Homemade Jerky

February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Between the two of us, Jacob and I bagged two deer this year, and for the first time in my life I got into making jerky. It’s not that I ever had a shortage of venison with Jacob being such an incredibly reliable hunter, but killing my own definitely gave a whole new boost to my enthusiasm – I am sure you can imagine. When it comes to jerky, I prefer the leaner, more deeply flavored venison, but you can also make it with beef if you use lean cuts such as round steak, for instance.

Note: It is recommend to keep your venison frozen for at least 30 days before making jerky to kill the trichinella larvae, should there be any in the meat, to avoid the risk of trichinosis.

Basically, you want to get a nice, lean, piece with as little connective tissue as possible for making jerky. Like this nice muscle here. Be sure to trim your meat of all the fat, gristle and sinew, since the fat supposedly turns rancid. Also, dried fat is entirely unappetizing. This cut came from the hind leg of the deer.

What you wanna do next is slice the meat across the grain. You know what that means? Look at the piece in the picture. Notice how it sort of has lines going lengthwise? That’s what we call “the grain.” You want to hold your knife perpendicular to these lines when you slice your future jerky (or anything, really). This will cause the actual slices to have shorter grain, making them more tender and less chewy.

But for that your knife has to be very, very sharp. Did you know that dull knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones? I like my knives sharp, as much meat as I get to slice around here, so I sharpened this baby until it cut the meat like butter.

Notice the short grain – the grain runs across this slice, not lengthwise. Each slice is about 1/4″ thick or a tad thinner.

We are now going to marinate this meat for 24 hours (overnight is OK too).

Layer all the slices in a dish and pour some soy sauce and some Worstershine over it. I actually used a bit too much in the picture, and got saltier jerky, which was not altogether unpleasant. But be prepared for some trial and error. If you find that your jerky is too salty or not salty enough, just cut/increase the amount of soy sauce the next time. I also like to add a minced clove of garlic because I really like the bits of dried garlic on my jerky. I got this idea from my BFF Ann.

Now cover with saran and refrigerate for 24 hours or overnight. Mmm. Eden. That’s where I’m gonna be when I’m eating this.

Fast-forward to the next day. The meat that has been marinated will look like this. I like to give it a swirl in the marinade to coat it again before drying.

Here’s my new $40 dehydrator. I shortened it to four trays in this case because I didn’t have that much meat. It’s a very basic model, with a single temperature setting, and I’ve been more than happy with it – jerky and fruit leather turn out great (if you want to do that, you need a special fruit leather dehydrator sheet that you buy separately). I am especially excited to dry my own mushrooms come summer, since we began to grow some winecaps.

I know this isn't the greatest picture. Jacob said some colorful unkind things about it.

Spread the slices in the dehydrator and turn it on. It will take about four hours for the jerky to dry.

And here’s the final product!

It will look approximately like this on the inside.

I couldn’t offer you the best advice with regard to storage, since mine is always gone before the day’s done.

P.S.: You can go through the trouble of trying to smoke this somehow, but to me it is really not worth the time and the effort.

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