A beautiful aspect to living the lifestyle we live, is the giving and taking we have with nature. To grow and forage for your own vegetables is a unique feeling. To track and hunt your meat is an invigorating experience. It has taught my family and I to be thankful for our bounty, and to give thanks to the Lord for enabling us to live as we do. When hunting, we make every attempt to be as humane in our actions, we also try to be respectful after the kill. Included in being respectful is complete harvesting of the animal. We have taught our boys two ways to preserve our meat, canning and jerking.
Making homemade jerky is a simple process, and requires only a few items. The first item is meat. I love the back strap of the deer for jerky. The second thing is seasoning. Here you are left to what you like. If you want to use a marinade, (click to see marinade), or just a dry rub, (click to see rub), pick whatever it is that makes you happy. For me, a simple 1 part salt to 3 part pepper mixture does the trick. Finally, an indirect heat source. We use an offset smoker. The type that has a fire box on the side, and a rack that we will use for our meat.
Start by getting your fire started. Your goal is to maintain a temperature for the meat to smoke in between 180°-190°. I prefer to use a fruit wood if it’s available, but oak or another type of nut wood is fine as well. Cut the meat into strips that you want to bite into. Remember your meat will shrink almost half in size. Apply the rub, check your temperature and lay out the meat so that it is not touching the other meat nearby.
If you maintain the temperature you should not have to open to check the meat. No flipping or turning, just tending to the fire. Give it eight hours and check. If there isn’t much fat content you may be getting close to finishing. Check a piece. If the texture is where you want it, pull it off. More than likely it will need an additional 4-8 hours. When finished, pull it, cover it and let the temperature come down. Portion out the meat into zipper lock type bags, (click to buy zip lock bags). If kept cool, homemade jerky should last you a month or two.
Often the thought of canning brings to mind fruits or veggies in mason jars. You can utilize these same mason jars for meat as well. The items needed here are quart mason jars and lids. Meat, spices, and a pressure canner.
First, prepare your venison accordingly with your favorite seasoning. Cut the venison into 1” chunks. Try to cut away and scrap the gristle and fat from the meat. Season with your spices. Our last batch was a basic salt, pepper and garlic powder. Fry this in a pan with some oil. While your meat is browning, take your mason jars and sanitize them with boiling water. Use your tongs to handle them, and prepare them for loading with your canning funnel.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the browned meat, and portion the venison into the jars. Retain the drippings, and evenly distribute it into the meat filled jars. Take your jars filled with meat and drippings, and fill them in with boiling water. Fill them up leaving about an inch of head space in the jar. Moving quickly and carefully, wipe the jars, specifically the area along the rim where you will be trying to create a seal with your lid pieces. If you don’t clean this area well, you are likely to have an improper seal, and the whole project is susceptible to spoilage. Attach the two part lid system and place in your pressure canner to finish off.
Following the directions that your pressure canner comes with. It is important to follow the specifications for altitude settings and times. You should obtain a proper seal, and have created a vacuum that will last you up to 12 months for your preserved meat. Keep your bounty in a cool place like a refrigerator or a root cellar where it is less likely to be disturbed. Damage to your lid can cause spoilage. Evidence of a damaged seal will include loss of the vacuum, evidenced by the lid button popped upward, as well as a visual breakdown or mold growing inside the jar.