The average adult will consume 150 to 200 pounds of meat per year. Under adverse conditions, people can easily get by with less protein than 150 pounds of fresh meat per year, as that averages to almost a half pound per day! A canned, cooked one pound ham, for example, would be a real treat once a week, and easily feed a family of four.
For weekday meals for a family of four, a 5 ounce can of tuna, canned chicken, 12 ounce can of luncheon meat, or 12 ounce can of corned beef can be used in a casserole (or whatever) and provide the required protein.
Modern store-bought jerky is not real jerky. It is too thin, too small, too soft, and is often preserved with chemicals. Real homemade jerky is thicker, longer, and very stout! It is tough! To eat real jerky, you “worry” off a chunk with your teeth — if you can — or cut off a “flake” with a pocket knife, then soak the “flake” in your cheek for a while until it finally softens. If jerky isn’t that tough, it won’t keep!
Meat for jerky is prepared from lean, trimmed strips about 1 1/2″ by 1/2″, and as long as practical. Normally the larger muscles are cut into jerky and are cut with the grain rather than across it as for steaks. All tendons, gristle, fat, etc., that can be removed should be trimmed off. The meat strips are then lightly powdered with coarse, freshly ground pepper (if available) to keep away flies, and lightly salted to help with taste and salt craving. Once prepared, the pepper can be brushed off the iron like chucks easily if desired.
The meat strips should be dried in the sun about four (4) feet above a slow fire. Non-resinous hardwoods should be used for the fire, and the flames kept very low. The smoke from the fire is to keep away birds and flies, NOT used for drying the meat! Use a low fire, with little flame or heat.
Green hardwood works fine, but resinous softwoods such as Douglas fir will impart a bad taste to the jerky. Fruit woods (except wild cherry) impart a nice, mild taste to the jerky.
Suggested article: How To Make Wild Game Jerky
The drying rack can be made from forked sticks pounded into the ground, and the cross sticks that hold the meat made from thin, green wood such as willow or vine maple. A sharpened end on the cross stick should be pushed through one end of the meat strips, which will allow them to hang down.
Allow at least an inch of separation between meat strips. The cross sticks may be carried indoors if rain threatens, and at night to protect from dew. Do not dry in the sun before 9:00 in the morning, or after 6:00 at night to avoid getting dew on the meat. Just the dew from a single morning may saturate the meat sufficiently to require an additional day of drying time!
Jerky can be used as is, always having a little flake in the pouch, or cooked in stews. If cooked, it is best to soak the jerky overnight prior to use, then slice across the grain into chunks before cooking. When possible, fat should be added to the stew, as well as tubers and cornmeal. If any mold on the meat is detected, it can be washed off before use with vinegar.
Drying Methods Conclusion
As you can see, preparing dried meat products requires the expenditure of lots of energy — yours! Cutting and stripping the meat, cutting the hardwood and hauling it to the racks, keeping the fire going, bringing in the racks at night, etc, does require time, but it is certainly not hard work. If you have the meat available to make large batches, your effort per piece is reduced considerably.
In a real survival situation, without electricity for refrigeration or freezing, a large supply of meat can best be preserved by drying or smoking. The alternative is to do without, and that is a poor alternative indeed.
Before electricity runs out, here are some of my favorite recipes that you can try:
Beef Jerky recipe #1
- 1/2 ts Pepper (MORE FOR HOT)
- add 1/2 ts Garlic Powder
- 1/2 ts Onion Salt
- 1 lb Beef Roast
- 1/2 c Soy sauce
- add 1/2 ts Garlic Salt
- 1/2 ts Lemon Pepper
Marinate 1 hour or overnight. Bake in oven 150 to 170, overnight or for 10 – 12 hours. Leave oven door open to allow moisture to escape. Check often for the proper level of dryness. If you have a smoker, jerky may be dried in the smoker.
Keep the heat low and again check dryness of jerky often.
- 1 Flank steak
- 1 Clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 c Honey
- 1 Pinch pepper
- 4 tb Lemon juice
- 1/2 c Soy sauce
- 1 Pinch salt
Put steak in the freezer for about half an hour, just until firm. Slice steak across the grain, about 1/4-inch thick. Combine remaining ingredients and marinate steak strips in this for at least 2 hours. Place slices on rack in pan and dry in the oven at 150 degrees, 12 hours.
Beef Jerky recipe #3
- 2 lbs. meat, cut with grain
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion salt
- 1 Tbsp taco sauce
- 1 tsp. hickory smoke salt
- A dash Tabasco
Pour over meat, marinate 24 hours. Lay on broiler separately. Bake at 150 degrees for 5 hours, turn a couple of times. Add more liquid smoke or more salt (if desired).
Beef Jerky recipe #4
- 2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
Trim meat of all visible fat and any connective tissue; Cut into 2 inch or so cubes. Place in a bowl or food processor. Combine all seasonings in a small bowl and mix well. Pour over meat cubes. Process until meat is chopped very finely. If it is less fine it will be not extruded well and will be crumbly after drying. Place in the jerky extruder, (we got ours at Wal-Mart). Extrude onto dryer trays and dry for about 4 hours for four trays, or until all moisture is gone and the meat is dry and leathery.
We like ours almost crunchy as it will absorb some moisture from the air after drying. We store ours in glass jars, tightly closed. You can store in the fridge if you like. We have a vacuum sealer and store extras in vacuum sealed jars. I’m sure you could make turkey jerky the same way. The Dehydrator must be set to the highest temperature, it will go. I think ours is 145 degrees. You could also put it in the oven to dry. The convection type oven will do better because of the air flow.
Storing the JERKY
Store all food away from light and at a constant temperature, avoiding extremes of hot or cold. Garages or attics are not good places to store food unless you live in a mild climate. Dry basements are better; always put food storage containers on shelves or on bricks or boards so that they aren’t stacked on bare concrete. Put a label or sticker on the buckets that list the contents and the date they were made.
Really hard jerky will keep for a long time but should be stored in a dry place.
If you live in an area of high humidity or frequent rains, the jerky can be stored using a number of ways:
- Wrapping the jerky in waxed paper and dipping in wax. This is the easiest way, but may not be possible under primitive conditions.
- Wrapping in cheesecloth, and dipping in suet. This is the “classical” method used by early expeditions to the west, the old U.S. Calvary, and mountain men.
- Just dipping the jerky in melted suet. This is the least desirable method, but works.
- Stuffing the jerky into cleaned, washed intestinal material from the meat source animal, then dip in suet. This method works well but is more time consuming than the others.
Stay Safe and God Bless!