This week at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market pick up some lean grass fed beef to make your own beef jerky.
Jerky can be made from most types of lean meat including beef, pork and venison. Poultry is not recommended for dehydrating. If you’re a camper, hiker, hunter or other outdoor enthusiast, you may take jerky on your outings because it’s light weight, chewy and tasty.
Jerky has also become a popular anytime snack that provides a good source of lean protein. Fatty meats are avoided when dehydrating because the fat causes an off flavor. Jerky is made by drying thin strips of lean meat in an oven or dehydrator at 145 degrees for 10-14 hours.
Care must be used when making jerky to prevent food borne illness. Some jerky recipes include pre-cooking meat to kill bacteria, but this makes for a less desirable product. The recipe below uses pasteurization of the dried meat to ensure a safe product.
Jerky can be eaten plain as a snack or meal supplement, or rehydrated in a soup or stew. Store jerky in a cool, dry, dark place.
For 2 pounds of lean meat*, combine:
2/3 Tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon Thyme
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
6 drops Tabasco Sauce
Partially freeze 2 pounds lean meat (flank, rump, brisket, or round steak). This allows for cutting into strips of uniform thickness. Using a sharp knife, trim all fat. Cut meat with the grain into narrow strips not more than ¼ inch thick and about 6 inches in length. (Cutting with the grain of the meat will give you a different more sinuous textured jerky than cutting against the grain when the jerky will crumble more easily.) Vary seasonings to taste.
Stir seasonings into water (enough to barely cover the meat). Soak meat in marinade overnight in the refrigerator. Drain off liquid and “pat” dry with paper towels. (Discard any leftover marinade.) Lay meat slices directly on parchment, plastic wrap, cereal box liners, Teflon, or plastic inserts on drying racks. Do not overlap meat strips. Preheat dehydrator to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The drying process takes 10-14 hours. Check the meat during the drying process and rotate trays if necessary. Blot off any excess fat with paper towels. Drying too fast will cause the outside to dry faster than the inside and result in case hardening, which is to be avoided. Drying at too low a temperature will cause the bacteria present to multiply quickly and not be eliminated, with the potential of making people sick. Maintaining a steady 145 degree temperature during the majority of the drying process is ideal.
To speed drying, when the top side of the jerky is dry to the touch, peel off drying sheets and lay meat strips not touching each other directly on drying trays.
When meat is dried enough it will be dark in color, fibrous, and form sharp points when bent, but will not break. If it breaks in half easily it may be because it was cut across the grain.
Absorb fat on surfaces of jerky with paper towels. To pasteurize, lay out dried jerky on a cookie sheet in a single layer (pieces can be touching) and heat in 275 degree F. oven for 10 minutes (to reach at least 160 degrees F yet not scorch.) When cooled, store in glass jar or freezer type self-locking bag with as little air as possible. Store jerky in a cool, dark, dry place, preferably in the freezer if storing for a long time.
Yield: about 150 pieces per pound of raw meat
Adapted 1977 Bulletin 120 on “Home Drying of Foods” by Ruth N. Klippstein and Katherine J. T. Humphrey
Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market on High Rock Avenue. The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is open on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9-1 p.m. For information about food preservation, contact Diane Whitten at Cornell Cooperative Extension at 885-8995 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.