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Friday, May 28, 2010

Doin' The Jerky Thang

I love jerky.  Beef, venison, turkey - even pork (FYI, use tenderloin trimmed of all fat).  For tomorrow's Appleseed gig, I decided to make up a batch of jerky.  Supposedly, the meal breaks are rather sketchy - eat when you can - so I'm bringing a bunch of quick, light foods.  Jerky fits the bill.

I've been making my own jerky for many years.  When I first started, I got all fancy-schmancy and whipped up my own recipes.  Some were good, some were just OK, and most sucked.

I already owned a meat slicer, so I can buy the least fatty, cheapest piece of meat and slice it up myself.  One of the keys to good jerky is having a consistent thickness, and it is very difficult to do by hand with a knife.

Lately, I've gotten lazy.  Instead of using my own marinade, I just buy Yoshida's Original Gourmet Sauce.  This stuff is absolutely fantastic.

The slicing issue is also sometimes side-stepped.  My store has recently begun selling bottom round beef that is already sliced.  It's marketed as "carnitas" meat.  When it is no more than 20 cents a pound more expensive than a whole chunk of bottom round, I'll buy it pre-sliced.

I also use a dehydrator.  You can get away with making it in the oven at a very low temperature, but the dehydrators are very easy to use.  (Note to self:  Make some in the oven just to see how it compares to dehydrated jerky).

The process is very easy.  Slice your meat, add enough marinade to SOAK the meat, and let it sit over night (or at least 6 hours).  Make sure your marinade has a decent amount of salt to aid in the dehydrating process and the preservation of the meat. 

In our household, the meat never lasts more than a day or two.  If I'm taking it with me on a trip and expect any to be left by the time I leave, threats must be made!

If you're making up jerky for long-term storage (many weeks or even months), you'll need to get more technical and be sure you have proper amounts of salt and cure.

Choose meat that has as little fat marbling in it as possible.  Cut out the big chunks before it hits the dehydrator, but don't go too crazy.  I'll show you why in a minute.

My meat is generally sliced about 1/8 inch thick, and takes 5-6 hours (at 155F) to get to the dryness I like (still a bit chewy).  About half way through, I take out the trays and pat each piece of meat with a paper towel to soak up some of the natural fats and oils in the meat.  I'll flip over each piece, and put the trays back into the dehydrator in the opposite order (the top tray becomes the bottom tray, etc) to ensure even drying.

Once the meat is done, I'll do the final fat trimming.  By this time, everything is nice and tight, and cutting out the fat is quite easy.  Here's a piece of finished jerky straight out of the dehydrator -

Here's what it looks like after trimming -

Yes, I keep the scraps and "somehow" they disappear... ;-)

If I'm going away for a while, I'll take a portion or two and vacuum seal them up.  For this weekend, I just put it in the "Threat Bag" and into the day pack it goes.

Accept The Challenge

Jerky is incredibly expensive to buy.  It is equally as cheap to make.

I started out with 2 1/2 pounds of meat and one bottle of the Yoshida's marinade.  My total cost was just over $8.  After all was said and done, I ended up with just shy of 1 pound of jerky (15.6 oz).

Online "gourmet" jerky costs upwards of $32 a pound!  The run-of-the-mill jerky found in grocery and convenience stores runs about $20 a pound.

My buddy that's joining me at the Appleseed shoot made up a homemade batch that he put in a smoker for two hours before putting it in the oven.  I'll have to practice my bartering skills on the firing line...

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Shy Wolf said...

MMMMMM, a mouth watering delight- I'm gnawing on a piece of (ishka-store bought) jerky as I read. (Good supper!)
Using the smoker to make jerky is the best way, IMO- though it's good any way it's made.
Another good survival type food is pemmican, though I smoke my kind, some just pound it together with the fats. You cay wanna google some recipies- and get lotsa blueberries!- and try a mouthful.

Joel said...

I spent years intimidated by jerky, but it turned out to be incredibly easy to make. I've always used my oven, but since I live in a very dry climate I'm going to try drying it in the sun - as soon as I get around to making a rack that will keep the flies off.

I also generally cheat and use the "carnitas" cut from the local store, because even with a sharp slicing knife the hardest part is getting it sliced thin and even enough. I marinade it with the same recipe I whip up for barbeque sauce, and it never, ever lasts long.

Chief Instructor said...

Shy, I really need to make up some pemmican. I recently saw a recipe that didn't have any meat in it-it was all fat, fruit and some other ingredient, but no meat. I want to make on with some meat in it.

Joel, I've never made jerky with a bbq recipe. Most have been either soy sauce based, citrus or pepper. I need to give one a try.

I'm off to Appleseed - back in a couple of days!

Anonymous said...

The jerky was great! A nice treat while shooting. Thanks Chief.

Chief Instructor said...

I just wish your dog hadn't gotten to the smoked jerky you made. Yeah, sure, the dog ate your homework, too... ;-)