Bear Fat Buttermilk Biscuits

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bear fat biscuits recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Bear fat. Mystical manna to some, acrid monstrosity to others.

To listen to some people, bear fat is a cure-all, a magic fat perfect for cooking, waterproofing boots, making soap or herbal ointments. Listen to others and they will tell you that bear fat is the most disgusting substance this side of the sludge on the floor of a porno theater.

How can this be? How can one substance be both things? It can, and here’s why:

Like pigs, raccoons, ducks, geese and yes, humans, bears are omnivores. And no other sort of critter tastes more of what it eats than an omnivore. I suspect this is because of the huge variety in diet an omnivore can have — a deer pretty much just eats leafy things, while a mallard can eat shrimp, clams, corn, barley rice or bugs (and often eats all of these on a given day).

Gourmands swoon over the flavor of acorn-eating pigs from Spain, and I’ve swooned over the flavor of canvasback ducks eating sago tubers.

Bears are no different. Shoot a bear that had been eating acorns or blueberries or manzanita and you’ll find that its fat will be as white as snow and virtually indistinguishable from the finest pork lard you can buy or make. Shoot a bear that had been gorging itself on dead salmon and you’ll get weird orangey-yellow fat that stinks like low tide in August.

In the last days of 2012 Holly shot a black bear that we guess had been eating lots of manzanita berries and other wholesome things, because a) the bear was hugely fat and b) that fat was sublime. I rendered out more than a gallon, froze most of it and have been using the bear lard ever since.

If you read enough American literature, especially frontier literature, you will come across references to bear grease. It has been a uniquely North American substance that has indeed been used for cooking, waterproofing (I waterproof my boots with bear fat), greasing machinery, slicking back hair, lighting lamps and who-knows-what-else. But the most breathless prose has always been reserved for bear fat in pastry.

Most bakers know that pork lard makes the flakiest pie crust, and bear fat has virtually the same properties as pork lard: It looks the same, smells and tastes fairly neutral like pork lard, melts at a similar temperature and stores just as well.

I couldn’t find any comprehensive data on the nutritional details of bear fat, and the probable reason is because it’s so variable. There is a fairly hilarious study coming out of the University of Nebraska that did find that the fat in black bears pillaging suburban garbage cans is far higher in unhealthy trans fatty acids than those with little or no contact with humans. Hot Pocket bears, anyone?

At any rate, I like buttermilk biscuits. A lot. So I had to give bear fat buttermilk biscuits a go. I started with a recipe I knew would work: Elise’s over at Simply Recipes. Her recipes are always tested and true. Her recipe goes on to make that classic milk-and-sausage gravy, and while I could have done that with bear sausage, I confess to hating white gravy; I am a red-eye gravy man.

I can tell you that damn these were good! I even hippie’d it up with some acorn flour, too, and it was still great. Flaky as hell, neutral — no “beary” aroma or taste — and well, just some really good biscuits. Don’t have bear fat kicking around? Use regular lard.

bear fat biscuits recipe
5 from 3 votes

Bear Fat Buttermilk Biscuits

You can of course make these biscuits with lard or duck fat. But if you do, make sure the lard is freshly rendered, not the nasty hydrogenated stuff that can be kept at room temperature. If going all-bear or duck or lard freaks you out, go half and half. You will notice that my biscuits are a little dark. This is because I used 1/2 cup of acorn flour. You can do this, too, or sub in up to 1/2 cup of any other sort of flour for variety.
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 biscuits
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rendered bear fat
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, plus 2 more tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons bear fat or melted butter (to brush on top)

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Get a baking sheet or cast iron frying pan ready.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the bear fat and mash it into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter. Work fast so the bear fat doesn't melt on you. You're done when the mixture looks like little crumbly peas.
  • Pour in the buttermilk and stir together just until the dough comes together. It should be pretty sticky, but the dough will come away from the sides of the bowl. Don't overwork it, or your biscuits will be tough.
  • Cover your hands lightly with flour and pick the dough up and set it on a floured work surface; I use a clean kitchen counter. Don't knead the dough so much as fold it over on itself. Flatten it out into a disc about 3/4 inch thick. Use a cutter or a glass to cut rounds out, setting each one on the baking sheet or frying pan so they are just barely touching each other. Reform the dough until you use it all up. If the cutter gets sticky, dust it with flour.
  • Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown. As soon as they come out, paint with the melted butter. Eat warm.

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 135mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 91IU | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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16 Comments

  1. Hank, is there any difference in the way you render bear fat compared to your venison or duck fat rendering process?

  2. Hank,

    Any thoughts on bear grease cornbread? I always use rendered pork fat, but have some bear grease I would love to use. Any reason it wouldn’t work interchangeably?

  3. The recipe would make more sense with 1/2 cup acorn flour being listed as an ingredient. (Maybe: “1/2 cup acorn flour or other flour”)

  4. E. Nassar: If you read the headnotes of the recipe, you’ll see I used a little acorn flour in the mix. That accounts for the color.

  5. Very interesting. I am curious about the color of the biscuits. Are they made with whole wheat or is that the color of the bear fat?

  6. As if I needed another reason to try to take another bear… Not only is the meat incredible, and the hide wonderful for rugs, throws, covers, etc., but now the fat is sublime for cooking and baking? Delicious.

  7. when making biscuits, i have found the best cutter is the ring from a mason jar lid, nice shape and size….and if the biscuit sticks, you can poke it out right onto the tray.

    cant wait to try this recipe! thank you!!!

  8. Very interesting. I will also probably never get a chance to try this. Our bear season is very new and I just don’t have an interest in killing one.

    Maybe could have done without this visual though (LOL)

    “…bear fat is the most disgusting substance this side of the sludge on the floor of a porno theater.”

  9. wow. Now that is how to make biscuits! I especially love the money shot of the steam rising from the freshly opened, flaky biscuit in your hands… Seems like they need a special, local honey. Buckwheat maybe?

  10. With a post title like that, how could I not come running? I’m guessing I’ll never have the opportunity to test these out, but it sure is an interesting read!