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Venison Jerky
Learn how to make great tasting jerky from your deer, elk, caribou, antelope and more!
By Tiffany Haugen

One of my great childhood memories is sitting by the fireplace digging through the burlap bag full of jerky Grandpa always had on hand. This stuff was made the old fashioned way, cured with salt, smoked up in the smokehouse using oak and vine maple. You couldn’t just chew on this jerky, it was rock hard and had to be sliced thinly with a pocket-knife. Although Grandpa, at 99, is still making jerky the same way, we enjoy all the benefits technology has brought to the smoking world. 
Propane smokers and numerous flavors of wood chips, chunks and pucks have made smoking easy to do at home or in camp. Jerky flavors are only limited to one’s imagination but the basics stay the same. For traditional jerky, salt and sugar are the needed ingredients and the rest is up to personal preference. Almost anything can be sprinkled on meat after it has brined. Amp up the flavors with a favorite Cajun spice, lemon-pepper or a sprinkle of brown sugar. Keep the additional flavors salt-free though, or the resulting jerky will be too salty.

3-4 pounds venison
1 quart water
1/4 cup Morton Tender Quick*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
Additional spices/flavorings as desired

*If Tender Quick can’t be found in stores, check the internet. Canning & Pickling Salt can be substituted for Tender Quick.

•Cut meat to desired size, strips or cross-grain slices.

•In a large ceramic or glass bowl, whisk brine ingredients until salt and sugar dissolve.

•Add meat to brine, mix thoroughly, and put a plate on top, submerging all meat. Soak 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.

•Drain brine and place on smoker racks, do not rinse meat. If additional seasonings are desired, shake on at this time. Let meat air dry up to 1 hour.

•Follow smoking directions on your smoker. Cooking times vary greatly depending on make and model of smoker and outside weather conditions. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker between 150º-200º. Check for doneness after 3 hours. Larger cuts of jerky can be finished on a baking sheet in the oven at 165º.

•When jerky is done, place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Keep refrigerated or vacuum seal and freeze for long-term storage.

SIDEBAR: Meat Preservation
You’ve got meat, lots of meat, now what? Be it deer, elk, moose, bear or wild boar, once you get an animal field dressed and butchered, decisions must be made. Most animals we bring home are taken care of in a similar fashion; as we butcher them, meat is divided up to freeze, can or smoke. 
Vacuum sealing is preferred for special cuts, like backstrap that will not be used within 3 months. Large roasts, sliced and cubed steaks, get a double portion of freezer paper; freezer bags are used for burger (we grind our own, adding no fillers/fat). 
For the best long-term, canning is the best option. Not only is canned meat easy to use as it cooks in the canning process and is ready to eat right out of the jar, but it is shelf-stable, requiring no refrigeration. The only equipment needed is a pressure canner, jars and lids. Always follow specific manufacturers guidelines on canning meat and take special care not to deviate with ingredients that may not preserve safely. I add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each pint jar and process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. 
Finally our favorite, smoking. Making jerky out of venison makes for a great protein-rich snack and because the drying process dehydrates the meat, it lasts longer and takes up substantially less freezer space. Vacuum seal jerky in small batches and it will freeze up to one year. 
When preserving meat at home be sure to thoroughly label all items with type of meat, hunting area and the date. Keep track of what goes in the freezer and cupboard and rotate items accordingly.
Products used in this article
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Ginger Coconut Venison, Cajun Smothered Pork, Orange-Soy Jerky, Planked Bear & Onions; these are just a sampling of the more than 100 classic and imaginative recipes found in this exciting book. Thanks to the subsistence lifestyle they led in Alaska, and their adventures abroad, the Haugen’s have ...
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