Bear Beans & Venison Pastrami Sammy

On the coldest of mornings (especially if you’re chasing late season whitetails or some elusive ruffies in the snow!), warm yourself to the core with smoked black bear shanks baked beans and a venison pastrami sandwich.

It might sound strange to focus on what’s normally a side dish, but these beans deserve the spotlight. While smoked duck and bear ham work beautifully for the beans, bear shank is the most flavourful and meaty choice. To prep, start with a simple brine using the salinity rule of thumb by placing an egg in a vat of water and increasing the salt until the egg floats. Add a couple cups of brown sugar to add some sweetness but know many brine recipes work well—just find one suited to your taste. Smoke the meat to 200F over a fruity wood, such as cherry or apple wood, until the meat pulls apart nicely.

Cured meat products are having a moment, with pastrami leading the charge. Many recipes use a dry rub method, which is more like a Montreal smoked meat, but the traditional pastrami process of using corned meat that is steamed then rubbed with dry spices and left to marinate a few days before smoking works best in this recipe. If you’re opting to make the sandwich too, this phenomenal corned goose recipe works wonderfully for the first part of this process. For the second part, this recipe is a keeper. The process is longer, but worth it.

Ready for some old-fashioned molasses baked beans? File it as one of those recipes that you call your mom, and she just riddles out the recipe off the top of her head…never the same yet always delicious. Consider these guidelines; make it your own!


  • 2 cups shredded smoked bear shank or smoked meat (diced) of choice
  • 1 package dried navy beans (prepared as per instructions)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup mustard
  • 1¼ cup cooking molasses
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Drain and rinse your beans in fresh water but keep the water they were soaked in. You’ll want this to help hydrate the mixture if needed.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan to medium on the stove top. Melt butter in the pan, and when it starts to brown, stir in onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is translucent.
  4. Toss in meat and quickly sear. Remove mixture from pan and combine with the remainder of the ingredients in a casserole dish or covered roasting pan and place in the oven.
  5. Cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours, checking after an hour to ensure your mixture isn’t drying out. If so, add ¼ cup of bean water. Your beans are done when they’re soft but still have a little bite (al dente).
  6. If you’re planning to make the sandwich too, assemble it while beans are cooking—get 2 slices of hearty rye or sourdough bread, add yellow mustard, a slice of swiss cheese and thinly sliced corned meat. Butter on both sides and grill in a hot pan.