Saturday, January 8, 2011

How To Make Homemade Jerky

My girls dream of this stuff; beg for it as they pass it in the store; would barter and trade it for all their candy if they could just get some jerky. But alas, their mother always says... 


Seriously, have you read what they put in this stuff?

Here's one brand's list of ingredients:

Ingredients: beef, corn syrup, dextrose, less than 2% of salt, natural smoke flavor, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, flavorings, water, vinegar, sugar, molasses, sodium erythorbate, soy sauce (soybeans, wheat) yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, and sodium nitrite. Contains soy and wheat.

Oh, my! I won't go into a rant about all the issues I have with these ingredients, but suffice it to say, there's more I'm opposed to than in favor of in this list. And what about GMOs? Between the soy and corn alone, it's got to be over the top in this food item!

So, let's try an organic jerky:

Other ingredients: beef, sugar, water, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), flavorings, apple cider vinegar, salt, paprika, smoke flavoring, citric acid.

Much better, but I don't care for my family to eat a lot of white sugar, and what's liquid smoke made of? I'm always suspicious; I just don't trust a lot of food companies anymore. At least the soy is organic, so it should not have GMOs unless it was contaminated and they didn't know it.  So, I looked into liquid smoke and this is what I found:

Liquid Smoke contains: Water, Natural Smoke Flavor, Vinegar, Molasses, Caramel Color and Salt.

Another reads:

Water, Natural Hickory Smoke Concentrate.

That last ingredient is very suspect and very broad! And so is the "natural smoke flavor" and carmel color. These could be anything! However, I'd say, it's a far cry better than the conventional jerky, but I just felt I needed to know what was in it before I let my girls eat. And organic jerky isn't usually cheap. I needed something more affordable, especially the way they go through snacks. (I monitor them very closely, but they just keep growing and burning calories!).

Growing up, my mom and aunt would make venison jerky right in the oven. But it's oh, so much easier with a dehydrator! And the dehydrator is much more economical to run. If you're in the market for one, please consider my affiliate, Excalibur. Although I've had another kind of dehydrator and it was just okay, I sold it because I was extremely pleased with my Excalibur and all it could do! Plus it was much easier to use and clean because the trays are flexible.

In keeping with my desire for simple ingredients, I found the following recipe and liked it fairly well. Keep in mind that it's not spicy, so if you want it to have some kick, add something else to give it that punch. Our first batch was small because it was just a trial to see how we liked the flavor. Other than needing a bit more salt, I think it was very good. It tastes more like seasoned venison than just a bunch of artificial flavors.

Simple Jerky Marinade

2 lbs. lean meat (I used venison)
2 - 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C. honey
1/2 organic soy sauce or tamari
5 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt (I would increase this to 1 tsp.)

Homemade Jerky

1. Trim away all excess fat (this is easier if your meat is partially frozen).

2. Slice meat very thin or grind.

I used a Kitchen Aid Food Grinder that attaches to the front of my mixer. Works great!

Marinade your meat overnight or if ground, a couple of hours. 

Next, using a jerky gun, like this Oster model which we picked up at Walmart for around $13, pack it fairly tight with the meat.

Using a funnel helps!

Select what type of form you want for your jerky based on what comes in your kit. We tried all three of ours, but like the "slim jim" round sticks the best. Screw ring on firmly.

Begin pushing the meat out by pulling the trigger gently. You'll need to practice a bit and re-stuff the meat back in the gun until you get the hang of it. Even if the meat falls apart a bit, just stick it together because when dried, it seemed to do fine. You do want it to lay fairly flat, and we found that it could ripple or bunch up if you're not moving the tip back at the right pace. 

Because the meat was dripping a bit, I put some foil under the tray for easy clean up, but it didn't touch the food. 

I dried the jerky on 155 degrees for about 8 hours. The flat type could have been removed earlier (but I was asleep), while the rolled variety was just about perfect! And all of it was oh, so good!!

What a treat! And we have lots more to do now that we know we like the marinade.

Do you have a great marinade recipe for jerky that's healthy, too? I'd love to know about it so I can try more!


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