For most of human history the only way to preserve meat was to dry it into jerky. While new methods of meat preservation have now been developed (freezing, chemicals, and so on) many people still enjoy the flavor and convenience of jerky, which is most commonly made from beef. Because moisture and fat must be removed from the meat, it can also be a healthy source of protein. Follow these steps and make your own!
Select a cut of meat. Choosing a lean cut like sirloin, top round, or eye round will save time later.
Remove all noticeable meat fat, as this will cause the jerky to spoil much faster, then slice your meat into very thin strips less than 1/20`` thick (sometimes a butcher will do this for you for $10 if you ask). To make it easier to slice, freeze it for about 5 hours before slicing. You can cut with or against the grain, but some find that strips cut against the grain are easier to chew. Trim the fat as you go along, since fat does not dry and could make the jerky get you sick.
Marinate the meat in a solution of olive oil and vinegar sea salt, or according to a recipe of your preference. Place in the refrigerator for 10 - 24 hours to allow the meat absorb the flavor. This step is optional; the additional moisture can make dehydration take longer, and the resulting jerky might be stickier.[You can also mix with soy sauce or soy sauce powder and paprika for a teriyaki taste]brown sugar is a great addition as it sweetens the meat.
Coat the meat in the seasonings of your choice.Dont be afraid to use salt.Salt absorbs moisture and will aid the in dehydrating.
Dehydrate the meat. Leave enough room between pieces to allow air to flow around the meat. Avoid letting the meat seperate if possible.
In a dehydrator, spray the racks with non-stick cooking spray and place your prepared meat on the racks.
In an oven, set the temperature to 150 degrees F (65 degrees C) and allow it to preheat. (Heat is not intended to cook your jerky; gentle heat aids in the dehydration process by causing the moisture to evaporate.) Place your prepared meat on a wire rack.
Wait and watch. Making jerky is a quick process. Since temperatures, humidity levels, and slice thickness will vary, there can be no set time for the process to complete. Usually it will take between 2 - 6 hours. Check the consistency of the jerky regularly after 6 hours until it meets your satisfaction. You might have to cut into the jerky to ensure that it is not raw inside. Jerky should turn a deep brown or burgundy color.
Place the fresh jerky in plastic bags and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat. Enjoy the homemade jerky within 2 weeks of its preparation.
If you wish to store your jerky for longer, use glass mayson jars. Plastic bags tend to accumulate moisture which encourgages the growth of bacterias. In jars, jerky can be kept for months.
Be swift. The meat should be dried as quickly as possible, to limit bacterial growth. Cutting the meat into thin slices dramatically shortens drying time. Placing the meat in a freezer for an hour or two before cutting will make it easier to cut thinly.
Do not allow the jerky to become too dry or it will become hard and unpleasant. It should be the consistency of rubber.
Traditionally, jerky was smoked or salted to preserve and flavor the meat at the same time.
Ideally, the jerky should be vacuum sealed in plastic with a pouch of oxygen absorber in order to retard spoilage, but this is not practical in most home situations.
For a vegetarian version of this, try using seitan (wheat protein) or marinated tofu. Tweak the meat before dehydrating or use liquid smoke and you will have the best jerky you have ever had. Be sure you let it marinate over night.
Try a soy sauce based marinade. Some excellent flavoring agents include Adobo seasoning, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, powdered ginger, sesame oil, cajun seasoning
When drying in an oven, keep the door open a few inches with a couple of wooden spoons. This help the drying process and helps prevent the jerky scalding before it is dry.
You can also buy home jerky making kits if you are unsure of the whole process.
This is not commercial jerky and therefore does not contain preservatives. Please take proper precautions to preserve your jerky (i.e. refrigerate or freeze) and consume it promptly.
Sun drying can lead to spoilage, and you will have a difficult time keeping the insects away.