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I need advice on making JERKY!

 
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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I loves me some good jerky and I make without a doubt the best there is, the best there ever was, the best there ever can be! All who have tried it agree and often try to buy it.
This is how I do it.

I get me some fresh venison, carefully clean it removing all the sinew, fat and muscle membrane so nothing is left except clean lean meat. I will if necessity arises sometimes substitute beef especially if it is available from a neighbor  that has recently butchered.

Next I slice it into pieces about 1/4 inch thick, I don't care how wide or long just the thickness has to be consistent.

I sprinkle both sides with sea salt, fairly liberally.

I make a concoction of tomato juice with a splash or two of good balsamic or red wine vinegar, depending on the flavor profile I'm looking for in that batch. Additional flavors may be a combination of fresh garlic and rosemary, or maybe black pepper. Some people, not me, like a touch of ghost pepper, or yuck sugar!  I only make those on special request from special people.

Anyway I pour that mix over the meat and mush it up real good and put it in the refrigerator for two or three days, getting it out once in a while to remix and insure it all sucks up the flavors good.

Then I go out, preferably on a sunny day when humidity is low and build a fire. This is usually done at or a little before dawn to insure good hot coals and that the rest of the day is available to finish the batch.

When the coals are ready I put the meat on a rack about three feet above and dry it over a smoky smoldering fire for several hours. Time depends on thickness of the meat and humidity in the air. Occasionally adding another piece of wood but always being careful to avoid actual flames. Cooking rather than drying ruins it.

So, having adequately established, I hope, that no jerky could possibly be better I come to my problem.  While none is better than it, IT could be better. In effort to insure adequate preservation and safety it is too DAMN SALTY!

Is there any one out there who knows for sure an amount per pound of salt needed to make safe, well preserved jerky???
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My favorite site for these types of questions is the National Center for Home Food Preservation, https://nchfp.uga.edu/

Their recommendation is 1 tsp salt for 1.5 pounds of meat, but that requires refrigeration after a few weeks.  (I messed up and put some in my root cellar. . . it was disgusting.)  

Since you are marinating the meat anyway, add the salt to the marinade instead of salting the meat directly.  Then you can control how much you are putting in (instead of guessing by sprinkling the beef first.)  

Also,  think a three day marinade may be too long!  Try marinating for a shorter time, maybe 1.5 days? The high salt content is going a long way to pulling out liquid out of the venison, I would also watch whether its needing longer to dry if you reduce the salt.
 
pollinator
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Location: San Diego, California
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I agree about adding the salt to the marinade/brine - much more controllable. Rinsing off the marinade before smoking might help too.

Just know that you may not get the traditional "grocery store" texture if you use the right ratio for true salt preservation - modern companies use artificial preservatives (and even then it doesn't last as long after opening) that preserve color/texture in a different way than more traditional methods.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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Thank you so much for the input. I'll try the 1 tsp per 1.5 lb in my next batch. I think I've been using more than that. Why reduce the marinade time? Does that cause it to absorb more of the salt?

How about the smoke and the acid from the tomatoes and more so the vinegar? I know they both are preservatives although I don't know exactly how or why. I use them because of that but also the flavors they impart plus I think they may help tenderize it.

Mine is noting like anything I ever saw that came from the grocery, that rubbery stuff with it weird red color isn't fit to eat in my opinion.

I know people who slice it paper thin on a machine and cover it in store bought "jerky cure" it comes out what I call meant chips, and even saltier than mine. The don't even bother to clean it good. All the fat and sinew and muscle membrane is still in there, gross!

I'v never really been able to test how long mine stays good, we just can't keep from eating it all.  
 
pollinator
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I made 40# of biltong last fall- traditional african jerky at room tempreature. I think with care you can get away with a little less salt than the traditional recipe, but not much. It keeps indefinitely when dried.

It will check your dental health!
 
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