Number of Servings: Varies
Use only lean meats in excellent condition. Round, flank and chuck steak, rump roast, brisket and cross rib are good choices. Highly marbled and fatty cuts do not work as well. When preparing jerky products, keep raw meats and their juices away from other foods. Remove any thick connective tissue and gristle from meat. Trim off visible fat with a sharp knife. Fat becomes rancid quickly and causes the development of off-flavors during drying or storage. Freeze meat in moisture-proof paper or plastic wrap until firm but not solid.
Slice the meat on a clean cutting board while still slightly frozen into long thin strips, approximately 1/8 to1/4 inch thick, 1 to 1½-inches wide and 4 to 10 inches long. If chewy jerky is preferred, slice with the grain; slice across the grain for a more tender, brittle jerky. Lay the strips out in a single layer on a clean and sanitized smooth surface (cutting board, counter top, cookie sheet). Flatten the strips with a rolling pin so they are fairly uniform in thickness.
Note: Always wash and sanitize cutting boards, utensils, and counters with hot, soapy water before and after any contact with raw meat or juices. To make a sanitizing solution, use 1 teaspoon of household chlorine bleach per quart of water.
Hot Pickle Cure Preparation Method
Ingredients per two pounds of lean meat
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
Hot Pickle Brine:
3/4 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper 1 gallon water
Directions: Place jerky slices on clean cookie sheets or flat pans. Evenly distribute half of the pickling spices on the top surfaces of the jerky slices. Press spices into the meat slices with a rubber mallet or meat tenderizer. Turn slices and repeat on opposite sides. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Combine ingredients for hot pickle brine (salt, sugar, pepper, water) in a large kettle. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar and bring to a slow boil (175°F). Place a few meat slices at a time in a steamer basket and lower into brine. Simmer for 1½ to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all pieces are immersed.
Lift basket out of kettle and drain off liquid. Using clean tongs, remove meat pieces and place flat, without touching each other, on clean dehydrator trays, oven racks or other drying trays. Immediately begin drying as described below. Repeat process until all meat pieces have been pickled in the brine solution and placed in the dehydrator.
Vinegar-Marinade Preparation Method
Ingredients per two pounds of lean meat slices:
2 cups vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon hickory smoked salt
Directions: Place 2 cups vinegar in 9x11-inch cake pan or plastic storage container. Add meat strips to container, making sure vinegar covers all strips; Let soak 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure distribution of vinegar on strips. Combine all marinade ingredients and place in a 1-gallon re-sealable plastic bag. Add lean meat slices to bag; seal bag and massage pieces to thoroughly distribute marinade over all meat strips. Refrigerate bag 1 to 24 hours.
Remove meat slices from bag, and place flat, without touching each other, on clean dehydrator trays, oven racks or other drying trays. Place trays in pre-heated dehydrator and dry at 145ºF for 10 to 14 hours, or until slices are adequately dry.
Use a calibrated thermometer to monitor the circulating air temperature of the dehydrator or oven. Pre-heat the dehydrator or oven to 145°F for 15 to 30 minutes. Using clean tongs, arrange the meat strips in single layers on the drying trays without touching each other. Place the filled trays in the preheated dehydrator, leaving enough open space on the racks for air to circulate around the strips. Let the strips dry for 10 to 14 hours, or until the pieces are adequately dry.
Test for dryness. Properly dried jerky is chewy and leathery. It will be as brittle as a green stick, but won't snap like a dry stick. To test for dryness, remove a strip of jerky from the oven or dehydrator. Let cool slightly, then bend the jerky; it should crack, but not break when bent.
When jerky is sufficiently dry, remove the strips from the drying racks to a clean surface. Pat off any beads of oil with absorbent paper toweling and let cool.
Storage. Place cooled jerky strips in an airtight plastic food bag or jar with a tight fitting lid. Pack jerky with the least possible amount of air trapped in the container. Too much air causes off-flavors and rancidity to develop. Label and date packages. Store containers of jerky in a cool, dry, dark place or the refrigerator or freezer. Properly dried jerky will keep for approximately two weeks in a sealed container at room temperature. It will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer. Check occasionally to be sure no mold is forming.
P. Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Colorado State University Extension food science and human nutrition specialist and professor, food science and human nutrition; J. Sofos, Ph.D., Colorado State University Professor, animal sciences. Reviewed 1/07.
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Note: Permission to use recipes granted on 5/08/08