The Timeless Canadian Bison (A Beef Brisket Recipe)
In a time long ago, it is believed that thirty-to-seventy-five million prairie bison once filled North America, from the northern Canadian Prairies, all the way to Mexico. Bison were the essence of Indigenous Americans peoples’ diet, but the arrival of European explorers and pioneers brought overhunting and habitat destruction, nearly driving the species to extinction. By the 1880s, only a few hundred bison remained across the continent.
In 2012, modern-day ranchers have created a conservation effort with the help of environmentalists and government. The World Conservation Union (IUCN), a leading expert at global biological information, has assessed that there are more than 500,000 plains bison in North America. Officials in Ottawa have speculated that the number may be as high as 720,000, with perhaps 235,000 in Canada.
With their sustainability ensured, Bison can once again be a dish to savour.
Canadian Prairie Bison Brisket (and beef-bison gravy)
Cook time: 1hr 40mins
1 ½ lbs of bison brisket (courtesy of Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk)
1 ½ litres of beef stock
75g of rendered beef tallow
Salt + Pepper
1. Season a skillet/saucepan with canola oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Set your stovetop element to as high as possible and sear the brisket on all sides. This with give texture and added flavour to the finished meat. When you are done searing, allow your saucepan to cool down naturally and keep it as it is, we’ll be using the brown, burnt, meaty bits at the bottom of the pan later.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Transfer your brisket to a large cooking pot/ Dutch oven, and pour over with your beef stock until the brisket is almost completely covered.
5. Add your beef tallow to the peak of the brisket that is uncovered in stock. For those of you who are interested in making your own rendered tallow, I’ve included instructions at the bottom of this article**. (The reason for adding the tallow is that bison is a particularly lean game animal. The adding of beef fat to the cooking process contributes to additional moisture and flavour to the finished meat, creating an all-around more luscious mouth-experience.)
7. Place your cooking pot with the brisket, stock, rosemary, and tallow into the oven when it has reached 350 degrees and set your timer for 45mins. RULE OF THUMB WHEN COOKING BRISKET: Weight by pound = Hours necessary to cook, and only turn once. Thus, 1.5lbs of brisket will cook for 90mins total, and we will turn the meat over in the pot once at the 45-minute mark.
8. At the 45min mark, turn your brisket over. You will noticed that by this point, the beef tallow will have completely melted into the cooking liquid and brisket. Set your timer for another 45 minutes.
9. When you are finished cooking, remove your pout from the oven. With a set of tongs, remove the brisket from the pot and onto a meet cutting station. You may notice that there is one-third to one-half less liquid in the pot than when you started, and it now may be darker in colour. Transfer this beef-bison liquid to your saucepan from earlier and bring to a medium-high heat, just above a soft boil. As the liquid reduces, sift very slowly and stir in some all-purpose flour. Gradually, you’ll notice the liquid becoming a gravy-like thickness. Some recipes might call for butter to be added in this mixture as well, but we already have the tallow in this mixture from earlier in the cooking process, which will provide all the creamier thickness element for the texture and flavour.
Apply your beef-bison gravy to your bison brisket. Enjoy with carrots, potatoes, and a nice chunk of fresh bread.
**Making your rendered beef tallow
Step 1. Acquire 3lbs of the lower ends of beef short ribs. The lowest ends are almost 50% meat-to-fat, and have a great amount of connective tissue and rib-bone content. Usually butchers can’t sell this end-pieces because of the over-whelming fat content, so you should be able to pick them up very cheap from a local butcher shop.
Step 2. Throw the pieces into a large cooking pot filled with water, and bring to a soft boil. Cook at this temperature for six hours. At this point you will still have chunks of fat floating around, but enough of it should have rendered out into the cooking liquid. Strain this liquid into a jar. Discard of the bones and remains fatty bits. Keep the jar in the fridge overnight.
Step 3. As the liquid cools, the rendered fat and the water will separate, with the fat forming in a thick disc at the top of the jar. In the morning remove the disc of fat and there you are, with roughly 225-300mgs of your own beef tallow. The remaining liquid can be discarded or saved as a base for a meat or vegetable stock.
Step 4. Enjoy in a variety of cooking applications.
More info on why it is important to add additional fat content to your game meat:
Bison meat contains 2.42g of fat for every 100g of lean cooking meat.
Beef, on the other hand, contains 8.09gms of fat for every 100g of lean cooking meat, almost four times as much as the bison. Adding the necessary amount of fat goes a long way towards preventing the meat from drying out in the cooking process, and it adds some great flavours to the finished dish. The recipe above calls for 680g of lean bison meat, meaning it has roughly 15gms of fat. The addition of 75g gives us a total fat percentage of roughly 15% (and by USDA standards “lean” meat falls between 15% - 17%, and extra lean is below 15%.) So really we are still in the “lean-spectrum” of cooking, and without losing any flavour.
For more on Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk, visit here: http://rangelandbison.ca/