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.