Here it is dear readers our adventures in making Beef Jerky. We have made our own Beef Jerky off and on for many years now.It's an easy process with simple ingredients and good eats.
The first thing you need is a cheap cut of beef with little fat to it.If there is a cap of fat or ribbons of fat that's ok, you can cut it off.You just want to avoid too much marbled fat.
Cut your meat into thin slices.As you can see in the second photo I cut the meat into 2 pieces to make the slices a size I liked.The thinner the slices the dryer and crunchier the jerky will be.So you can adjust the thickness to suit your tastes.I suppose I cut mine into a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
Place your sliced meat into a bowl.A thing to note here is the bowl may look like a lot of Jerky to be but once dried the pile will be a lot smaller.
Next you get to be creative. Now you want to season your meat.There are lots of options here.Some people like just salt and pepper for a plain tasting jerky. We like to marinate the meat for up to 24 hours for a really tasty treat.We usually make a Teriyaki type marinande,I throw some Soy Sauce,Brown Sugar,Garlic Powder,Black Pepper and some times a bit of some thing spicy hot for a bit of kick into a smaller bowl and whisk it all together.You can opt to buy a pre-made sauce to use,there's plenty of choices out there.Season your meat and if marinating let it sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
This last time we made Jerky Chance added a curing salt to the Jerky,this is optional.Not everyone will have it and as long as you are using up the Jerky quickly there's no worries about not having it.Chance used what is called Pink Salt for this step.Pink Salt can be found where ever Meat Curing supplies are sold and is super cheap.The job of the Pink Slat is to get the salt to soak in and really do it's work of preserving the meat.If you don't have it the salt you use in the jerky to season and the drying process will still do the trick of preserving.
Once your meat is ready to cure you have a couple of options on how to dry it.For a long time we did not have a Smoker of any kind if this is your case don't worry you can still make Jerky.In the past we used either a Food Dehydrator or the Oven.
To use a Food Dehydrator lay the meat out on the racks so it is not over lapping and in a single layer.Load and stack the racks until full. Now turn on your Dehydrator.
If you are using your oven I recommend starting this part a bed time. Pre heat your oven to its lowest setting,right around 200 degrees.Using the racks of the oven lay out your meat in a single layer and put them back into the oven. When you are ready to close the oven door keep it open a crack, a wooden spoon works best for this.
And how about using a Smoker, well I must say that is not my department here at Hrafinstaad,it's Chance's thing.I would imagine if you have one you know how to load it up and get it turned on.Chance used Hickory Chips for our Jerky but use what you like.It did not take long for the Jerky to dry in our Smoker (An electric one that has a pot of water in the bottom) just 3-4 hours.And I am sorry for not knowing as much about making it in the Smoker.I am just going on if you have one you know how to use it.
Those of you using the Dehydrator or the Oven may be saying "Wait a minute Rois what about the smokey flavor you get from the Smoker will we get that too?" Ah,No. And I do not recommend using Liquid Smoke to get that flavor,it's the most fake flavoring I have ever tasted.Don't worry though,although your Jerky won't be smokey it will still be good.
For all 3 methods the next steps are the same.You will want to come back in a few hours and check your Jerky.You are looking for a supple yet dry meat.If you have had Jerky before use what you know about the look and feel of Jerky to know when it's done.This can take up to 24 hours depending on the thickness of your slices and how you are drying you Jerky. Also you can make the Jerky the way you like it here,dry and crunchy or moist and chewy it's up to you,its a matter of timing is all.Some how I missed a photo of our finished Jerky but most people know what it looks like so oh well.
Once your Jerky is done drying lay it out to cool and watch out for Jerky Thieves,once it is ready quick fingers will appear looking to snatch a bit.Store your Jerky in an air tight container of your choice.We store ours in the fridge to prolong its life a bit,not that it ever stays around long.
As I wrote we store our Jerky in the fridge but this dose not mean you can't take with you without refrigeration. We have taking bags full with us on hiking trips with no problems or worries about spoilage.And I did send some to camp with the boys this week with no calls reporting food poisoning.Just be sensible about the life of your Jerky,when in doubt throw it out.I do belive the Jerky would store well in the fridge for up to a month if you can get it to last that long.
With the boys gone life is quiet and half of the work,I do kind of miss them though.Last night the boys called from camp.At first I thought Oh no,whats wrong but they were calling to ask if their packages had come in the mail(They are always ordering something in the mail) and to tell us they were having a great time.Issac the eldest even with the voices of the other boys in the back said,"I love you Mama" Sigh.
Chance and I were able to spread out much of the straw from the bales and gave some of it away.The Tomatoes I moved from the Bales have perked up and look much happier.I have the first blossom on my Yellow Crook Necked Squash and have been training the Cucumbers up their trellis.Today I will plant a new round of Swiss Chard to make up for the Chard I lost with the Hay Bales.Even with the Hay Bales not working,I still feel hopeful of the expansion of Hrafinstaad.There's still lots of room for growth and growing here.And since no one is in a rush there's time to work it all out.A never ending project- our life.