Dried meat can last for a long time, and it doesn’t require any special equipment to create. Just hang it out in the sun to naturally dehydrate. So 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.
STEP 1 Get some fresh raw meat. Cooked meat which is then dried out will go bad in a few days depending on the temperature, and lead to food poisoning. Red meats work very well for jerky making; although any mammal, bird, fish or larger reptile meat will work with this technique. Note to the brave – you can certainly dry whole fish or fillets from fresh water species, but they can be “an acquired taste”.
STEP 2 Cut red and white meat thinly, and cut across the grain. Slice your pieces less than 1/8th inch thick and cut perpendicular to the grain of the meat. What's a "grain"? The grain is the long bundles of muscle fibers. The grain appears as stripes or lines in the meat. Just cut across these lines, not in the same direction - or the jerky will be tougher than it needs to be. Also trim off all visible fat. The fat will go rancid in the dried meat. Fat must be preserved by rendering, which will be a whole different process than jerky. 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 definitely create a less hospitable environment for bacteria. Iodized salt is the best choice for jerky, as it kills more bacteria than sea salt. And after all, the whole point of jerky is to make the meat less hospitable to bacteria.
STEP 3 Dry it out. Hang your jerky slices on an improvised rack or simply hang it on twigs and branches around camp. Don’t leave it unattended, or birds and other jerky thieves will get it. Jerky can be dried near a small smoky fire to add smoke flavoring and keep flies away while the meat dries. Don’t dry the jerky over the fire. It will cook, and begin to go bad in mere days. Depending on the humidity, the jerky may dry in one day or several days. Don't leave it out overnight. It will get damp and the critters will 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. Pound it up with a rock and throw it in a soup or stew. It will never turn back into tiny, tender steaks it used to be. But at least it won't be as chewy as that store bought stuff, and the best part is that you made it yourself.
And if that’s not enough, you can:
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