Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600823
Muscles from the round are usually used since they are easily prepared and contain little fat. However, any muscle in the carcass can be used. Muscles from the round or leg are most often used today. It is recommended that muscles be removed from the carcass and made into jerky the day after the kill to prevent unnecessary bacterial growth. However, aged meat can be used. Meat which has been frozen and thawed can also be used satisfactorily. Freezing meat for a month before jerky is made insures that it will be free from live parasites which are sometimes found in game meat. In order to have freshly made jerky during the year, many people freeze meat which is to be made into jerky. The meat is then thawed in small quantities and made into jerky as it is needed.
Meat should be trimmed of fat and connective tissue and then cut into strips one-fourth inch thick, one inch wide, and up to a foot in length. Cut with (not across) the grain. Small muscles, one or two inches in diameter, are often separated and made into jerky without being cut into strips. These thicker pieces of meat take longer to absorb the salt and seasonings and longer to dry, but with these exceptions, no changes in the jerky recipes need to be made. Some recipes call for drying jerky in the sun. Because of sanitation problems, this method is not recommended.
If jerky is dried to a low moisture content. (it should be crispy and leathery), it may be stored at room temperature in air-tight containers. Store moistened jerky in the freezer for no longer than a month; the saltiness of the product encourages rancidity. Color of the finished jerky ranges from a light brown to black. Color variations depend upon the recipe used, the species of animal, and the age of the animal. The latter two factors are related to the myoglobin concentration in fresh meat. Myoglobin is the pigment in meat responsible for color. Higher levels of myoglobin result in darker colored jerky.
Checklist for Making Venison Jerky
1. Use fresh lean meat free of fat and connective tissue. 2. Slice the meat with the grain, not crosswise. 3. Add the correct amount of seasoning. If you do not have a scale, use approximate equivalent measures for jerky recipes as follows:
Salt 10.5 oz.= 1 cup 8.0 oz.= 3/4 cup 2.0 oz.= 3 level tablespoons
Sugar 5.0 oz.= 2/3 cup 3.5 oz.= 1/2 cup 1.0 oz.= 2 level tablespoons
Ground Spices 0.5 oz.= 2 level tablespoons .08 oz.= 1 level tablespoons
4. Cure the meat the correct length of time at refrigerator temperatures. Salted meat should be placed in plastic, wooden, stainless steel or tone containers. 5. Keep the drying or smoking temperature in the smokehouse or oven at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below after the first 30 minutes. Oven or smokehouse temperatures of 170-190 degrees Fahrenheit are often recommended for the first 30 minutes. 6. If an oven is used, line the sides and bottom with aluminum foil to catch the drippings. Open the door to the first or second stop to allow moisture to escape and to lower the oven temperature when necessary. 7. Use any hardwood for smoking. Do not use pine, fir or conifers. 8. Remove the jerky from the smokehouse or oven before it gets too hard for your taste. Five pounds of fresh meat should weigh approximately 2 pounds after drying or smoking. 9. Store jerky in clean jars or plastic bags, or wrap it in the freezer paper and freeze it. Although properly dried jerky will last almost indefinitely at any temperature, its quality deteriorates after a few months. 10. Alter seasonings and smoking or drying times to suit individual tastes. Examples of spices which could be added to 5 pounds of meat include: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 1 tablespoon ginger, 2 tablespoons coriander or 1 tablespoon allspice.