Maximum value from animals taken is a concept I try to honor. When we tag an animal, that animal died at our hand and will feed us and our families. It feels like I owe the animal the promise to make the most of it. Maximum value is my goal. I hope that shows in these recipes. For me, maximum value means curing the shanks ingredients rather than grinding them. The ham and confit from the animal are ‘worth more’ to me in the kitchen. It gives me more options and elevates the game on the table.

Autumn and winter see baked beans and bean soup on our menus regularly. We often use cured game or a variety of sausages to enhance soups and casseroles. Ham is a great example of an addition to these recipes. Boned bear shanks often end up in the to-grind-for-burger pile––there's nothing wrong with this––but molasses-cured and hot-smoked bear ham made from shanks kick the value proposition up several notches.

It is the next level is using harvested game. Firstly, commit to curing some of your bear. Wet brined bear shanks are a great place to start. Make your brine. Leave the shanks submerged in the brine for a week in the fridge. Then drain, rinse with cold water and air-dry before hot smoking them to an internal temperature of 165°F. Then cool, vacuum pack and freeze. You'll have valuable and tasty additions to your winter menus that will satisfy your hunger and ease the stress on your food budget. In this month’s Fleshing It Out column I encourage readers to be themselves. This is how I express myself in the kitchen. I hope you like it.


The brine




•         2 gallon / 8-litre plastic food safe and non-reactive container

•         Refrigerator

•         Gram scale

•         Mixing spoon




•         350 g Kosher salt

•         42 Pink salt / Sodium Nitrite or Instacure

•         225 grams sugar

•         100 grams Black Strap Molasses

•         4 quarts (4 litres) water




1.        Weigh salts and sugar, add to a 6-quart saucepan, and boil. Stir well to dissolve salts, molasses and sugar in water.

2.        Cool brine to room temperature.

3.        Add to the non-reactive container.

4.        Place brine in the fridge.

5.        When brine is cold, add shank meat.

6.        Stir daily for seven days to move the shanks around in the brine ensuring all shanks are exposed to the brine.

7.        On The evening of the seventh day, drain the shanks, rinse in cold water and set on a rack over a baking sheet. Set in the fridge overnight. The shanks will develop a ‘pellicle’ that sticky surface that absorbs smoke more effectively.

8.        The next morning, remove the shanks from the fridge for an hour to come up to room temperature while you fire up your smoker to 225 F.

9.        Smoke the cured hocks until the internal temperature is at least 165 F. (I did this and left the hocks to smoke a bit more until they were mahogany colored.)