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Making Jerky

Jerky is a staple in the packs of today's outdoors men: backpackers, skiers, campers, and beer drinkers sitting around doing nothing. Jerky can be made from almost any lean meat, including beef, pork or venison. If made from pork the meat must be treated to kill the trichinella parasite before it is sliced and marinated. This parasite could cause trichinosis. To treat the pork, freeze a portion that is 6 inches or less thick at 5ºF or lower for 20 days. For now, let's stay away from poultry. If you must have turkey jerky, go buy some.

This process we're listing here is a very simple one, curing meat through a brine and smoker is much more complicated.

Preparing The Meat

The first step in preparing the meat is to slice it into long, thin strips. Trim and discard all the fat from the meat, because it becomes rancid rapidly. Partially freezing the meat before cutting makes it easier to slice evenly. Slice with the grain into thin strips approximately ¼ inch thick; if a chewy jerky is desired. Slice across the grain for a more tender, brittle jerky. A tenderizer can also be used on the meat. Simply follow instructions on the package for tenderizing meats.

The meat is marinated for both flavor and tenderness. Ingredients for marinades include oil, salt and an acid product such as vinegar, lemon juice, teriyaki, soy sauce or wine. The oil helps in penetration (ha, ha) and the acid breaks down the meat fiber. Recipes are found below.

Drying The Meat

Remove meat strips from the marinade, drain on absorbent toweling and arrange on dehydrator trays or cake racks placed on baking sheets. Place the slices close together but do not overlap. A cool twist is to hang the jerky vertically using toothpicks to suspend them. Be sure to cover the bottom of your your oven with aluminum foil or your women will go postal. Place the racks in a oven preheated at 140ºF. Use a thermometer to get the right temp. Leave the oven door cracked for air circulation, use a metal fork or spoon for this. Dry until a test piece cracks but does not break when it is bent (10 to 24 hours). Pat off any beads of oil with absorbent toweling and cool. Remove strips from the racks. Cool. Package in glass jars or heavy plastic bags.

It's critical, well at least kind of important to slice the meat as evenly as you can. It helps to freeze the meat first, then let it thaw for about a day in the refrigerator. I slice it about 1/4" thick.

If you don't own a good knife, go buy one. If you own a Ginsu Knife, your an idiot. I recommend Chicago Cutlery knives. Be sure to sharpen it prior to slicing.

After the you marinade the meat, place it on drying trays. I bought my trays for $4.00 each in the baking section at Walmart. Place the meat so there is space between each slice. Do not let them overlap. 

Notice the cookie tray under the drying rack, keep the cookie under the racks while in oven, otherwise you'll trash the bottom of the oven.

And into the oven it goes. Some older gas ovens have a pilot light, this will probably generate the right amount of heat to dry jerky. If not, adjust the temperature to reach 140 degrees, use a thermometer if needed. It should take between 10 to 24 hours to properly dry jerky, don't be in a hurry. 

It is important to leave the oven door cracked to promote air circulation, this will also help in obtaining the perfect temperature.

Tony's Bourbon Beef Jerky 
2 pound flank steak 
½ cup soy sauce 
½ cup bourbon whiskey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke 
½ cup water
4 cloves garlic 
2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder 
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the meat in a plastic bag or shallow dish and pour the marinade over it. Marinate for about 2 days. Stir up the mixture once in a while.

Basic Jerky Marinade

¼ teaspoon each of pepper (I like extra pepper) and garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon hickory smoke flavored salt or a cap of Liquid Smoke
1 ½-2 lbs. of lean meat (beef, pork, or venison)
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Combine all ingredients. Place strips of meat in a shallow pan and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Fisher's Venison Jerky

This recipe works well with any kind of red meat. The best meat to use is venison, elk, or beef; the best cuts are flank, brisket, or sirloin.

6 lb. Venison or top sirloin
1 cup water
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure garlic juice
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste
¼ cup crushed black pepper
In a large plastic mixing bowl add all ingredients except meat. Proportionately dissolve salt into the brine until you have the desired amount of salt for your liking. Place the venison in the brine and let soak for at least fifteen hours in the refrigerator.

Storing The Jerky

Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature 1 to 2 months in a sealed container. However, to increase the shelf life and maintain the flavor, refrigerate or freeze the jerky.