Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who ya callin' jerky, jerky - Part 1

Beef Jerky  . . . who doesn’t love it?  It’s chewy, salty and stuffed with flavor.  Mmmm . . . jerky . . . droooooooool.
For most of human history the only way to preserve meat was to dry it into jerky. While new methods of meat preservation have been developed (freezing, chemicals, and so on) many people still enjoy the flavor and convenience of jerky, which, in the U.S., is most commonly made from beef. Because moisture and fat must be removed from the meat, it can also be a healthy source of protein. Follow these steps and make your own!

  • Select a cut of meat. Choosing a lean cut like sirloin, top round, or eye round will save time later.
  • Remove all noticeable fat, as this will cause the jerky to spoil much faster. Slice your meat into very thin strips less than 1/20`` thick (sometimes a butcher will do this for you for $10 if you ask). To make it easier to slice, freeze it for about 5 hours before slicing. You can cut with or against the grain; some find that strips cut against the grain are easier to chew. Trim the fat as you go along, since fat does not dry.
  • Marinate the meat in a solution of olive oil and vinegar sea salt, or according to a recipe of your preference. Place in the refrigerator for 10 - 24 hours to allow the meat absorb the flavor. This step is optional; the additional moisture can make dehydration take longer and the resulting jerky may be stickier. [You can also mix with soy sauce or soy sauce powder and paprika for a teriyaki taste] Brown sugar is a great addition.
  • Coat the meat in the seasonings of your choice. Don't be afraid to use salt. Salt will aid in dehydrating.

  • Dehydrate the meat. Leave enough room between pieces to allow air to flow around the meat. Avoid letting the meat separate if possible.
  • In a dehydrator, spray the racks with non-stick cooking spray and place your prepared meat on the racks.
  • Set the thermostat for 155 degrees.
  • Wait and watch. Making jerky is a quick process. Since temperatures, humidity levels, and slice thickness will vary, there can be no set time for the process to complete. Usually it will take between 2 - 6 hours. Check the consistency of the jerky regularly after 6 hours until it meets your satisfaction. Cut into the jerky to ensure that it is not raw inside. Jerky should turn a deep brown or burgundy color.
  • Place the fresh jerky in plastic bags and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat. Enjoy the homemade jerky within 2 weeks of its preparation.
  • If you wish to store your jerky for longer, use glass mason jars. Plastic bags tend to accumulate moisture which encourages the growth of bacteria. In jars, jerky can be kept for months.

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