Many hunters have fueled their days in the field with a big batch of homemade beans. In most camps, the rich, high-protein beans would be considered comfort food. Some recipes use bacon, or a big, old ham bone to enhance the broth that the beans cook in, which adds to the layers of flavor.
Big-game hunters that have not tried shank need to discover the value of this underrated cut of meat. Often looked at with disdain, shanks are held together with bands of silver tissue that most equate to tough, chewy meat. However, when the shanks are cooked at a low temperature for a long period, the silvers become collagen and gelatin, which are extremely tender and flavorful.
A batch of beans can be cooked with shanks from deer, elk, moose, bison or wild boar. To enhance the shanks and the final bean product, try curing and smoking the hocks first. The ham-like flavor and large portions of meat are sure to entice more hunters to covet the shanks from their next harvest.
Plain or smoked shanks can be slow cooked with beans for hours to produce a great dish. This recipe can be made the old-fashioned way, but with the popular new Instant Pot, you can make homemade beans, with all the flavor, in a fraction of time compared to slow cookers or baking. The Instant Pot works on the same premise as a pressure cooker, but is more intuitive with built-in functions and pre-programmed cooking applications.
• 2 lbs. cured, smoked elk shank
• 1 lb. dried navy beans
• 6 cups water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 3 cups tomato sauce (25 oz. can)
• ½ cup blackstrap molasses
• ¼ brown sugar, packed
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tablespoon mustard powder
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Rinse beans and put them in a large bowl. Add enough water to cover them by two inches, and let them soak overnight, then rinse.
2. Combine shank, beans, water and salt in an Instant Pot. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Allow the pot to naturally release for at least 20 minutes. Once depressurized, pour the beans and shanks, and any remaining liquid in a bowl. Remove the shank pieces and cube them. Set aside.
3. Select the Sauté function on the Instant Pot, add the oil, and sauté the onions for 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned and tender.
4. Add the cubed shank, beans, tomato sauce, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and pepper. Stir well, replace the lid, and Pressure Cook on high for 10 more minutes. Allow the pot to release naturally for at least 30 minutes. The beans are now ready to serve or can be put away to take to hunting camp.
To smoke shanks, use Hi Mountain Buckboard Bacon Cure and follow the directions. One tablespoon of the cure mixture per pound of meat will prepare the shanks within three to four days for the smoker. Smoke at 200°F until the internal temperature of the shanks reaches 130°F. A Camp Chef SmokePro makes it easy to smoke with controlled temperatures, as there are built-in probes to monitor the internal heat, without having to open the lid.