Food Preparation: How To Make Your Own Beef Jerky

Beef jerky has been around for centuries. Learn how to make your own at home with the following recipes.

Centuries before the invention of refrigeration and electricity, American Indians cleverly devised a method of curing buffalo and deer meat that could withstand time and the elements. Today we call that end product jerky, a version of the Spanish word "˜charqui,' meaning dried meat strips.

Traditional jerky was created by pulling long thin strips of meat from the deer or buffalo, then pounding the strips with suet, berries, or both. This nutritional dish was then dried, or cured, over large high rocks with the help of the sun and wind. Sometimes it was placed over the heat and flame of campfires to quicken the curing process.

Native Americans were glad to pass on the recipe to the men who rode and lived on the vast expanse of their land, the American cowboy. Cowboys had survived on exceptionally strong coffee, hard, dry biscuits, and beans when driving cattle or wild horses; meat was hard to come by on the range. Once the word got around, though, of the sun-dried meat, life on the frontier was made a little less harsh; the jerky was full of protein for energy and could last for months during any weather, making it a staple in the cowboy's diet.

Today, beef jerky is still considered a very nutritional, easy to eat staple. The curing process has changed, of course, but the outcome is still delicious and pre-packaged jerky has a shelf-life of up to twelve months. There are many varieties and flavors available at groceries, but many aficionados choose to make their jerky at home the old-fashioned way.

FOOD SAFETY: A CHECKLIST BEFORE MAKING HOMEMADE JERKY

There are a few details to keep in mind and make practice of before beginning the process of making your homemade jerky:

*Salmonella and e-coli are two common end- products of undercooked jerky. Follow directions carefully and fully to avoid foodbourne illnesses.

*The USDA strongly suggests the heating of meat intended for jerky. By heating to a temperature of 160 degrees F before dehydrating, you are taking the most important step in making a safe, fully prepared product.

*If using venison for your jerky, keep in mind that a fresh, properly cleaned deer carcass is of the utmost importance; it is very common for deer to be contaminated with fecal bacteria. Use only venison that you have prepared yourself or that of someone you trust to have properly prepared.

*Adding cure to the jerky is extremely important in assuring that all microorganisms are killed.



STEPS TO ENSURE A SAFE PRODUCT:

*Wash hands with soap and water thoroughly before beginning, and dry on a clean towel.

*Sanitize all prep areas with one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water, and allow to air-dry before using.

*If using meat that is frozen, thaw before using.

*If marinating, be sure to do so in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F.

*Use a food dehydrator that is in good condition and that has an adjustable temperature control. To be safe, do not rely on the temperature dial of the dehydrator, but instead make use of a calibrated thermometer to periodically check on the internal temperature.

*A dehydrating temperature of 145 degrees F is required for safety.

*Consume homemade jerky within a period of one or two months.

RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE JERKY:

(FIVE POUNDS OF MEAT WILL YIELD ABOUT TWO POUNDS OF JERKY)

*Twenty four hours before dehydrating, sprinkle approx. five pounds of meat with 3 T of salt, 2 t of pepper, and 2 T of sugar. Place in large bowl and refrigerate overnight.

*Pound both sides of the meat to work in all of the spices.

*Cut meat pieces into long, thin strips no more than ¼ inch thick with a sharp knife.

*Cut at right angles for a more tender jerky, cutting across the grain of the meat, and cut away all visible fat.

*Prepare two to three cups of your favorite marinade in a large saucepan, then bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat.

*Place a few (3 or 4) meat strips into the saucepan and once again bring to a full boil. Be

sure to completely submerge the meat into the marinade.

*After cooking at a full boil, remove the strips with tongs to a single layer on a drying rack. Continue until you have used all of your meat cut. If necessary, add more marinade.

*Dehydrate strips in dehydrator, oven, or smoker between 145 and 150 degrees F.

*Test for doneness after cooling by bending a piece of the jerky, which should not break but rather bend. There should be no moist parts remaining if properly dried.

*Refrigerate the jerky overnight, sealed into freezer bags in the refrigerator.

*After setting overnight, check once again for doneness. If necessary, dry again.

RECIPE FOR JERKY MARINADE:

½ c of Worcestershire sauce

½ c of soy sauce

1 ½ t of salt

3 T catsup

pinch of pepper

2 T brown sugar

½ t onion powder

1 clove of garlic, minced well

Mix well together, and refrigerate for at least one hour before dehydrating. This recipe yields enough marinade for about two pounds of meat.

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