Bear, Bacon and Roasted Garlic Chili
A recipe featured in the Outdoor News Taste of the Wild
Recipe and photos by Eileen Clarke
Whether you were lucky enough to take a bear in spring or are making plans for the fall season, this recipe by Eileen Clarke is a sweet, smoky chili that will be a favorite at home or hunting camp. Note that bear meat should always be well-cooked to prevent trichinosis, a parasitic disease that can infect humans.
From the Chef: This is a rich, creamy chili, but not from cheese or sour cream. It’s the liquid in the canned beans. They always say ‘drain and rinse’ before using, but don’t. That liquid makes the sauce thicker but, unfortunately, makes it more prone to stick to the bottom of the pot, which is why we’re quick-cooking it. If you want to let it cook on its own while you spend the day in the woods, put it in a slow cooker on the low or the “keep warm” setting.
Makes 10 cups/5-6 servings
½ pound chopped raw bacon
1 pound ground bear meat
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons roasted garlic, mashed
½-¾ cup seeded and minced jalapeno pepper, in all
1¼ cups water
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons cumin
2 cans pinto beans (15 ounces each)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
FYI: One medium-sized jalapeno will provide about 2/3 cup diced. A food safety note: Since you’re serving raw jalapeno and cilantro at the table, dice them up first, before the bacon. Then set the raw veggies aside.
1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, lightly brown the bacon, about 5-7 minutes. Add the ground bear and brown it as well, about 5-7 minutes until fully cooked. Toss the meats into a Dutch oven or soup pot and sauté the onion, garlic and ¼ cup only of the jalapeno pepper in the meat juices. When the veggies start to soften and edges get lightly browned, add them into the bear/bacon mixture.
- Turn the heat to high, and add all but ¼ cup of the water. Pour a few tablespoons of the liquid from the pinto bean cans into the skillet, and deglaze the pan. Pour that into the soup pot as well.
3. Add the chili powder, cumin, pinto beans (using that last ¼ cup of water to help move the rest of the liquid out of the cans) and let the pot come to a low simmer. When it does, lower the heat so it stays at a low simmer and let the chili cook, covered, until the it is quite thick, about 20 minutes. (Let it go too long and it will stick to the pan and burn.)
4. Serve with corn bread, the rest of the raw jalapeno and freshly minced cilantro. At our house we agreed the perfect balance was 1 tablespoon each chopped cilantro and jalapeno for each cup of chili served.
3 Step Process to Make Roasted Garlic
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place as many whole heads of garlic as you can–in a single layer–in a sauté pan. Don’t peel, slice or break them up before roasting. (You can use a skillet, but it needs a lid that fits pretty tightly.) Add about ¼ inch of water to the pan and cover tightly. Roast for one hour. The roasted garlic will be quite soft and as soon as you open the oven, you’ll be blown away by the sweet, smokiness of them.
Let them cool before handling, but do not put them in the fridge. Once they’re about room temperature, cut each garlic head in half across the big middle.
- Squeeze the pulp from each half into a glass jar. It only takes about 3-5 seconds each. I made the mistake of chilling the roasted heads overnight before squishing, once. It took hours. Room temperature, a few hours after cooking, is just right. Close the jar lid tightly and refrigerate. Use in chilies, garlic bread, homemade pizzas, etc.
This recipe is just one of 26 chilies in Eileen Clarke’s newest of 6 wild game cookbooks, The Wild Bowl: 100 Soups, stews and chilies. $24.75 with free shipping in the US. www.riflesandrecipes.com/406-521-0273.