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Surprise Your Tastebuds with Black Bear Empanadas

Weldon Owen

Here is something different to do with that bear you caught in New Jersey; make black bear empanadas. 

We are aware of the black bear hunt in New Jersey that just ended. If you participated, you may be wondering how you cook that big boy up. Or do you have any left in your freezer from last season? Why not try to make some black bear empanadas?

This isn't the simplest recipe but it may surprise your tastebuds.


Dry Rub
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Zest of 4 oranges

One 8- to 10-lb bear leg, haunch, or ham (butt portion of the leg), boned, all fat trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can tomato paste
12 oz stout beer
5 qt beef stock
2 cups dried currants
1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked
2-3 packages Goya empanada wrappers
2 eggs

Combine all the ingredients for the dry rub and coat the bear leg. Let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and brown the bear leg on all sides. Don't let the sugar burn. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and sauté until the onions soften and begin to brown, appox. 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the bear meat to the pot and add the stout and enough stock to almost cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil.

Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Bake until the meat is soft and fork-tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as needed, close to six hours. Remove the meat from the liquid and let it rest until it cools to room temperature. Reserve the cooked vegetables and 2 cups of the liquid and let cool completely. Once cooled, place these in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Set aside.

To make the filling, pull the meat apart into shreds, discarding any sinew, then chop into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat with the currants and cilantro, and add just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten and bind the meat. It should not be wet.

To make the empanadas, following the package directions for the empanada wrappers, fill each empanada with filling. Brush the outside of the empanadas with an egg wash made from whisking the two eggs with two tablespoons water. Chill thoroughly (they can also be frozen at this point) on a sheet pan.  When you are ready to bake the empanadas, preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the empanadas a few inches apart on a sheet pan and bake until golden brown, 15-25 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Weldon Owen

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Italian wild game recipe: spaghetti with venison bolognese

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Surprise Your Tastebuds with Black Bear Empanadas