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never going store-bought again

Another thing Better Half procured for me for Christmas was a dehydrator rather like this one, on account of my interests in seeing what those kinds of things can do.  Well, suffice to say, I am impressed. 

I started with this: 


But after some healthy trimming on my part, I was down to about 2.5 pounds of useable meat.  Which spent a night in this: 


Which was pretty much the recipe straight out of the instruction manual, increased to account for the additional mass, so no secret there. 

Then, there were four trays of this: 


I know; I could have trimmed a lot better, but I got lazy.  It is… more than a little strange to set out raw meat on a slotted tray and just let it… sit, but it was being blown on by a 160 degree heater, so at least there is that.  After about five hours of “cooking”, the end result looked something like this: 


As you can see, the end product weighed in at 1.125 pounds.  Now, last I paid attention, Wal-Mart charged about $10 for 0.625 pounds – a buck an ounce.  On the other hand, my home-made stuff cost somewhere around $0.50 an ounce, not accounting for the power necessary for the dehumidifier and the spices/cure packets that went into it.  Half price is not bad. 

Next up, I went with about 2.25 pounds of ground 93/7 beef for about $10, and courtesy of the… well, caulk gun, for lack of a better word, we created something like this: 


My stupid arse did not take a picture of the end product, but it was about 17 ounces of of cute little jerky strips, so about $0.60 an ounce.  Yes, the ground meat cost more than the whole meat, but that roast was on sale, and, honestly, I kind of prefer the ground meat jerky – more uniform, easier to eat, less fat, and a lot easier to flavor. 

So, yeah, I call this a win.  Granted, it is going to take a while to make up for the cost of the dehydrator, but I can live with having more, better jerky around, especially when I know what went into it. 

(The only real catch is this stuff can only last for about a month without refrigeration; chill it any way, though, and everything is shiny.) 

14 comments to never going store-bought again

  • TL671

    Now you’ve done it. I really have to get my dehydrator out, and put it back into service. As far as worrying about shelf life, a batch won’t last a week for me. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why I’m fat. But I’m not convinced. 🙂 Granted shelf life of a week doesn’t help much for SHTF supplies.

  • Better Half

    Please tell me you froze/refrigerated ours….

  • @ TL671: And that is the other benefit of the dehydrator – a month on a shelf surely beats how long “normal” meat would last without power, and this stuff is hellaciously cheaper than freeze dried meat (though that lasts even longer).

    @ Better Half: Duh. 😛

  • Its been a long while since i had homemade jerky, but i agree the ground meat way is better. If you are the hunting type, or know someone who is there are many ways to mix beef,pork, and deer/antelope etc into something very yummy.
    I don’t know how, i only ever concerned myself with the latter stage.

  • I use Morton Tenderquick salt- it can be had in some grocery stores, but also can be bought from the source. I want to say its $8 for a bag, and I haven’t used one up yet, and I also do pastrami, ham, corned beef and sausage with it. Cuts the end price by a good bit more. It gives a shelf life of I don’t know- its never outlasted a week. For spices, try a grocery in a hispanic part of town- they often have bulk spice for another sharp discount (comes in bags, not cans).

  • Fuck yeah!

    Buy some silicone packets, and a vacuum sealer and in a weekend’s labor you can have some good bug-out protein, or some nice nosh for an extended blackout!

  • Also I don’t know your gardening habits, but this is an AWESOME way to easily pack away produce from a bumper crop.

    My folks had apple trees for as long as I was living with them, and you get a bumper crop, there are only so many apples, and pies you can slug down. Meanwhile stock away some sealed jars of dried apples, and you have snacking for months after we would have tossed literally bushels of mushy apples!

  • Aye Weer’d. I’ve got an apricot tree. And those things have about a 10 day harvest window where they ALL come down. And the fruits don’t last well.

    Linoge: What’d you use for your salt brine? I do a bit of smoking myself.

    Though for beef I normally do a dry saltpack before smoking.

  • Yeah, in our household, I’m not sure if we’ve ever even broken 2 weeks with jerky.

    I have a batch going right now with a coffee/black pepper marinade.

    Any details on the “caulk gun” or process for ground jerky? Could I just mix by hand and press it tightly onto my trays?

  • David W.

    I remember the first time I had jerky. Me and my dad went to this Native American village that showed how they lived a long time ago and stuff. I was about 4 or 5 and me and my dad took a break at a picnic table and he reached into his backpack and pulled out this big bag of brown strips. He told me it was something a friend gave him from work, it was part of the deer he got that year.

    I usually pick up a bag or two at the store whenever I’m driving for more than an hour or two. Easily the best road trip snack, or hiking snack, or flea market snack there is.

  • Heather

    Mine paid for itself very, very quickly. Dried fruit, dried veggies, fruit leather, jerky, full-on backpacking meals… so good.

  • @ dave w: We know a guy who routinely bags a deer or two a year… going to see if he might be interested in some jerky, though he has someone do all the processing, so they might take care of that.

    @ Wolfman: That was a question that came up during the jerkying process – do we have to use specifically curing salt? I know salt of some type is strictly necessary to cut down on the bacterial growth and improve the taste, but can you just use salt-salt, or does it need to be specifically curing salt?

    We have an asian mart down the road, and they have all manner of non-asian things; guessing they will be useful :).

    @ Weer’d Beard: Heh, current goal is to save money at the moment, and then we will move on to bigger and better things. But, yeah, vacuum-packing and putting a dessicant in would probably make this stuff last damned near forever, chilled or not.

    Fruit definitely seem easy to dehydrate, but vegetables you have to partially cook before running them through – seems a bit strange.

    @ The Jack: The salt came by way of the curing packets included with the jerky kit, and copious quantities of ground sea salt I added, so I have no idea what I used :).

    Will have to experiment.

    @ Skas: Pretty much looked like exactly this one. Process was fairly simple – dupm the ground beef in a bowl, mix in the curing stuff or salts along with whatever seasoning/flavoring you want to add, let it sit in a fridge overnight, and then stick it in the dehydrator. I do not see any reason you could not form the jerky strips by hand, or just lay it out as patties or something and slice it down when you are done. Just be sure it is not more than .5-.25 inches thick, like anything else, and you are good to go :).

    Comes out kind of like a drier Slim Jim, minus the skin.

    @ David W.: Jerky is awesome. I had to try to limit my consumption before, just due to prices, but now… well, it is probably going to be bad :).

    @ Heather: Yeah, our garden… did not work. We have been reduced to a single pot of mint, a pot of peppers, and a pot of tomatoes, and we ate them faster than they grew. Maybe the next house :).

  • It’s been years since I made jerky. I may have to dig out the dehydrator. And, OMG! You made Slim Jims! I never tried ground beef. definitely going to have to give that a whirl.

  • Well, it does not come out exactly like Slim Jims – specifically, no skin – but it is close enough for government work :).