I formerly used “traditional” methods for making jerky and have made it from every North American bovine—and black bear, jackrabbit, rattlesnake, wild burro, domestic pork and turkey. After 10 of 15 men who ate cougar jerky in Idaho contracted trichinosis several years ago, I no longer cast such a wide net. I also now use heat to ensure it’s not diseased by trichinosis nor contaminated by salmonella or E. coli.
PASTEURIZING MARINADE: Simply follow safe-handling techniques when dressing or butchering, then freeze likely chunks until they firm up enough to slice thin. Remove all fat, and slice across the grain to get strips 1/4-inch-thick or less by about 1-inch wide. In a 3-gallon pot, add 6 quarts water, a pound of salt, 2 T. garlic powder, 1 T. black pepper, and 1/4-cup liquid smoke. Bring to rolling boil.
Add strips to pot in quantities you can keep track of, and boil for 1 to 2 minutes (depends on thickness). Strips will look white, which will change as they dry. Remove and drain. Sprinkle on dry seasoning (see below).
DRYING PROCESS: Place on racks over foil, place in oven at 140 F. with the door slightly ajar. Depending on elevation and humidity, drying takes 6 to 8 hours: The jerky is done when new-rope stiff, crackles when bent but doesn’t break. Strips can also be dried on a traditional rack or smoker after this “pasteurizing marinade” but take pains it doesn’t get re-contaminated by bacteria from insects or blowing dirt. Expect to lose 2/3 to 3/4 of the original weight. For better shelf life be sure to remove every trace of fat.
The above boiling mixture is readily tweaked to taste with spices (cayenne, clove, Tabasco, Worcestershire, vinegar, cider, brown sugar, soy, teriyaki, bay leaves, allspice). Spices with capsicum have added preservative effect.
SAFE SHELF LIFE: Store in good-quality “Ziploc” bags or airtight containers. Various official sources opine that the average shelf life for typical homemade jerky is a couple months. This varies greatly with moisture and salt content. We cheat: dry it very hard, and keep it in the freezer. If you lack freezer space (because the premium cuts you just made into jerky were frozen meat making way for the new harvest), even simple refrigeration extends shelf life considerably.
The New Pioneer 2011, Issue #143 Table of Contents
by New Pioneer / Mar 1, 2013