The deer you’ve hunted and the game you’ve trapped can be some of the most satisfying meat you’ll ever eat. At each meal you remember the place you were, and time you spent. With effective food preservation techniques, the meat eater can turn his success into many tasty meals. Dried meat can last for a long time, and it doesn’t require any special equipment to create. You can even dry meat in a survival setting with no supplies or seasonings. If you want to make your own jerky like our ancestors did, at home or out in the wild, this is how you do it.
Get some fresh raw meat. Cooked meat that is then dried out will go bad in a few days depending on the temperature, and lead to food poisoning. Red meat and most fish do very well for jerky making; although any mammal, bird, fish, or larger reptile’s meat will work with this technique.
Slice your pieces less than half a centimeter thick and cut across the grain of the meat, which is the long bundles of muscle fibers. Cutting with the grain will make your jerky tougher than it needs to be. Trim off all visible fat, which will go rancid in the dried meat. Fat must be preserved by rendering, which is a whole different process. While the meat is still juicy, sprinkle on a little salt, sugar and /or spices like pepper, ginger, cumin, chili powder, etc. These additives are optional, but using salt will create a less hospitable environment for bacteria, which is the whole point of jerky in the first place.
Hang your jerky slices on an improvised rack or on twigs and branches around camp. Don’t leave it unattended, or birds and other jerky thieves will get it. Drying the meat near a small, smokey fire will add flavoring and keep flies away while it dries. Don’t dry the meat over the fire. It will cook, and begin to go bad in mere days. Depending on the humidity, the jerky could dry in one day or several days. Don’t leave it out overnight, though. It will get damp and critters could get it. Put it somewhere dry overnight.
Flip it a few times during the drying process. When it becomes slightly brittle, it is done. Red-meat jerky should finish drying with a purple-brown color. White-meat jerky should dry to some shade of pinkish-grey. Store it somewhere dry and safe from pests, and cook it somehow before consumption. Toast it over the fire or pound it with a rock and throw it in a soup or stew. It will never turn back into the tiny, tender steaks it used to be. But at least it won’t be as chewy as the store-bought stuff, and the best part is that you made it yourself.
Do you have any good jerky making tips? We’d love to hear them in the comments.