Robin Routledge: Self-reliance in uncertain times, and a recipe for Black Bear Ham

We find ourselves amidst a global event that not many have experienced, or have the depth to explain. Toilet paper has become our new currency and flour seems to be as rare as I like my steak.

The world no longer revolves around sports heroes or movie stars. It’s the farmers, truckers, janitors, and healthcare professionals that now take the lime light. To that, we should all take a moment and recognize these people that continue to clean our environments, provide the necessary goods, and supply us with the fodder required to maintain our current status quo. Thank you!

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I come from a family of farmers, healthcare professionals and truckers, so I may be biased. I am also a hunter, and every hunter knows that the spring Black Bear season is right around the corner (April 1 to June 30). Being a hunter and a family that gardens and preserves their harvest for days to come, that during times of world chaos, we find ourselves relatively self-sufficient.

Once the news broke of self-isolation and social-distancing, we began to realize the only thing we may need is more beer. But in all seriousness we legitimately did need some toilet paper, and flour for the sourdough. We are blessed to have a freezer full of wild game meat and a pantry full of the bounty from last year’s garden. Because of this we are in a relatively OK position during this time of uncertainty.

One of my favorite wild game meats to add to our freezer is Black Bear. This animal may be the most contentious game meat available. The best part is, it is plentiful. The stigma of eating Black Bear is usually related to animals that have been eating an unpleasant diet, Trichinosis or hearsay.

We find that with all our game meat, if the time and effort is put in to prepare it properly, there really isn’t a bad piece of wild game. I tried to find a local butcher to process my bear last year and surprisingly no one would touch it. Since I am equipped and able, I processed the animal myself. We like to do a couple different things with Black Bear including summer sausage, pepperoni and hams.

Black Bear Ham recipe


- 4 cup brown sugar
- 1.5 cup kosher salt
- 3 oz of curing salt (pink salt #1)
- ¼ cup of pepper corns
- 5 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 4 garlic cloves crushed

Bring ingredients to a boil in 3 gallons of water. Cool to room temperature.


- 5-7lbs Black Bear Hind Quarter – bone in or removed and trimmed of fat

1. Truss hind quarter with butcher twine and place in cooled brine Inject the meat with brine every day and let soak for 3-5 days in refrigerator.

2. Remove meat from brine, rinse with fresh water and let drip dry on a rack at room temperature. Next, fire up the smoker (for best results), BBQ or oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. For smoking and cooking wild game, I prefer fruit woods like cherry or apple.

3. Place meat on smoker or your choice of cooker and cook until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit in thickest part of ham - approximately to 3 to 5 hours.

4. Remove ham when it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit and serve hot or cold. Enjoy thinly sliced in a sandwich or as an entrée.

Robin Routledge is a hunter and passionate wildlife conservationist. 



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