Projects rotate as the year progresses. As we end summer the gardening is slowing, and minds are turning to fall. Before hunting season begins, it's a good time to dig through your freezer and see what game meat you may have left. What will you do with these tasty morsels that escaped the sizzle of the grill, or the percolating crock pot this summer? I propose a deer camp favorite. It's jerky time!
Jerky is fairly easy to make, and if you are not already familiar, is a good entrance into the art of preserving food. It can be made from beef, wild game, waterfowl, or just about anything that is comprised of meat. There are some precautions, and it takes a little time, but with practice you will most likely come up with your own recipe to tempt others at those fall ball games or hunting camps. Let's break this project into 3 sections... Preparation, marinating, and drying.
- Find a roast, steaks, or other meat to be used.
- If the meat is frozen, partially thaw. If thawed, partially freeze. (easier to slice thin this way)
- Get rid of all the fat, silver skin, connective tissue you can.
- Slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch strips (across the grain dries faster, easier to chew, and with the grain... vicey-versey)
- Use a non-reactive bowl like glass or stainless. (absolutely do not use aluminum)
- Mix up your marinade and plunk all of the meat in there. (make sure all gets coated)
- Cover and place in fridge for at least 4 hours. (if overnight... stir)
- Pull strips from marinade, allow to drain. (some use paper towels to dry... meh)
- If using a dehydrator, crank it up on high, and fill the trays.
- Using an oven? Set to lowest temp, place meat on racks, leave door open a crack to let moisture escape. (strategically placed aluminum foil may be a good idea)
- Jerky is usually done when bending causes cracks, but no breaks.
I know what you're thinking; What's in the marinade? The list of ingredients used in jerky recipes is large indeed. Every jerky connoisseur has their favorite recipe. The problem is that they are usually kept mysteriously secret, or more likely, they will fudge when they yield and offer up the ingredients. Do I ask you where your secret fishing stream or mushroom spot is? OK, yes I do, but you won't tell me! I will give you a good starter recipe, and you can build from there.
A warning to the younger guys... I know how you think... Adding a lot of cayenne pepper to the recipe really screws it up. When the jerky dries, pepper powder will be covering the outside of the finished product. Been there, done that.
Basic Jerky Marinade
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
2 pinches curing salt