Jerky at home on a cold winter day

What you need is:

1.      ~ 5lbs ground game or low fat ground beef

2.      Your favorite jerky seasoning

3.      Jerky gun

4.      Dehydrator

Making jerky at home does not need to be difficult and in fact can be very simple. With minimal effort you can create tasty treats which are guaranteed to increase your popularity with family and friends. When the weather forecast calls for cold and windy conditions I head down to the deep freezer and grab some meat for jerky making. Jerky can be made from just about any type of game or fowl. As for myself, I tend to use ground goose or venison, both of which make excellent jerky. When having my deer processed I do not add fat to the ground product which makes this perfect for jerky making. Today I started with approximately 5 pounds of ground venison.


The weight does not need to be exact but when using jerky cure you want to have a good idea on the amount of meat so you can use the appropriate amount of seasoning.  Some jerky spices can be portioned to smaller amounts of meat but the example shown below is prepackaged to season 5lbs at a time. Depending on your personal preference there are a variety of jerky seasonings to choose from. My favorites are the pepper and the sweet and spicy. No matter which flavor you choose you can always add additional spices to suite your preference. I like a little more heat so I add a bit of cayenne pepper and\or some red pepper flakes.


Thoroughly combine the seasoning and ground meat then cover and store in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours.  After the allotted time remove your meat from the refrigerator and you are now ready to start shooting your jerky onto the dehydrator trays. Several years ago I purchased an inexpensive jerky gun from Wal-Mart and it has worked well for me. If you wish you can purchase one of better quality from any of the big box sporting goods stores or you can find them online. These often go on sale so if you are in the market for one keep an eye out on the weekly sales adds. The jerky gun I use has dual slots which I have found works great and allows me to fill my trays in half the time. Pack your jerky gun full of seasoned ground meat and you are ready to start shooting out rows of jerky.  I don’t like tearing the ends by pulling the jerky gun away after each row so I use a sharp knife to get a clean break. Try it both ways and see what works best for you.


Once your trays are full you are now ready to start the drying process. I use a 4 tray Nesco 300 watt dehydrator that my favorite sister-in-law purchased for me many years ago. My dehydrator takes about 9 hours to dry properly and I have found the level of dryness to be consistent throughout the dehydrator so I never rotate trays. Dehydrators can range in size and power so it may take some testing to determine how long yours will take to dry and if you will need to rotate trays. With 4 trays I can do about 2.5 pounds per batch.


I do not recommend running the dehydrator in the house as the jerky smell can become overwhelming. I run mine out in the garage. 9 hours after starting the dehydrator (again your time will vary) you are ready to pull off your yummy treats.


To help regulate the jerky consumption I separate the finished product into serving size packages and vacuum seal it then store it in the freezer.


This works great for me as I can quickly grab a bag to take for an afternoon snack while out fishing. Vacuum sealing may be overkill and not needed but after reading conflicting reports I am still not certain on the best method for storing. I would suggest following the recommendation offered by the jerky seasoning manufacturer on the best method for storing the product once cured.

If you find yourself with extra time on these cold and windy winter days then give jerky making a try. You just might find you family and friends will tolerate you a little longer.


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