Smoked beef jerky

Beef jerky is something that is a life-saver if you're a heavy camper, hiker, survivalist.  It, along with pemmican kept the American Indians fueled between foraging.  They'd dry berries, deer, turkey, bison, fish - knowing the journey could be rough.

All you need for good jerky is air flow, a fire (heat) and smoke (if outside, this keep flies and other pesky things at bay).

Slice your meat very thinly, use a sharp knife and sharp wits.

For large cuts of meat American Indian women would cut the thinnest butterfly you can imagine of the meat so it was near lace and then hang it over the fire, keeping it well above the flames but not well covered in the smoke.

  • For my jerky I used sirloin (I recommend grass fed and grass finished - cows eat grass, everything else we make them eat to falsely {grains allow the cows to unnaturally throw on the saturated pounds} fatten them)- cut it thinly.
  • On a baking sheet I laid it all out and sprinkled it with coarse sea salt and CRUSHED juniper berries (they don't release all their aroma until you crush them).

Let the meat and salt sit and the salt will draw water from the meat.  Pour off any water.  You can let it sit for 4-8 hours or overnight for this.  The meat will feel firmer to the touch - that means the salt did it's job.  I then rinsed the meat well and reserved plenty of juniper berries crushed and ready for mixing back into the meat.  You can cut up the crushed berries to really get them all over.

I smoked the meat for 5 hours shifting them around.  The heat wasn't quite high so usually I would think it could be done in 3 in a grill smoking situation.
You also don't HAVE to smoke it, it is just more flavor punchy!  You also can control the kind of overtones the meat will have with the kind of wood you use.  You can buy (or chop) the chips you like.  This time I used cherry.

Woods for smoking:
Hickory - Has a very distinct wood flavor.  Good for BBQ meats. May need very little to get the job done otherwise it can overpower.
Mesquite - Has a very distinct wood flavor.  Good for BBQ meats. May need very little to get the job done otherwise it can overpower.
Alder - makes AMAZING smoked salt, also good for all meats, but best on fish (Salmon!).  A clean lovely round wood smoke.
Apple - beautiful for fish (Salmon!), good for all meat.
Cherry - pretty straight smoke even though many call it sweet or fruity, I found it to not be as destinct or as powerful as Mesquite ad Hickory.
Maple - Sweet smoke, good on birds and ham.
Oak - Used for larger cuts of meat that need long smoking times.  Strong smoke flavor.
Pecan - "Colder" smoking wood, good for larger cuts of meat - partly since the smoke alone wont cook the meat.

I'd just make sure what kind of wood you end up with and be careful since wood from some conifers can be resinous and make your meat inedible and other the resinous quality is pleasant and will be subtle.  Other woods are bad for you, so look them up!  Know what you're using.

Craigslist sometimes has orchard prunings for free.  I've gone and picked up a truck load of applewood.  Of course we then had to painfully chip chip chip all of it down into smokable chunks.

After the meat is smoked I move it to a 250-275 degree oven with the door cracked (this is important! you want air).  You simply check your meat and turn it over.  At this point it is like cooking bacon.  If you like flimsy bacon, you may like your jerky this way.  If you plan on a long shelf life then you want it pretty dry.

After it is done I move it to a surface to cool and then double baggie a few servings worth (enough for Jason and I - be generous to the family members!) and place into the freezer.  As long as you've packaged them well they'll keep a good long while. 6-8 months

When you go fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, climbing, driving, biking, walking - grab a baggie and put it into your pack.  This will keep for three days at least so you can feed yourself over the weekend or long car trip.  Granola is a great accompaniment.

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