How to make jerky

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Like other dried foods, meat jerky--tough, leathery strips of dried meat--was a staple for pioneers and "mountain men" in times past.

Today, beef jerky is still a favorite among backpackers, skiers and campers--and a popular snack for armchair sports fans, too. Modern jerky is prepared in an electric dehydrator or oven; sun drying, the technique favored in pioneer days, presents too great a risk of spoilage or contamination.

Turkey-breast jerky compared to jerky made with trimmed beef flank steak, it has less fat. It also has a more brittle texture, since poultry is fairly fibrous.

If you like, you can prepared beef jerky with game instead--but it you do, freeze the meat before drying for at least 30 days or at zero degrees as a precaution against disease.

The leaner the meat you use for jerky, the better: a lower fat content means a longer shelf life. As a first step for any jerky, trim and discard all visible fat and connective tissue from the meat; partially freeze it (to make slicing easier), then cut it into thin (⅛- to ¼-inch-thick) strips about 1 inch wide. Cut with the grain if you like a chewy jerky, across the grain if you prefer a more tender, brittle product.

Properly dried beef or game jerky should crack, but not break, when bent; turkey jerky, however, will crack and break.

Once the jerky has been dried, let it cool; then pack it in a rigid freezer container or plastic freezer bag and freeze for 72 hours at zero degrees. Then store it in an airtight, insectproof container for up to 3 weeks in a cool, dark, dry place. Or, to maintain flavor and prolong shelf life, refrigerate or freeze.

Source: Sunset Home Canning

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