American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Drying Meat

I've been talking for months about drying some meat to take with me into the woods and today I'm finally getting around to it.

I went to Sam's Club yesterday and bought about seven pounds of their ground beef (80% lean) that was a day from expiring and got it for a song. Normally I would bring this meat home, portion it out, and vacuum bag it with my Foodsaver before tossing it in the freezer. This keeps the meat until I'm ready to use it. I can then speed thaw it in the sink and cook it as I would fresh ground beef.

Anyway, today I'm going a different direction. I heated up my largest cast iron skillet and broke the meat into chunks. While the meat is cooking I stir it regularly with a wooden spoon to break up the big chunks and to move around the meat that gets into the pan's hot spots. This process takes about 15-20 minutes for this quantity of meat.

Once the meat is cooked I pull it from the skillet and put it through a strainer to let any extra grease drip into a pan. The drained meat is then put back into the skillet, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder, and allowed to caramelize (color) just a bit. This takes maybe 5 minutes.

The meat then goes into a sheet pan lined with paper towels and is dried off to make sure the last of the grease and water is removed before drying. Then it gets moved to a foil-lined sheet pan and placed into the oven set on its lowest setting. You can also cover the pan and set it outside where moving air and the sun will dry it in a few days. My method, in the oven, takes only a few hours but lacks some of the tradition.

If you're drying the meat outside you'll want to move it around once or twice a day to make sure the meat dries evenly. In the oven I'll move it around once an hour for the first three hours and, if needed, every two hours after that.

According to Karen Hood in Cave Cooking 3 this dried meat will last approximately one year at room temperature and indefinitely in the freezer. Fantastic stuff.

If you add tallow to the dried meat you'll have pemmican. Add potato flakes, tallow, and additional seasoning (as Karen Hood does) and you've got a ready to go stew that just takes hot water once you're set up at your campsite. I add freeze dried corn, carrots, potato flakes, and seasoning to mine and it will make another yummy stew which I can supplement with some of the new plants I've learned like the wild ginger, garlic mustard, and some of the greens.

I wish it was ready to go now!

Thanks for reading,



At 9:02 PM, Blogger Mungo said...

Wow! Great post... I've always wanted to do this, and your clear instructions are perfect.
Thanks... glad I read this. I have your blog in my Google Reader, so I can see the latest posts.
All the best,


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