Buying a Food Dehydrator
Using Cheap Cuts of Meat
Dry Seasoning Mixes for Meats
Having been raised on a cattle ranch, and unaware of food dehydrators, we made our jerky by the pound in the oven. To me, this is the frugal way to do it, in bulk, as the little machines take forever. Below is my recipe for drying meat in the oven to make venison (or beef) jerky old fashioned style.
Place meat in freezer for about 2 hours to ensure firmness. (Firm meat slices easier than limp, cold meat.)
Before handling any meat, wash hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap and wash baking dishes in hot water, soap and about 2 tablespoons of bleach. Rinse all well and set dishes and utensils aside, covered. Remove meat from freezer and rinse with clean water. Set aside in clean dish and cover. In a deep, flat pan, mix garlic, 1 T liquid smoke, 1 T Worcestershire, 1/2 cup distilled water, onions. Set aside, covered. Onions or other dried spices will "plump" during this time.
Uncover meat and slice in half. Return other half to covered dish. Rub this half with meat tenderizer. Slice meat lengthwise (not with the grain) in strips about 1/4-inch thick or as preferred. I like ours 1/2-inch thick. Place each strip into pan containing marinade, turning to cover each strip well. Sprinkle with black pepper (or selected other seasonings) to taste, and turn each piece again to ensure it's covered in liquid. Remove second half from covered dish and repeat.
Cover in refrigerator to "marinate" over night. Next morning, turn strips again, mixing with the liquid well. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Remove covered dish from fridge. Drain all strips on paper towels, patting gently, as they will "drip" profusely. Place strips close together on baking dishes/foil, about 1/8 inch apart. Do not overlap the strips. Place pans in oven. I stack my pans, as one has about 1-inch sides and the other only about 1/4-inch sides. Leave your oven door open about 2" to allow moisture to escape. Most oven doors have a mechanism that allows this. "Dry" the meat in the oven for about 2 hours, checking after the first hour and turning strips over if sliced thick. If not, return to open status and cook until no "pink" shows in middle. Two hours is usually long enough. My grandmother sliced a lot of ours much thicker for the ranch hands and cowboys who had to have "hefty portions" on the ranges. If a fork in the middle/thickest part of the meat is unable to penetrate, your jerky is done.
Allow meat to cool for about 20 minutes, covered with clean cloth. Place cooled meat into sealable baggies. "Suck" all air from baggie by sealing it to about 3/4 of the way. Use "open end" to suck air out or "press" the baggie to remove all air. Transfer filled baggies to air tight jars, clean coffee cans, "tupperware" type containers or any container that will not allow air inside. Air destroys food.
Many of us do not own dehydrators. If anyone wants to try my tried, true and expedient method for drying meats in the oven, I will do my best to assist them or to answer any questions where possible.
Cathy writes country/western/pop songs. Some of her titles include Santa's Texan Too, Como Esta Frijole, If You Cheat On Me and Packing Up My Memories. Her husband, Michael Leinneweber, is a free lance cowboy artist and owner of his own construction company. They are native San Antonians and they have three children and four grandchildren.
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