Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making Jerky

Yesterday I went out to the freezer to pull out a package of meat to go with dinner.  The package was "antelope for jerky".  I pulled out a second package, same thing.  I pulled out a third package and it was antelope steaks.  That's what I was looking for.  I didn't even know that we had meat specifically for jerky in the freezer.  I guess when my friend gave it to me I didn't read every package when I transferred it from the ice chest to the freezer. 

Of course, this meant my task for today was to make jerky.  I put the two packages into the refrigerator yesterday and by today they were mostly thawed but still just a little frozen.  I opened them and the meat wasn't ready for jerky.  It was a bunch of chunks that needed to be thinly sliced then seasoned. 

I got out the meat cutting knife, a nice Forschner that I've had for over 30 years.  The blade is only about half the size it used to be because it's been sharpened so many times over the years but it's still my favorite for slicing raw meat.  I'm sure you all have a favorite knife as well.  When you slice the meat for jerky you want it pretty thin and having it slightly frozen makes it easier to slice.  I got the meat sliced the way I wanted it and then thought about how I was going to season it.  What kind of seasonings do they have on jerky from the store?  Since I don't buy the jerky from the store it took a while to remember.

There are all kinds of ways to season your jerky.  Just pick what you like.  You can make a wet marinade of a few or a lot of ingredients including: chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, curry powder, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, or liquids including bbq sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, vinegars, and liquid smoke.  Whatever you like can be used in your jerky.  Marinade or rub the seasonings in for anywhere from an hour to over night.   

I decided to go with 1/2 teriyaki and 1/2 hickory smoke and black pepper.  It didn't quite turn out half of each.  I have three trays in the dehydrator with teriyaki and two trays with hickory smoke and black pepper.  I'm sure the kids will like the teriyaki best and I'll like the other. 

There are many ways to make jerky.  I think the easiest is how I'm making it; in the dehydrator at 145 degrees for most of the day.  When I was a teenager...way back in the olden days...I made jerky in the oven.  That is a quick method - at 180 degrees it should take less than two hours if the slices are thin enough.  I've also made it hanging it on the clothes line on a hot windy day.  It has to be windy or the flies will attack it.  I suppose if it was hot but wasn't windy and you had it hanging on the clothesline covered with tulle fabric to keep the flies off that would work.  I've seen it made by being hung in the smoke over fires.  It could also be made in a solar oven if the top was vented enough to let the moisture out. 

Once the jerky is made I store some otherwise it would get eaten quickly.  I can store the jerky in bags using my vacuum sealer.  My friend stores individual pieces of jerky in vacuum sealed bags and then puts them all into the freezer.  On a day he was some he'll just take out the amount he plans on eating and it will be thawed before he's ready to eat it.  If I want to store the jerky in bulk I'll put it into quart canning jars, put a little piece of white paper towel in, put on the lid, then seal it with my vacuum sealer.  It stores well this way. 

If you like jerky but haven't ever made it, give it a try.  It's easy to make and really good for you.


  1. I'm a jerky nut myself and with the dehydrator it's the easiest thing to do and fast too. My only problem is I'm stuck making the same flavor, Teriyaki. I think, if people knew how easy it is, more would make it and never go back to buying the stuff. the first time I made it in the dehydrator I left it over night thinking it need to really be dried out. WRONG! That stuff was so hard. Lesson learned. Hummmm, Think I'll go grab a pack of frozen jerky meat to make a batch. Thanks for the thought.

  2. I used to only make teriyaki too. Then after walking down the beef jerky isle at the store and seeing all the flavors they sold I decided to make different flavors here at home. All in all, most people like the teriyaki best.