Bear Sausage - First Attempt

A couple of years back, Hunter and I bought ourselves a shiny red Brinkman smoker. It's been a great little smoker. In addition to producing great food, it provides a beacon of hope that summer is right around the corner when it's bright red lid pops out of a snowbank.

Red smoker and I have shared many adventures: the great salmon smoke of 2009, the perfect moose brisket of 2010, the epic bacon fail of 2012, Hunter's smoked chicken masterpieces, the list goes on. However, a single batch of bear sausage taught me that it's time to bid adieu to my little red friend. I've outgrown red smoker. It's time for an upgrade.

I started my bear sausage adventure the way any good adventure starts these days, with a Google search. After weeks of combing through recipes, I settled on Emeril's Andouille Sausage recipe. At the time, I was craving gumbo and bear andouille seemed like the perfect start. I swapped the boneless pork butt for black bear then found some Alaskan pork fat (to keep it Alaskatarian) at the local butcher and went to work. I will do this again in a heartbeat! It was awfully good. Only thing is, I'd use a different smoker.

Here's my bear meat all cubed and spiced. Spicing your bear BEFORE you grind it: good call Chef Lagasse!
The Grinder. When shopping for a grinder, Hunter picked one and then bought the next size up. This thing is a monster. I used the larger of the grinding plates and made sure the bear/pork was very cold before I started.

Here it is, all ground up.
What I didn't take a picture of was the whole casing process. It was kind of messy and to be honest, a bit gross. I used natural casings that I rinsed and soaked and then loaded them onto the sausage stuffer attachment on the monster grinder. Here's what they looked like after I finished stuffing - not bad for a first attempt!

Bear Andouille after 30 minutes on the Brinkman. I should have stopped there.
At the end of Emeril's recommended smoking time, my sausage was a bit blackened. If I had to do it again, I'd use a smoker with a better temperature regulator and get an internal temperature up to the required 160F for bear and then pull it off.

The end result was an awfully tasty sausage. The next night, I got to work on gumbo. For consistency sake, I used Emeril's recipe and the end result was pretty darned good if I do say so myself. 

How to Hide a Hide
So, one thing I did tell Hunter before he left on his bear hunting adventure was not to bring home a hide. We have a bear hide. It hangs sadly from a nail pounded into the office wall. "We" don't need another bear on the wall. 

My sweet man chose to ignore the plea and brought home a hide. Knowing I wouldn't exactly be thrilled about it, he put it in his bait freezer where he was sure I wasn't going to notice. He was right, I didn't. Not until he started grinding salmon carcasses for chum and filled his bait freezer did the issue of the black bear in the hefty bag come to light.

What did he do? He put the hide in the food freezer. Up until that day, nothing in the food freezer was soft and furry. Believe me, it was quite a shock digging around the freezer for spelt berries to find a gutless bear in a bag.

So, here's my latest Alaskatarian dillemma. Hunter brought home a hide. I refuse to let it go to waste. 

I refuse to let it hang on a wall with no other purpose in life that to collect dust. Nope nope nope. So, I'm actually thinking about a bear sleeping bag. I stumbled upon one a few weeks ago and I think it's brilliant.

It'll be small enough to fit Toddler or her sibling and if done right, it'll be quite comfortable. Not sure how I feel about the tanning chemicals so close to their little bodies but I'll do some digging into "eco taxidermy". Maybe such a thing exists?

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