Now that the holidays are over I can sit back, relax, and chew on some good ol’ fashioned, homemade jerky. That’s right folks, I’ve been making my own jerky for almost fifteen years now. It didn’t start out so well, but through lots of trial and error–and a literal ton of wild meat–I believe I’ve perfected the art of making wild game jerky sticks.
For that last several years, I’ve been giving the stuff away to family and friends at Christmas. Since it’s illegal to sell wild game meat, it does me no good to just sit on the recipe. So, for all you hunters out there with way too much meat and time on your hands, here’s my famous, perfected recipe:
Wild Game Jerky Sticks
- Nesco Food Dehydrator w/ extra Trays (8 total)
- Jerky Gun w/ Attachments
- Jerky Cure & Seasoning (brand: Hi Mountain)
- Electric Smoker (brand: Big Chief)
- Meat Grinder
- Kitchen Scale
- Disposable Rubber Gloves
- Fillet knife and cutting board
- Wood chips
- Measuring cups & spoons.
- Extra Spices: Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, etc.
- A pound of lean ground beef
- Remove all sinew, fat, hair, dirt, etc. from wild game.
- Cut meat into smaller chunks for grinding.
- Grind meat using smaller grinder plate.
- Make 4 – 5 pounds at a time to maximize dehydrator space.
- If you are grinding your own lean, muscle meat, then you’ll want to mix in some ground beef to add fat/moisture at a ratio of about 1:4 beef-to-wild-game. If you are making jerky from ground wild game from the processor, then skip this step.
- Thoroughly mix meat, seasoning, cure, and water according to ground meat instructions included with seasoning packet. Measure spices carefully. Add extra black and/or red pepper, and other seasonings if desired.
- Let sit for 2 – 3 hours. Do not sit overnight or the cure will make it stiff and hard to form.
- Start soaking a pan-full of wood chips for two hours.
- Use jerky gun and large round or large flat attachment to form long sticks across trays. You’ll cut them into smaller sections later.
- Dehydration takes 7 – 8 hours depending on temperature and humidity. Try to dehydrate at room temperature to avoid over- or under-cooking.
- Dehydrate for two hours to firm up jerky sticks.
- After two hours, remove jerky sticks and place in the smoker for two hours or however long it takes to burn through a single tray of damp wood chips. If it’s hot outside, keep your smoker out of direct sun as this will quickly over-cook your meat. Remember, you are dehydrating not cooking!
- If it’s freezing outside, put your dehydrator in the sun. If it’s too cold, it won’t smoke well. After smoking for two hours, put jerky back into dehydrator. You are halfway there!
- Rotate jerky trays every 1 – 2 hours for evenness.
- On the sixth hour, remove jerky from dehydrator. Use scissors to cut jerky into desired lengths and then stack them on layered paper towels on a plate for 30 minutes. This will soak up extra oil that accumulates on the surface.
- After 30 minutes on the plate, place back in dehydrator for 1 – 2 hours. Taste-test occasionally for consistency.
- When jerky is done, put back on plate layered with paper towels and let cool for an hour. Once cool, put jerky and paper towels in a one gallon Ziploc bag and place in freezer or fridge.
- The jerky process takes all day, so be prepared to babysit your meat.
- Jerky meat cooks down to about 50% original weight.
- The best way to ruin your jerky is to over- or under-season it. Use extra spices sparingly. Jerky that is too salty sux!
- The second best way ruin your jerky is to over- or under-cook it. Under-cooked jerky is mushy and prone to mold. Over-cooked jerky is tough and flavorless. Also, don’t over-smoke your jerky—it tastes bad, it stinks up your hands when you eat it, and the deer can smell your pack a mile away.
- The Hi Mountain seasoning is the best I’ve used. However, it isn’t very spicy. This is where extra pepper comes in handy. A little extra black and red pepper is almost always required. You can also add tobasco sauce.
- Your homemade jerky will last one week in your pack, two months in the fridge, and two years in the freezer. But most likely it won’t last two days, especially if you have kids around.