What to do with those off cuts of venison? Dr Simon Lee hatches a plan and sets about making Venison Jerky. 

jerky1The luckier among us will know the feeling of smug satisfaction as the lid of the deep freezer creaks open to reveal an icy haze swirling around a pile of freezer bags full of anonymous cuts of vension.

After an unenthusiastic poke about for anything loosely resembling a steak, the whole job seems outside the patience bracket and the lid goes down again.

But eventually domestic pressure for space takes over and something must be done, so with gloves and a claw hammer in hand, an exhumation takes place, is this last February's  Muntjac doe or bits of that huge fallow from before Christmas? Through the barely translucent bag, labels are unclear, but no matter, a plan is formed.

There's no easy way to speed defrosting 5 kilos of deep frozen venison, both the tried and trusted methods of running it under a tap in the sink  and experimental zapping in the microwave prove futile, so after a while you resort to correct method of letting global warming work for you and lo! Over night the red cube becomes more manageable.

At this stage it matters not a jot what joints you have discovered, as long as it fits into the gaping maw of the mincer, the game is on.

(A note here, should you discover a beautifully dressed haunch from the butcher, remove all butchers twine, bloody strings in food are a no-no on a number of levels)

jerky300So there you are, poking mixed cuts of the finest meat available through the mincer with an appropriate twinge of guilt, leaner cuts are generally preferred as it lowers the fat content. Needless to say strict larder hygiene must be maintained, all surfaces, tools, and appliances must be kept scrupulously clean and aprons and gloves worn.

Once the noise has stopped and you are left with a huge pile of finely ground mince, comes the choice of which flavoured cure to use.

I have found LEM Backwoods brand from the States has a good selection including Original, Hickory, BBQ, and Jalapeno. Each 5.7oz pack will do 5lbs (or 2.26kgs in new money). 

The more ambitious among you may choose to make your own home grown cures but be aware that any cure must have the appropriate amount of salt and sodium nitrate in it.

Being slightly old school, i generally follow the instructions and dissolve the contents of the sachet into 5 fluid oz (100ml) of water and stir well.

Those of you who prefer to 'mechanise for efficiency' can let the food processor take the strain and mix thoroughly until well blended and slightly sticky. I like to let the mix sit for a while and settle as it allows the seasoning to soak into the meat a little better, making for an evenly flavoured batch of jerky. The word itself incidentally comes from some North American Indian misunderstanding called 'charki'.

Following the science comes the art, those among you who have grouted a bath will have an advantage here, the tube of the 'Jerky Gun' (an American term, as can be imagined!) is filled with the mixture and a suitable nozzle selected, i favour the twin flat strip attachment as it tends to dry quicker.

After the trays are filled the slide into the dehydrator, (ours called The Excalibur for some reason also from the States) and the temperature set at 67 degrees Fahrenheit, how chewy you like it determines time in the machine, we usually opt for 7-9 hours for a full load.


(Above: The finished product ready for vacuum sealing and labeling)

Those without a dehydrator can use their oven but the dehydrator is a good investment as it can be used for all kinds of other kitchen applications.

When the time is up the sticks of jerky should be allowed to cool, dry place out of the way of sun and flies, those enjoying traditional African biltong where the meat is simply hung up in trees might like to consider the hygiene issues!

We use a vacuum sealer and weigh out 200 gram portions that are then distributed to friends and family with the dealer's caveat of 'first one's free’.

This high flavour, low volume snack is a perfect way to deal with excess venison and goes unsurprisingly well with beer and red wine and is good way to introduce venison into the diet of the most sceptical critic, 5kgs reduces down to about 2kgs of delicious venison jerky, try some today!




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