There’s a bit of bite in these bear brats and it comes from four places: first from the white and red peppers which is obvious, as is the mustard powder and garlic, the second and third sources. But the bay leaf, while it doesn’t have actual bite, stands up just fine against the more aggressive spices. So you could say it’s rather in your face as well. Having said that, let me add this recipe isn’t just a bear brat. It can also be a deer brat, or whatever-wild-red-meat-in-your-freezer-brat. The only difference is that if you actually have some bear fat you can use that instead of the beef fat I’ve used here, because unlike deer, elk and antelope fat, bear fat tastes good. (My bears just never have enough fat….) And just because it’s sausage doesn’t mean it has to be cased.
Take un-cased bear brats to your next bear or deer hunting camp, or regale everyone for Saturday breakfast. Hot Brat patties go great with eggs and hash browns.
1 pound ground bear meat
½ pound ground beef fat
2 bay leaves, broken into little pieces
¼ cup beef bouillon
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 loosely packed level tablespoons)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons non-iodized salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Combine the bear meat and fat in a large bowl. Crush the bay leaf with your fingers, add it to the meat with the bouillon, minced garlic, dry mustard, thyme, sugar, salt, white pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly. Seal in a re-sealable gallon-sized bag and refrigerate 8-24 hours before tasting to let the flavors fully develop.
- To taste test: microwave a ½-inch ball of sausage in a coffee cup 15-20 seconds on high. These are spiced enough for me, but if you’d like more, mix up a second batch of seasoning and add what it takes to please your taste buds.
For patties, cook on medium low in a skillet until the pink is gone from the middle (170°F). To case, follow the directions below. Then cook the cased sausage indirectly on a medium grill (400⁰F) 10-12 minutes, to 170°F.
- Prepare your casings. (Hog casings are the perfect size, and ones packed in brine, called home packs, are easier to work with than the dry salt-packed variety. Collagen is even easier to work with, but doesn’t have quite the ‘bite’ hog casings give when you first bite into a cased sausage.)
- Press the sausage out in the plastic bag until it’s all the same thickness. Freeze (2 hours in a chest freezer) until it’s 28⁰F and ice crystals form inside the bag.
- Break up the sausage into a mixer (a KitchenAid Classic is perfect for 1 ½ pounds), and mix on low, 6 minutes, until the sausage has formed a fairly tight ball. (I always set a timer. Six minutes can be forever. But when done, you should be able to grasp all 1 ½ pounds in one hand, turn it upside down, and have it hang there without pieces dropping off.) Load your casings on the stuffing tube and case.
Eileen Clarke’s book Sausage Season, with over 65 sausage recipes for big game, waterfowl and upland birds, as well as the science behind great texture, is available at her web site, www.riflesandrecipes.com 406-521-0273 ($28, which includes free shipping in the US.)
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