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Dry meat without: dehydrator, oven or smoker?  RSS feed

 
dan long
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American indians obviously didn't have dehydrators and the ovens they would have used wouldn't have allowed moisture to escape. I'm under the impression that most of the salmon caught by PNW natives was smoked but I would like to avoid that for fear of increasing my families risk of cancer. After all, if smoking the meat was ok, why not just use nitrates?

Is anyone aware of a recipe that will produce safe jerky even without cool, dry weather? The PNW has two kinds of weather: cold and wet, and hot and dry. Taiwan, where I am now has hot/wet and hot/dry.

Google is disappointing me as far as practical methods of meat preservation go but I wonder if combining different techniques wouldn't produce a safe dry meat product? Perhaps blanching meat in a vinegar/salt solution with some preservative spice mix (curry, five spice, chili powder) then hanging it to dry in front of a fan? Would a three-pronged approach (vinegar, salt and spices) like this compensate for the less than ideal weather?
 
Roger Taylor
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dan long wrote:American indians obviously didn't have dehydrators and the ovens they would have used wouldn't have allowed moisture to escape. I'm under the impression that most of the salmon caught by PNW natives was smoked but I would like to avoid that for fear of increasing my families risk of cancer. After all, if smoking the meat was ok, why not just use nitrates?

Is anyone aware of a recipe that will produce safe jerky even without cool, dry weather? The PNW has two kinds of weather: cold and wet, and hot and dry. Taiwan, where I am now has hot/wet and hot/dry.

Google is disappointing me as far as practical methods of meat preservation go but I wonder if combining different techniques wouldn't produce a safe dry meat product? Perhaps blanching meat in a vinegar/salt solution with some preservative spice mix (curry, five spice, chili powder) then hanging it to dry in front of a fan? Would a three-pronged approach (vinegar, salt and spices) like this compensate for the less than ideal weather?

There was a Ray Mears show where he was with a group of the american indians, and they dried meat on a wooden stand above a fire. And did other american indian food preservation. It might have been Ray Mears' Bushcraft S02E03 - American Prairies.
 
dan long
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Roger Taylor wrote:
There was a Ray Mears show where he was with a group of the american indians, and they dried meat on a wooden stand above a fire. And did other american indian food preservation. It might have been Ray Mears' Bushcraft S02E03 - American Prairies.


Thanks. I'll take a look at that right now.
 
Rick Howd
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Two other options come to mind quickly:

http://www.biltongmakers.com/

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/beef-jerky-recipe.html

I've used both and I use a food dehydrator and hot smoker as well. The dehydrator is usually the quickest for me, Alton's box fan is the fastest cold method. I really love the biltong, it's unique and likely more similar to what the indians and early pioneers made but with tasty spices instead of smoke!

 
Michael Cox
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The Ray Mears clip was the one I was going to recommend. It is basically a hot-smoke making a scaffold over a fire from lashed branches. Strips of jerky are hung to smoke inside the scaffold, and outside the scaffold is covered (eq with green conifer branches) to trap the smoke and act as a chimney drawing hot air past the meat.

As I understand it the drying and smoke together form the preservative - the smoke coats the meat and penetrates slightly forming a slight moisture barrier at the surface. The smoke has slight anti-bacterial properties.

I'm curious about your view that smoked foods could cause cancers - I understand the concern of inhaling smoke, but as far as I know ingested smoked products do not have similar concerns. Most smoke products should be broken down the in gut along with everything else.
 
Roger Taylor
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Michael Cox wrote:The Ray Mears clip was the one I was going to recommend. It is basically a hot-smoke making a scaffold over a fire from lashed branches. Strips of jerky are hung to smoke inside the scaffold, and outside the scaffold is covered (eq with green conifer branches) to trap the smoke and act as a chimney drawing hot air past the meat.

As I understand it the drying and smoke together form the preservative - the smoke coats the meat and penetrates slightly forming a slight moisture barrier at the surface. The smoke has slight anti-bacterial properties.

I'm curious about your view that smoked foods could cause cancers - I understand the concern of inhaling smoke, but as far as I know ingested smoked products do not have similar concerns. Most smoke products should be broken down the in gut along with everything else.

I believe it's fairly well researched that eating carcinogens enhances the chance of causing cancer. Whether that's home-cooked meet which is charred, or the similar smoked meat. Just googling for charred meat cancer gives the following text on cancer.org:
"Eating charred, well-done meat on a regular basis may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 60%"
Note that peanuts are carcinogenic, and supposedly are dealt with to keep the levels low. When I read about things like this, I wonder whether it really matters. If you eat unhealthy food, or junk food, I would expect it to do you much more harm than some smoked or charred meat. But maybe they all harm in their different ways. Eat smoked meat, get pancreatic cancer possibly. Eat sugar, get diabetes possibly. Eat smoked meat and sugar, and get pancreatic cancer possibly and diabetes possibly, but maybe each infliction making the other worse.
 
John Master
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Location: Wisconsin
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If I had to guess, one reason eating heavy amounts of well done meat would harm the pancreas is that you are killing off all the enzymes in the meat. The pancreas makes enzymes that help break down your food, the reason why many items are best eaten raw and steaks are best done medium rare. I like a "raw" meat snack the Indians used to eat called pemmican. One of the only long term survival foods known to man, it's shredded dry meat covered in fat like suet/tallow and a bit of maple syrup is added. we put in cranberries as well. The kids love it, it's full of good long lasting energy.

We have a dehydrator but maybe setting up a small rocket stove type unit with the exhaust used as a heat source would work. We take lean cuts, dehydrate for about 8 hours til they are dried but not leather, shred them in a "ninja" style food processor blender into a fluffy fiber. After that pour the melted fat over it and add the syrup and cranberries. The fat encapsulates the meat preserving it for long periods. Sans food processor I am sure the Indians would have used some sort of rock kind of tool to pulverize it into a shred.

Theres a big write up about it Nourishing traditions cookbook, that's where I got the idea. Been making it two years now...still kickin!
 
Roger Taylor
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John Master wrote:We have a dehydrator but maybe setting up a small rocket stove type unit with the exhaust used as a heat source would work. We take lean cuts, dehydrate for about 8 hours til they are dried but not leather, shred them in a "ninja" style food processor blender into a fluffy fiber. After that pour the melted fat over it and add the syrup and cranberries. The fat encapsulates the meat preserving it for long periods. Sans food processor I am sure the Indians would have used some sort of rock kind of tool to pulverize it into a shred.

While I'm aware this basic technique of covering in fat, is a preservation technique, I'd be interested to know the science of the fat rancidity.
 
John Master
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Then this is the book for you: http://www.amazon.com/Know-Your-Fats-Understanding-Cholesterol/dp/0967812607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421086110&sr=8-1&keywords=know+your+fats+enig

the highly refined oils are the worst at going rancid, some are rancid in the bottle and they use tricks to disguise that fact. Corn oil and soybean oil for instance.

The highly saturated fats and monounsaturated (the ones that have been in the human diet since antiquity) are the best and include things like.
Pastured Lard
Coconut oil
Pastured butter and Ghee
High vitamin butter oil
Pastured beef Suet and Tallow
Avocadoes
Many nut oils like walnut oil
Extra virgin olive oil
duck fat and pastured chicken fat
"Cold use only" oils include flaxseed oil and cod liver oil, they will go rancid if heated but are excellent used cold.


The ones to avoid are the ones most easily found at the big grocery stores, vegetable oils like canola, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, extra light olive oil (refined) as they are highly poly-unsaturated and partially hydrogenated anything due to the trans fats formed in the process. These are found in fried Fast food, snack chips, etc. Most are either rancid when you buy them or are quickly turned rancid when heated.


Beef suet is very shelf stable and even has been known to keep meat in warm climates like south Dakota summers as the Indians have shown.

 
Landon Sunrich
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Much of the salmon caught in the large runs was also laid out to sun dry on rocks. This was done with lots of food. Sun. Rocks. that simple

If you're interested in food practices of pre-colonial PNW you could do worse than reading James Swan. He was a man of many interests and acted as an Indian Agent and Botanist in Washington Territory in the 1850s. I have a thread with links to pdfs here

http://www.permies.com/t/42467/books/James-Swan-Author-Botanist-Indian
 
Landon Sunrich
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Also, you can just salt the ever-loving shit out of most things and hang them someplace not to warm and wet.
 
Sarah Joubert
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I live in the UK and make biltong all year round (cold, wet winters and humid summers)with just a standard circular fan on a short pedestal. I used to use a sturdy cardboard box with the top folded into the box, laid on it's side with the fan at the open end. I'd make loops of string or use small rubber bands, poke holes in the "roof, push the loops through from the underside and push a matchstick through the loop on top which holds the loop secure. Then I'd open up small paper clips and use as hooks, hanging them on the loops in the box. This was a bit convoluted and a waste of electricity for the dozen pieces of meat I could hang. I now have a circular fan with no pedestal that I lie flat on the floor under a metal clothes drying rack and hang my meat with paper clips directly onto the bars. I cover the fan with newspaper for 24hrs so the meat drips dont fry the fan, then switch on and depending on how thick i have sliced my meat, I have biltong in 3-5 days. If you have a wooden rack with thick bars, I have tried making my own hooks from galvanised wire we use for fencing and lived to tell the tale after eating loads of biltong! Biltong is very forgiving except in the most warmest and humid weather when you can get mould, but the few times I have had mould I have used a toothbrush dipped in vinegar , scrubbed it off and carried on drying. Mould is usually only a problem for the first 5 days, after that, as long as you keep it aired it will last for ages. Don't wrap it up in paper or store in a box, it will mould. On the very rare occasion I have a surplus, I freeze it in bags and take out half an hour before eating. I also slice it in my food processor-if it's not too dry as this will break your blades/machine-and freeze, it thaws in 5 min.
depending on what flavour I want sometimes I put the meat in vinegar as I slice it but sometimes i just spice it. I mix 1 cup coarse rock/sea salt with 3 TBLS crushed coriander seeds, 2 TBLS ground coriander, 1tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp pepper and sprinkle evenly over the meat, layer meat in a dish overnight and hang in the morning. Chilli flakes add a nice bite to the flavour too.
 
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