Bear Hunting & Tamales

The good news about bear hunting

A successful bear hunt allows us to use traditional family recipes to prepare delicious meals. Last year, LG and I hunted black bear with Silver Fox Outfitters in High Level Canada. We had a fun, exciting and rewarding trip. Perched in the trees, LG and I observed several bears before we both connected with mature representations of the species. When friends asked where we’d been and what we’d done, some, who assumed you can’t eat the meat, also asked why we hunt bear.

We hunt for conservation reasons, family bonding time and the aforementioned food. Bear is quite delicious and its moist meat is commonly cooked as a steak, in stews and prepared as summer sausage.

In our family, we also enjoy bear meat in tamales. Hunting can be quality time with your son or daughter, whereas making tamales provides quality time for the entire family and/or friends.

Authentic Bear Meat Tamales

Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time1 d
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bear meat recipe, tamale recipe, wild game dinner, wildgame recipe
Servings: 50

Equipment

  • Large stockpot

Ingredients

Tamale meat

  • 15 pounds bear roast leave bone-in roast for flavor (Note: You may cube the roast to expedite cooking time)
  • 1 garlic head peeled and pressed (Note: Use an entire head, not just a clove)
  • 4 yellow onions peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
  • 8 quarts water

Tamale sauce

  • 1 cup Hot Mexican-style chili powder
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (Note: Omit if someone has an allergy)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 garlic head peeled and pressed (Note: Use an entire head, not just a clove)
  • 6 cups broth from the bear roast
  • all-purpose flour

Masa

  • 10 pounds white corn masa mix
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups bacon grease (lard or shortening may be substituted)

Corn husks

  • 200 dried corn husks

Instructions

Tamale Meat

  • Trim roast of excess fat and place in a large pot or roasting pan. Add garlic, onion, salt and water to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for several hours, until meat is cooked through, adding water as necessary to keep the meat from drying out. When it’s done/tender, remove it from broth. Reserve 6 cups of broth and begin making sauce (see recipe below). Shred or cube the meat and add it to the sauce. Set the leftover broth aside to cool (you will need it to make your masa). Once broth is cool, skim fat from the top.

Tamale sauce

  • Combine all ingredients in a large pot and heat to boil. Thicken with flour to give it a thin, gravy-like consistency. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours. When the meat is done/tender, remove it from broth and add to the sauce. Allow meat to simmer in the sauce while mixing masa (see recipe below).

Masa

  • *Note: Soften cornhusks by soaking them in water, while mixing masa
    Combine masa mix and baking powder. Cut in bacon grease. Gradually add broth from cooked meat, or add chicken broth to masa mix. Beat or knead well after each addition. Add just enough broth to make a thick creamy paste.

Corn husks

  • *Soak in water at least 20 minutes or while mixing masa. Rinse and remove corn silk. It’s important to make steamed tamales easy to untie and eat. You may purchase Nylon string, or tear strips of cornhusk string to use as ties.

Assembling tamales

  • Tamale making is a wonderful social event. It helps to include family and/or friends, so you have an assembly line with at least 1 person each to smear, fill and tie.
    Smear masa onto the rough side of the cornhusk. If the husks are too small to roll to form a tamale, use a dab of masa as glue to paste 2 husks together. Take caution as to keep the masa in a thin (approximately 1/8-inch), uniform layer. If the layer it too thick, they become doughy and won’t cook. If the layer is too thin, the tamale meat will dry out and they will fall apart when opened.
    Strain out 2 chunks, or a tablespoon of meat, and put it in the center of the masa-smeared husk. Add 1 olive, if desired. Roll to create the tamale. Squeeze in from the ends to plump the center. Then, tie each end with string or husk strip.

Cooking the tamales

  • Add water and a steamer rack to the bottom of a large stockpot. Make sure the water will not touch the tamales. Stack the tamales on the steamer rack in a brick-like, circular pattern, along the edge of the pot. Leave the center open to allow room for a damp towel.
    Take a flour sack or old dish-towel and run it under the faucet, then squeeze the water out. Stuff the piece of cloth in the center of the tamale sack. Top the entire stack with left-over soaked corn husks or another dampened towel, to seal in the steam, then place the lid on top.
    Steam the tamales for approximately 3 hours. Check the stockpot periodically to make sure that the water in the bottom doesn't run dry. If you need to, add water to the bottom by removing your center steamer towels and husks an pouring water into the center; Don't pour water over the tamales.
    Test the tamales for doneness by pulling the husk away from the masa. The tamale is done when you pull the husk away and the masa doesn't stick to it.
    When it’s all done, unwrap your tamale and cover with the leftover sauce. They are great served with beans and rice. Call everyone to the table, say grace and enjoy!
    *Note: Always cook your tamales immediately, or refrigerate as you complete the assembly, to prevent the meat from spoiling. When you finish assembling your tamales, take any leftover meat and shred it for tacos, machaca or other delicious meals. 

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