Two killer homemade jerky recipes for both beef and venison will show you how to make jerky using an oven or smoker.
Just as with smoking, jerking food goes back to the times before refrigeration and canning when it was found that salting and drying meat was a good way to preserve it and stop it spoiling. Essentially it was a process of dehydration, the drying process originally taking place in the sun but then later by fires as folks found this a more controllable process giving more consistent results.The dried meat could then be added to stews and beans to provide flavor and texture.
The jerking process is a two stage job, first a marinade and then secondly dehydration or drying. Nowadays the marinades have become more complex because this is where the flavor comes into play and the drying process is a lot more controlled. The marinade is the same for both these homemade jerky recipes, the difference is in the drying process.
First you need to get yourself a 1kg or 2.2lb hunk of lean beef such as
rump or round and trim off any excess fat. The fat will go rancid much
quicker than the dried meat so trimming the fat will preserve your end
product for longer. (The fact that venison is so lean is why it's ideal for jerky).
Next you need to make thin slices cut with the grain of the meat. You cut with the grain because otherwise these thin slices won't have any strength when dried and the slices will crumble.
To test that you are cutting with the grain, make one slice and then gently pull it apart lengthways. If you've cut it with the grain it will stretch, if you've got it wrong it will tear.
You are also looking to make slices that are about 2 inches (50mm) wide and about ¼ inch (6mm) thick. This can be quite a challenge if you don't own a meat slicer but there are a couple of things that you can do to make the process easier. Firstly, pop the meat into the freezer for a quarter of an hour to super chill the meat before slicing and secondly use a long sharp slicing knife.
Once prepared you can add your venison or beef slices into your marinade.
Note: This recipe contains Salt Petre, a nitrate that colours the meat pink. Some of us (me included) choose to omit nitrates and nitrites from our product wherever possible. My nitrite free air dried bacon page explains why I choose not to add Salt Petre.
Preparation Time:- 15 mins
Marinade Time:- overnight
Drying Time:- 6 hours
Total Time:- 2 days
Stir the slices of meat every hour for the first couple of hours and then cover, refrigerate and leave it overnight. When you're ready to dry it, strain using a sieve or colander and then hang your venison in your oven or smoker (you can lay it in smoker baskets if you haven't any facility to hang).
Set your oven off on its lowest possible setting, dry for about 3 hours and then raise the temperature to 175°F (80°C) and continue for a further 3 hours.
Once done you can allow it to cool and then taste!
The smoker drying takes place at three different temperature settings, just remember to have your chimney damper wide open to facilitate the drying process.
You should find now that you have dry jerky that's flexible but not brittle. If take it to the brittle stage it will keep longer but it's not as flavourful. The produce from either of these homemade jerky recipes can be refrigerated or frozen once cool.