Jerky making

One of the special things about hunting for me is the use of the meat for jerky. We buy beef and chicken for feeding the family, so everything I shoot is considered “fun meat” to me and the family. I found ways to use the meat to act as a substitute to snacks for our kids many times. We make snack sticks from deer and jerky from deer and geese. This is some of the stuff I found when making real jerky that I will share.

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These things are usually never covered and the writer just gives you a recipe and says “have at it”. That is not what I plan to do, I am going to show you how to make jerky, not flavor it. I am not giving away a recipes here, my wife would beat me if I did, as she holds that stuff tight! When you make Jerky its quality is all in the planning and preparation as much as a recipe. The planning of your recipe over years and the planning of how you prepare and cut your meat. I say “Cut” as I do not make ground jerky. I make sliced jerky and if you do not know, there is a huge difference.

We have all seen the Jerky shooter where you take the ground meat from the butcher and mix spices with it and squeeze it onto a tray to make jerky sticks. Now, just for comparison for my point, take one of those squeezed jerky sticks and a piece of well known Jack Links jerky and tell me what is difference, the Texture! Ground jerky is so soft and unappealing, it almost seems like partially digested meat, gross! Not only is it soft, but the spices are mixed into the meat and not on the surface where your tongue can get at them. Part of presentation is taste and you need to know this. If you’re going to mix spice inside the meat, you need a lot more than if you coated and marinade the meat. Its ok if you used you ground meat to make jerky, I did this before when I started, but sliced meat makes jerky that is twice as good.

I don’t really want to cover spices as that is up to you. You can buy some seasoning packs or make some of your own recipes. I have experimented with it for years, but it is all up to individual taste. The point is, find a recipe or a mix and get a set flavor you want for you Jerky. This is all some people consider, but believe me, it’s only half the battle to make great jerky.

One of the preparations I do to make jerky is really simple. I wrap or vacuum seal the meat and freeze it and here is how I do it with just ziploc bags.  I know, you have seen lots of stuff on fresh this and fresh that. You need to understand what happens to meat when you freeze it. Cells rupture and all kinds of things happens. I know I can darn near drain a 1/8 to a 1/4 cup of blood and juice off two goose breast after freezing it. All that water and blood will impede the ability for you marinade or spices to penetrate the meat. I have done this many times and fresh meat is slippery to the feel when sliced. Frozen and drained meat feels a whole lot drier and almost open grained where you know the meat will soak up the spices.

The last preparation is how you cut the meat. This can be one of the most important steps. We have all had jerky where you are pulling from the side of your mouth and you feel like a couple teeth might come out. That jerky was cut “with the grain” of the meat and even though it tasted good, you probably had enough of it. Muscle groups are long contracting cells that are long and thin and only contract into a ball when used. They are very strong length wise and if you slice the meat that way you will notice when trying to pull the jerky apart with your teeth. When you slice the meat across the grain you will notice the jerky is easy to eat, but still has a nice firmness to it. It gives it great texture, but still very easy to eat.

On the first picture with the knife, you can see where I was slicing a goose breast for jerky.These slices are about 1/8″ to 3/16″ depending on how thick you like them. My family does not like them too thin as they get tough when dehydrated if they are thin.

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Here I have some piled up in the process.

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You can see the cutting of the grain on this slice. The meat is slices across the breast, but this not really across the grain as you can see the grain in the picture. To slice across the grain on goose it would be long way, but I don’t like the meat sliced that way. The way this is sliced it pulls apart with the grain still and can be very enjoyable. It works like this for goose and duck, but larger meat should be cut across the grain.

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Another part of prep work is removing all the fat, tendons, shot, bullet fragments. Some can be done before freezing and some after. I do all my own game processing, so I handle the entire process.

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The meat in the next picture is mixed with spices, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and water and ready for the fridge. Goose is fairly gamey and the Soy and Worcestershire to a lot to cover the gamey taste in the jerky. I like gamey meat, but many do not and this helps with the flavor. Once marinated most people can not tell wild game jerky from beef jerky. At this part of the process the meat is turned over to my wife, which is a better cook than I am. So I am ready for her to take this part over. She coats the meat very well and pulls it out twice a day and massages the meat to make sure the flavor gets all mixed in very nicely. The bags spend about 3 to 4 days in the fridge marinating.

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I know someone is saying the meat will go bad. It is not going to go bad, as this is fresh meat, not aged meat. You don’t know how long meat hangs at the butcher if you say this. Most butchers age and hang beef 10 days to tenderize the meat. Some restaurants dry age beef and it gets 2 to 4 weeks! This meat will visible fall apart in your hands and melt in your mouth, but has to stay cold and be done correctly. I soak breast for 10 days and another 4 days in the fridge bags is 2 weeks and it tender when I make jerky.

This is not really an option for most home processors as unless you have a walk in fridge for hunting, you can’t keep the temperature regulated enough to hang the entire carcase. I have done it when it was cold enough, but its a struggle to keep it from freezing some times. Most times here in Maryland its not cold enough and bacteria can grow, so be careful. I age/soak my meat in the basement fridge which is the beer fridge to us. It’s turned to as cold as possible on the dial. Beer is best cold and it keep bacteria at bay also.

But back to the subject at hand. Then marinaded slices are put on to dehydrator trays and will be cook on 160 degrees for 4 to 5 hours until dry, but still slightly soft. Over cook, or dry, here and no one will enjoy your jerky!

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Then the finish jerky. Nom, Nom, Nom!

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Here is my Jerky Making posse that is always hanging out, wanting to help. Not really, they just wanting hand outs. One of them helps me acquire meat. The other doesn’t really do much anymore, but what you see him doing now.

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Then there is the “Please Daddy, feed me” look I get all through the process. 😀

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Enjoy and comment up with some of your ideas for jerky making.

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