Before I get started, I want to let people know I will be changing the forum software over the weekend. It will have a better look and features than what I am using currently..
With deer season started, a lot of hunters will be bringing meat home. Around here, most of that meat comes in the form of deer, although some comes from wild hogs. Their freezers may not be able to hold all the meat you might get from 2 or 3 deer, or more. If you can’t freeze it, how are you going to keep it from spoiling?
There are several ways to treat meat for long term, no refrigeration storage. Most of them require some sort of dehydration technique.
Today, I want to give a kind of mile high view of some of those techniques. Specifically, I will be dealing with three surefire techniques. These are jerky making, biltong and curing. Depending on the size of the cuts of meat you have and the amount of space and resources you want to use, one of these is bound to work for you.
From what I understand, removing the moisture from the meat preserves it and allows long term storage. Manufacturers usually add preservatives to make sure their product stays safe to eat. In this lawsuit happy time, it pays to cover your ass.
Jerky- The fastest of the three methods, jerky making requires the use of heat to remove water. Generally, you place your seasoned meat in the oven for several hours at a low heat until it is dehydrated. The cuts of meat use have to be 1/8 inch or less. Using extra salt in your recipe might speed up the process some, but I’m not really sure how much and I would worry about over salting the meat. I will have some jerky recipes and other resources at the end of this article.
Biltong- Biltong is a way of preserving game that comes to us from Africa. The easiest way to explain it is mummifying meat. You cut your meat into roughly 1 inch thick strips and season. Then, you take the strips and hang them up in a spare room of your house with a paperclip or some type of small hook for about a week or longer, depending on the humidity of the room. You need the room dry and at a fairly constant temperature. The finished product will be much lighter and will break when you bend it. You can carry this with you when you go hiking or camping and add it to recipes that require meat (soups or stews, for instance). Or keep it around the house for emergency purposes. It will last for years. One account say it has been known to last at least 15 years.
Curing (also known as salt curing or sugar curing)- Used by settlers all over the world, this form of preserving is used on larger portions of meat, such as a ham or shoulder. You need a large area, such as a smokehouse or small room that you can hang larger cuts in. You also need your cure. It is commercially available on the internet, or you can buy it in some grocery stores. You can make your own and I will include information in the resources section. The cure has to be applied heavily by covering the meat with it and packing it in around any exposed bone. This has to be done every other day for a couple of weeks. It usually takes about a month to cure. When the meat is cured, you can smoke it for better flavor, although smoking the meat will take up to a month or longer. When you are finished, you have a slab of meat that will last as long as you need.
Out of necessity, we learned to preserve meat to keep it from wasting. Even though it may not be necessary now, it is always good to learn skills that may be useful if times get tough. You may never need the knowledge, but it is always better to have something you don’t need, than to need something you don’t have.