*Jerkey made simple*
With all the emphasis on food storage lately, Iíve noticed that many people tend to look at the cost of pre-packaged food, especially meats, and seemingly give up. They are expensive, but this doesnít mean you have to do without. You can make many of your own storage foods, and of these, dehydrated foods are among the simplest to make. Take simple jerkey for example.
Jerkey is simply dried, spiced meat, sometimes with preservatives known as ďcuresĒ, but often without. How you store your dried meat has a direct bearing on how it should be made. We store our home-made jerkey in the refrigerator, no matter how we make it. Iím going to cover a one of the simplest forms of jerkey with the hope of ďdemystifyingĒ simple jerkey.
Perhaps the simplest way to make jerkey is to use extra lean, ground meat. Iím not talking about 90% lean hamburger here, Iím talking about either grinding down super-lean roasts yourself, or having your butcher do it, and they usually will be glad to do it for you. As I said before, pick a super-lean roast, some stores offer a type of roast called a ďwatermelonĒ roast, this is what I use when I buy meat, however, being a hunter, I almost exclusively use venison. I still pay a processor to cut up my deer, and the first deer of the season is always done the same way. I have the processor save the backstraps (or loins) separately, then I have the rest of the deer trimmed really well, and then ground into burger. Yep, the whole deer.
I get my meat back from the processor in 2 lb. Bags, frozen solid. Itíll last nearly forever if kept frozen. Weíre luck if 2 deer will last us a year, we go through a lot of venison in our house! The following instructions will work equally well for venison, beef or other super-lean meat. Please note that I do not use any cure for my meat, this is strictly a matter of individual preference!! If you would feel better using a cure in your meat, by all means, please do so!
My simplest jerkey recipe is as follows:
2- lbs. Ground, super-lean meat
2- Tbs. Ground, black pepper
2- Tbs. Mistys seasoning
1- Tsp. garlic powder
1- Tsp. Red pepper flakes.
Mistys seasoning is a spice blend available locally in the Midwest, every region has something like it, you could also use something like Emerils ďEssenceĒ if you wish, or simply blend your favorite spices to suit your tastes. You can also adjust the spices to your individual tastes. Feel free to experiment!! This recipe is shown just to give you an idea of the necessary proportions. You can also buy pre-packaged jerkey mixes at most larger grocery store. If you use a packaged mix, follow their directions.
Mix all the spices together, I do it in a coffee cup, stirring with a spoon. Put the ground meat in a large bowl, and flatten it out in the bottom. Sprinkle a third of the seasoning mix on top of the meat and mix thoroughly. Flatten the meat out in the bottom of the bowl, and repeat the process until all the spices and meat is thoroughly mixed. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. You could also use the mixture as is if youíre in a hurry.
Next, place a large piece of waxpaper or plastic wrap (works better) on the counter, make sure itís big enough to spread the meat mixture out on. Place the meat mixture on the waxpaper and cover with another piece of waxpaper, at least as big as the bottom piece. Then simply take a rolling pin, or large dowel and roll the meat out to a uniform ľ inch thickness. You can use a couple of thin yardsticks as a guide for this step, one on each side of the meat. At this point, life gets easier if you put the meat mixture, waxpaper and all, on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for an hour or so just to solidify things a bit.
When the meat mixture is solid (but not frozen solid), take everything out of the freezer and remove and discard the top piece of wrap. Take a pizza cutter, and cut the meat into strips, I usually make them about 1-1/2 inches wide, and as long as my dehydrator will handle. Place the meat on the dehydrator trays and dry until the meat is flexible, but not brittle. You want the moisture removed from the meat, but donít over do it, my dehydrator usually take about 24 hours to reach this point, your mileage may vary.
If you donít have a dehydrator, you can dry the jerkey in the oven too. Place the meat on a wire grid over a cookie sheet and set the oven at itís lowest setting, about 200 degrees. For a wire grid, you can use a wire rack from the barbeque grille, or even try placing the meat directly on the ovens wire rack. Be sure to cut your meat to fit the racks, you donít want any unsupported ends. You just want to be sure that air can circulate all around the meat. Block the oven door open a little bit to allow the moisture to escape Check it often, once again you want the meat dry, not totally desiccated. If you get the meat too dry, itís no major disaster, it just feels powdery in your mouth.
Store in the refrigerator and enjoy often!! It will also keep without refrigeration for a long, long, time. My kids often take it to school for lunch. Itís an excellent source of protein, and delicious!!
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