extra skills to someone who loves self-sufficiency and being outdoors. Anglers might learn more about the wild edible plants they are around when they fish the banks and beaches. Hunters might pick up new tricks on foraging. Foragers might read the hunting section and decide to finally take the plunge and begin what can be a lifelong pursuit.

RK Can you tell me more about honest-food.net?

HS Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is the core of what I do. Honestfood.net is the URL to get there, and I gave it that name initially back in 2007 because I wanted to deal with what I call honest food: Nothing industrial, nothing overly processed and certainly nothing that came from a lab. Honest food does not have to be wild, but that is my area of expertise. So the site, over the years, has become the largest source of wild food recipes on the internet. There are almost 1,000 recipes, tips and technique posts covering everything from wild game to fishing, clamming, foraging, mushrooms – you name it. I post every week, and often twice a week, and this is the home of most of my more thoughtful essays on this wild, edible world we live in.

RK And just what is a James Beard Award?

HS Quite simply, it is the Oscars of the food world. There are few higher honors for a chef or a food writer. I was honored to be nominated, which means top three, in 2009 and 2010, and was overjoyed to have won the award in 2013.

RK I know you and Steve Rinella, “The MeatEater,” are friends, but in Steve’s new book he proclaims that most red meat is interchangeable with other red meat in recipes – especially in big game. How do you feel about that? Do you think a person can substitute antelope for mule deer in a recipe?

HS Sort of. There are differences, especially if you begin to stray into more esoteric red meats, like beaver or jackrabbit or mountain goat. These are all red, yes, but some can be strongly flavored. Sticking to venison, there are subtle differences in texture, color and flavor, but most of the flavor differences have to do with diet, age of the animal and proper field care, not species. One important and true difference is size. You cannot sub a moose shoulder for a whitetail doe shoulder in the same recipe without major adjustments. Sure, in the end they might taste similar, but things like cooking time and the amount of additional ingredients will be vastly different. But at its core, Steve’s right: You won’t see too many recipes in Buck, Buck, Moose that demand you use, say, antelope loin as opposed to whitetail or muley loin. You might see things like, “Use a young animal,” or “This one’s for a big animal, like a moose, elk or big muley buck,” but no species-specific recipes.

RK I hear you did one helluva dinner at the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers convention last year. Care to tell us what was on the menu?

HS Ha! Yeah, I busted out a technique from the 1600s called à la Ficelle, which means “on a string.” I had a bunch of antelope hind legs to cook, and I seasoned them simply with olive oil, herbs, salt and lemon, jammed a bunch of garlic cloves in the meat, and then hung them over hot coals. I twisted the twine holding them up to the point where they’d spin on their own, basting themselves and making sure they cooked evenly. They came out great.

RK Speaking of podcasts – and awkward transitions – care to elaborate?

HS Sure. I started a podcast called Hunt Gather Talk. It is a great way to have fun and talk to interesting people about all kinds of topics that touch the wild world. I’ve done solo episodes, which are something of an audible essay, a few where I answer listeners’ questions, but mostly they are conversations. It’s been a lot of work, but I am learning new skills, like audio editing, and I’ve had a great response.

RK I ran out of gas one time with you in my truck, yet you still came back to Idaho to hunt with me. You either really like to hunt Idaho or are crazy.

HS Both, probably. And my ability to give you a hard time about it until we’re both old and senile was more than worth it. Hunting Idaho is still new to me, though. I’ve hunted deer there, quail, rabbits, grouse. I am hoping to get a sage hen this season, and someday draw an elk tag, or maybe even a moose. You can be sure I’ll be back to bother you every year.

RK Can you tell me some of your favorite activities in the Pacific Northwest?

HS Geez, that’s a hard one. The PNW is a wonderland for a guy like me. Mushroom hunting, wild berries up the ying-yang, salmon, albacore, trout, sturgeon. Blue grouse hunting in the mountains, quail in the lowlands, some of the best clamming on planet Earth. You name it.

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RK What is your go-to hunt at home?

HS Ducks. Northern California is one of the best places to hunt waterfowl in North America. I probably spend more time hunting ducks and geese than anything else. It is the one kind of hunting where I feel very comfortable in the role of a guide.

RK If you weren’t on the book tour, what would you spend September doing in the woods? Foraging, fishing, hunting?

HS Yes. All of the above. Albacore offshore, mushrooms in the
woods, grouse in the mountains, doves on Labor Day, blacktail deer hunting on the Sonoma Coast. There is always something going on.

RK What book can we look forward to next?

HS To complete the hunting trilogy, my next book will be all about small game, from upland birds to small mammals. As this was what first got me into hunting, I am really looking forward to it. NS

Corned Elk and Cabbage Stew

CORNED ELK & CABBAGE STEW

Corning meat usually uses a brine method. A brine is simply a wet marinade for the meat, one that usually includes a variety of spices, salt and sugar. The spice combination can vary from cook to cook, family to family – especially for those who have a tradition of making it by hand. But for this chef, I use a simple pickling spice off the store shelf – I prefer the McCormick brand. The trick to getting great-looking – i.e., pink – corned meat is Insta Cure #1, otherwise known as pink salt. Arguments can be made for and against pink salt – it is your call; I use it.
2 quarts water, hot
½ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon Insta Cure #1 (Prague powder or Speed Cure)
3 tablespoon pickling spice
3 pounds elk neck roast (or other red meat you wish to corn)
½ head green cabbage
2 pounds red potatoes, cut in half
1 pound baby carrots
Salt (maybe)
Pepper

In a high-sided Tupperware or other food-safe storage vessel add the hot water. Stir in the salt, cure and the pickling spice. Stir until all the salt is absorbed. Add the neck roast. Refrigerate for one day per inch of thickness of the meat. For example – a 4-inch-thick section of neck meat will need four days in the brine; a 1-inch section will only need one day. The time spent in the brine allows the meat to better absorb the flavors.
When the meat is cured, drain off one quart of the brine water. Keep as much of the spice blend as possible. Add back one quart of fresh water to the container. Transfer all to a crock pot, set on low and cook for six to eight hours (I put my meat in the crock before work), or basically until a fork stuck into it can turn very easily. This will make your house smell awesome, by the way.Corned Elk and Cabbage Stew
When the roast is cooked, taste the liquid it is cooking in. It should be salty, but not overly so. If it is too salty, simply add water until it has the salt level you prefer. Strain off the cooking liquid, making sure to reserve it. Discard the spices.
Add the cabbage, potatoes and carrots to a large soup pot. Add just enough of the cooking liquid to cover the vegetables, then top with the corned meat. Simmer all together until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Shred the meat with a fork and serve hot. If needed, season with salt and pepper.
For more big game, game bird and fish recipes, see chefrandyking.com.

Italian Sausage Mac n’ Cheese.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE MAC N’ CHEESE

In honor of young hunters and meat makers I offer up a super simple and tasty venison macaroni-and-cheese recipe. Cheers to those taking out the next generation, and double cheers for the little ones who bring back dinner!
Italian Sausage
This recipe is a riff on Alton Brown’s Italian sausage recipe, with the notable exception that it includes venison. This recipe yields 5 pounds and I will often double it for a big batch – it is great for all sorts of quick-and-easy Italian sausage needs. This will work on just about all red-meated animals too.

4 pounds ground venison
1 pound ground pork fat
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. coarse ground black pepper, fresh
¼ cup chopped parsley
ITALIAN SAUSAGE MAC N’ CHEESE
In a small, heavy-bottomed sauté pan toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are fragrant, or about five minutes. When cool add the fennel to a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. (If you don’t have these, preground fennel will work – just add a teaspoon more and don’t toast it.) Next, mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, incorporating them well. Chill the mix in the refrigerator for at least an hour, then divide it into 1-pound balls. Freeze the portioned sausage for use at a later time.
Italian Sausage Mac n’ Cheese

1pound Italian sausage, thawed (see above)
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
½ pound Velveeta, diced
3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked (1½ cups uncooked)
¼ cup Parmesan
¼ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a medium-sized sauce pan on medium for three minutes, then add the Italian sausage. Brown and crumble the sausage until fully cooked but retaining some moisture in the pan. Next, add the flour and incorporate fully. Then add the milk and reduce heat to low. Bring to a boil and let thicken. When thick, add a small amount of cheese at a time, making sure to stir to incorporate the dices fully. Add the noodles to the sauce, fold them gently to incorporate. Transfer noodle and sauce mix to a 3-quart casserole dish. Spread the mix evenly in the pan. Top with Parmesan, bread crumbs and parsley. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Italian Sausage Mac n’ Cheese.

Italian Sausage Mac n’ Cheese. (RANDY KING)

For more wild game recipes, please check out chefrandyking.com.

Image of smoked Bear Ham

Yogi’s Hams

Chef in the Wild- by Randy KingThe berry patch I was prowling had more bear scat in just 10 square feet than I had seen in the prior several years combined. It was unreal in both quantity and structure – “berries in, berries out” is an apt description of the type and consistency. The scrub brush I was in, aptly named “bear berries,” was flush with fruit. I began to feel nervous – my single-shot .410 I was carrying for grouse was not going to be enough for whatever was leaving behind this much scat.
Seeking a better vantage, I crawled to the top of a granite boulder. As I glassed the berry patch, looking for trouble and hoping not to find any, I caught a black blob in the distance.
“Bear!” I called to my buddy Matt. “Bear, bear, bear!” I exclaimed, repeating myself like an idiot and like Matt hadn’t heard me the first time.
Like most of my encounters with the species, the next thing I saw was an ass in the distance running directly away from me. But as the bear ran, I noticed two things. First was the speed – I expected that. I have heard for years that bears are fast. But second was the lack of grace, which surprised me. The bear reminded me of a fat pug running a 100-meter dash. Give that a moment in your mind’s eye. The fat rolled up and down his sides in a fluid motion, almost seeming to propel him forward in one instance, then
stretch his skin in another. It was the epitome of a fat fall bear.
Thrilled to have even seen a bear, I was soon thinking about all that meat “on the paw,” and the fact that I also had a bear tag in my pocket. (It was left over from a spring bear hunt that amounted to nothing more than a camping trip in the rain.) A plan was hatched – back out slow and quiet, then come back in a few days and kill this bear. He would be here, as the food, the cover and the lack of access nearly guaranteed it.

TWO DAYS LATER, a foursome of folks – Matt, his daughter Brooklyn and my son Noah and I – made our way up to the berry patch. Matt and Brooklyn would approach from the east; Noah and I would come from the west. The plan was to glass the patch, find the bear and see if we could shoot it.
I could tell my son was a little nervous. He would not admit it, but I think he was a little scared of the idea of bear. I told him
a story about the first time I encountered one. I was 15 years old and walking a canyon floor with a buddy during deer season. We rounded a corner and heard the “woof” sound that bears make when they’re threatened. On our left was a bear standing on her hind legs and looking at us. To our right was a trio of cubs. My heart raced and I nearly needed a change of underpants. We were, essentially, a meat sandwich at that point. We slowly nocked arrows and even more slowly backed out.
The story did not alleviate his fears.

Young girl with pink shotgun poses next to bear body

This berry-munching bruin the author’s friend’s daughter Brooklyn poses
with yielded not only a lot of fat for rendering, but bear bacon, shoulder
roasts made into barbecue sandwiches and ham. (RANDY KING)

Eventually Noah and I found a vantage point for glassing the berry patch. After a few moments of glassing, I could see movement in the berry patch that was not being caused by wind. I focused in on it, waiting for a sign of life. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of black moving in the underbrush. Then I saw a black paw grab a branch full of berries and bring it down. Then an ear and a paw came into view. We had found the bear – now what?
Desperation often causes inspiration. I told my son to whistle. He looked at
me with his head cocked to the side; “Whistle what?” he said.
“I am not sure that it matters,” I said.
Next thing I knew, the creepy fournote
tune from the Hunger Games was being belted out from next to me. I put my scope on the last patch of black I had seen. Sure enough, the bear’s head appeared, then his neck. He was only 70 yards out. I took the shot and the bear disappeared back into the scrub.
I waited a solid five minutes before going into the brush after the bear. As I trudged forward, Noah kept falling behind. Before I knew it, I was separated from him by 30 yards.
“You need to get out of this brush,
bud,” I told him.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because if this bear ain’t dead and it so much as scratches your leg on the way by, I will never live it down with your mother. Just do me a favor and wait until I find him?”
“’Kay,” he said, suddenly even more nervous.

EVENTUALLY I FOUND the bear. Berries falling out of its mouth, it had died gorging itself. That’s how I want to go. He was roughly a 6-footer, a nice size for Idaho. The main issue was just how much he weighed. I eviscerated the bear, making sure to take a look at his liver (spots can be a sign of infection) and hoping to shed a few pounds of the carcass. It was all Matt and I could do to drag the bear out to a road. Eventually we loaded him up in the quad and made our way back to Matt’s cabin.
When I broke the bear down and started skinning it I noticed just how much fat this bear had on him. On his back rump the fat was over 3 inches thick. He had been building a layer for the winter. Fat in wild game is uncommon, so I was going to make the best of it.
I rendered the bear fat, like the old timers used to do. I also made bear bacon, I made roasts, I slow cooked the shoulders in barbecue sauce for sandwiches.
But the highlight – the reason I go back into the woods each fall and spring with a bear tag and my longbow – is bear ham. I use the big muscle groups out of the hindquarters and brine them for a week, smoke them over apple and then eat grilled cheese and bear ham sandwiches all winter long. They are flatout
delicious. NS

HOW TO MAKE A BEAR HAM

The elephant in the room with bear meat is trichinosis. Bear meat causes 90 percent of the trichinosis cases in the country, simply because it is not cooked enough. Cook your bear past 145 degrees Fahrenheit and you are good. Any lower than that and you run the risk of a food-borne illness. Not a fun one either.
Popular outdoor writer and TV host Steven Rinella contracted it off an Alaskan black bear last year. Trichinosis does not fool around; neither should you or I.

Image of smoked Bear Ham

Bear ham, the reason Chef Randy heads afield each spring and fall with a bruin tag. “Brine them for a week, smoke them over apple and then eat grilled cheese and bear ham sandwiches all winter long. They are flat-out delicious.” (RANDY KING)

Bear ham
4 quarts hot water, divided
1.5 cups salt
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar (or honey)
1.5 ounces Instacure No. 1
½ cup pickling spice
20 crushed garlic cloves
10 to 15 pounds of bear hindquarter
meat, 3- to 4-pound muscles each
Trim the hind loins of as much fat and connective tissue as possible before attempting the recipe. The cleaner the meat going in, the better it will be coming out. Also, the recipe can be used on other game animals as well; I do a variation on this recipe for wild turkey breasts and for venison.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in  a 4-quart sauce pot. Next, stir in the salt, sugar, brown sugar and Instacure No. 1. All the solid particles should diffuse into the water. Next, add the pickling spice and the garlic cloves.
Add the remaining 2 quarts of water, cold, to the hot water. This will drop the temperature of the brine. Transfer the mix, now called a brine, to a large plastic container or nonreactive pot. Add the meat to the brine. Let the meat soak for a week in the refrigerator. Make sure that all the meat is submerged. (I often use a plate and a few cans of beans for weight.)
Next, remove the bear meat from the brine. Pat it dry and let rest on the counter until it comes to room temperature. Then smoke the bear for about four hours or until it reaches 145 degrees. If you are not a smoked ham fan, simply bake the ham at 375 degrees until it reaches 145 degrees. Reaching this temperature is critical with bear meat since it will kill trichinosis. When cooked, let the ham rest until cool before cutting into it. This will help retain the moisture. It will last in the fridge up to a week thawed, and for over a year in the freezer. Slice it thin like deli ham or roast whole for a special occasion. RK

Buzz Ramsey with fish marked '2015 Spr Chinook'

Saving Salmon The Ramsey Way

Nothing makes me happier than the thought of a fishing adventure that includes not only the catching of a big, beautiful salmon or steelhead, but its proper cleaning, filleting and cooking. To me, and perhaps you, enjoying a meal consisting of fresh fish is the perfect culmination to any fishing adventure.

After the high-fives and photos are complete, the first thing you need to do is bleed your catch. You can do this by breaking loose one or more gill rakers, either with your finger or a knife blade.

If you intend to eat your fish fresh, it’s best to clean and/or fillet your prize as soon as possible. Realize, though, that fresh fish will only keep in the refrigerator for about five days.

Freezing is what most anglers do to preserve their catch longer. But unlike venison, fish will not stay fresh-tasting after freezing for more than a few weeks, unless you vacuum pack it, freeze it in barbecue sauce, or freeze the entire fish whole.

Freezing your fish in barbecue sauce will keep it fresh-tasting for up to six months. This is a quick and inexpensive way to keep fish tasty for an extended period, providing that you like the taste of barbecue sauce.

What works is to place two fillets meat-to-meat (with the skin facing outward) into a zip-top freezer bag. Add enough barbecue sauce between the fillets, two to three cups, to cover all exposed meat, fold the bag over, expel all air and zip shut. After thawing, rinse the barbecue sauce away with cold water. You can then cook any number of ways, including on the barbecue – with fresh barbecue sauce, of course.

Buzz Ramsey with fish marked '2015 Spr Chinook'     Most anglers are surprised when hearing that my favorite way to store fish for an extended time period is to freeze them whole, without gutting or filleting. Just bleed them, hold them on ice during transport, and freeze.

Since she doesn’t like the fish looking up at her when opening the freezer, my wife Maggie has me put my freezerbound salmon in a plastic bag – a tall kitchen-size bag works for most salmon.

This quick and easy method will keep fish fresh-tasting for as long as nine to ten months. As an example, I’ve got a whole spring Chinook in my freezer now waiting for the Christmas holiday. We do this every year; there is just something special about enjoying fresh springer in December.

During preparation, it’s important to thaw slowly by placing your frozen salmon in a water-filled cooler the night before. Once thawed, scrape or brush all the slime away (this eliminates any freezer taste that might accumulate on the outsize of your fish) and fillet as though your salmon were fresh – trust me, it will taste like fresh-caught.

Surprisingly to some, fresh frozen fish lends itself particularly well to the smoking process; you see, freezing causes cell tissue to burst, so fish that have been frozen take on the flavor of the brine ingredients and wood smoke better. NS

The Ohio Way to Fillet Walleye

I learned how to fillet walleye when I went to Ohio State University
for dental school. I would run up to Lake Erie on weekends and pay
$35 to go on a half-day charter boat. (I would eat Top Ramen and
get paid doing my classmates’ lab work to save up money to go.)
I got to know the charter guys pretty good and they showed me
this technique.
Back there the water was at one time very polluted – remember
the Cuyahoga River, which actually caught on fire? – so this method
removes almost all of the dark, fatty meat where toxins accumulate,
and removes the pin bones. This leaves you with nice clean walleye
fillets that are totally boneless. I’ve tried this with perch, crappie and
bass – sorry, bass guys, but they’re good eating too – without success.
I don’t know why it seems to only work with walleye.
This method is very well known in the Midwest, but it doesn’t
seem that people in Washington know about this, or at least the
people that I’ve talked to have not heard of it. With this technique,
electric knives are the best way for getting really nice fillets.
The following directions describe key steps in the process while
the photos show the overall sequence of steps from start to finish:

 

step1

2-4

5

6-8

9-10

11-12

13

14

[1] Make a cut at the tail above and below the lateral line about 3
inches into the fillet. This will allow you to grab the sections.
[2] Grab the section of the fish that would be its back (as opposed to
belly section). Hold onto the lower sections.
[3] Pull the “back” section away. This part feels like you’re unzipping a large YKK zipper, and if you do it fast, it kind of sounds like one.

[4] The “back” section is removed and has no bones in it. Failed
attempts may have some pin bones near the “head” end of the
section that can be easily removed with a knife.
[5, 6, 7] Now grab the remaining two sections and “unzip” these.
This is a little technique-sensitive, but with a little practice you can
get all the pin bones and dark, fatty meat in one step.
[8] Next is the rib cage. Make a cut right behind the rib cage to
remove a boneless tail section.
[9] There is still a good amount of meat on the rib cage that we’ll
be dealing with next.
[10] A fillet glove is recommended here! Push down on the rib cage
to flatten the bones and make a cut to fillet the meat off the rib cage.
[11] There seems to be a really bony section in the forward part of
the rib cage that isn’t worth the effort. The meat is really thin in the
forward section and I just remove up to the portion that is shown.
[12] This shows all the parts of one fillet. Now repeat for the
other side.
[13] This is what one walleye looks like after all the steps. These
photos make it look time consuming, but in actuality this should
only take less than one or two minutes once proficient. Note that
on larger walleye, it’s worth the effort to remove the cheek meat.
[14] Kids love fish! They hate bones!

Story and Photos By,

Jerry Han