Reading and thinking is one thing. Actually doing it is another thing
altogether. With Curtis Conrad's excellent guidelines on storing meat
without refrigeration, there are a thousand details that pop up when you
I used a 8 quart kettle on the stovetop to heat the meat in the third
step. With the first batch of beef (brisket) and the chicken, I used a
wet cure in large kettle in the refrigerator. On the second batch of
beef (steak fingers), I used a dry cure in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag in the
refrigerator. I think the dry cure/Ziploc bag method is less trouble and
just as good.
I have a 9 tray Excalibur Dehydrator that I used to dry the meat
after curing and a small Model DZ-280A Vacuum Sealer from Sorbent
Systems to vacuum pack the final product.
I am still unclear on how critical it is to remove fat. Most of the
flavor in meat is in the fat so a completely fat-free product is nearly
tasteless. On the other hand, I am told that fat turns rancid even in a
sterile environment. My approach was to remove all the fat I could
without getting radical about it and hope for the best. Time will tell.
Beef – First Batch
Bought a 7 lb 13 oz Trimmed beef brisket
and trimmed it some more to get 6 lb 3 oz of lean meat. There is a lot
more fat and connective tissue in a trimmed brisket than one might
expect. Original cost = $20.96; Cost of lean meat after 20% trimming
loss = $3.35/lb
Cut into strips (with the grain) ~ 1/4" thick. Trimming and slicing took about 45 minutes.
Cover with water in pan with tight lid
and heat to constant 165 F. (Yes I used a thermometer) and move to oven
set at 170 F (to hold temp without cooking) for 2 hours.("Broth" was
reddish and meat was white in color) Temperature did hold above 160 F.
I think this wet heat treatment will kill all bacteria (I think it was
a Univ of Ohio study that recommended this). I used the broth to make a
pot of beans. There was a moderate amount of grease floating on the
Shook meat strips dry, washed pan and
covered meat with brine (2 lb salt in 3 qts water). Let sit in
refrigerator for 2 full days. The meat was still whitish but took on a
leathery consistency. (additional fat floated to the top).
Shook off excess brine and put in
dehydrator for 2 hours at 130 F, turned temp to 145 F for 1 hour and
then to 155 F for 2 more hours.
Put in plastic bag in refrigerator
overnight to let remaining moisture equalize. Most of the pieces were
slightly dryer than snack jerky and a lot saltier. Weight at this point
was 2 lb 5 oz. Cost at this point = $9.06/lb.
Put in dehydrator at 155 F for 4 hours. Finished product weighed 2 lb 2 oz and cost $9.86/lb (not counting time and supplies)
Vacuum packed in bags containing 6 – 7 oz each. This represents a little over a pound of lean brisket in each package.
In a week or two, I will open one of the packages, make some beef stew and give a report on how it reconstitutes and cooks.
After 4 months, the dried beef is about
like it was. I took one of the smaller packages, rinsed it thoroughly in
cool water to get as much salt off it as possible and put it in two
cups of hot water to sit for a couple of hours. It reconstituted to meat
like salty brisket. This needs to have more rinsing and soaking to
remove more salt.
Adding potatoes and onions without any
additional salt made acceptable beef stew. The brisket cut with the
grain is tough even after cooking.
There are 5 vacuum packs remaining. It is hard and brittle.
Beef – Second Batch
Modifications from above:
Use am 8:3 salt-sugar mixture to cure the meat. This is supposed to reduce the salt flavor without harming the cure.
Add Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) to retain red meat color without the toxic problems of nitrates.
Use a dry cure in a Zip lock bag instead of a brine cure.
Add a little vinegar (2 teaspoons) to keep after there is some liquid in the bag to keep pH low.
about 8 lbs steak (Strip Tips and eye of round) into 1/2” strips,
covered with water and brought to about 140 degrees on stove top.
Covered and put into oven at 170° for 4 hours.
Put meat in colander and rinsed with cold water. Let drain. Meat is whitish.
Put meat in large
zip lock bag and added about 2 cups of dry-cure mix (4 lb salt, 1 1/2 lb
sugar and 2 tbs of fruit fresh (ascorbic acid)). After mixing well to
get all meat covered with salt, I put it in the refrigerator to cure.
The salt draws the moisture out of the meat and in about 12 hours, there
was enough water in the bag to dissolve all the cure mix. The ascorbic
acid caused the meat to turn an appetizing red color.
I plan to let it cure for at least 10 days before drying and packaging it.
Added about 1 cup of salt and 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the bag. I have been turning and mixing it every day in the bag.
Removed meat from
bag, rinsed in colander, let drip dry. Meat is firm and reddish brown
in color. (Discard curing juices and salt in dumpster because I don't
want that much salt in my septic system). Wet weight = 5 lb 12 oz (23%
weight loss from fresh)
Put in dehydrator for 1 hour at 140° and 3 hours at 155°. Meat is dry and tough to hard. Weight = 4 lb 5 oz. (41% weight loss from fresh)
Put in plastic storage bag in refrigerator overnight so remaining moisture can equalize.
Dehydrated at 155° for 4 hours. Final weight = 3 lb even (weight loss from fresh = 60%). Meat is dry and hard.
Vac pack in 8 – 6oz bags, each representing a little over a pound of fresh meat. Put 4 of these bags per gallon bag for storage.
Bought 10 lb (11 pieces) Chicken Leg Quarters (this is just drumstick, thigh and a bit of backbone) for $5.48
Removed skin and fat to get 7 lb 6 oz of lean quarters with the bone in. Cost at this point = $0.74/lb
Cover with water and heat to 165 F (Yes I used a thermometer). Place in oven at 170 F to hold temp for 2 hours.
Bone and separate muscle bundles to get
drying size pieces. This yielded 3 lb 6 oz of lean boneless dark
chicken meat. Cost at this point = $1.62/lb
Covered with brine (1.25 cup salt, 1.25
cup brown sugar, 2 tsp Cajon seasoning in 2 qts water) and refrigerated
for 2 days. I skimmed off maybe half a cup of fat during this
process. (I reduced the salt and added sugar and spices after the
finding the beef done previously was very salty)
Put in dehydrator for 1 hour at 130 F
and 3 hours at 155 F. Meat was white to light brown and very pliable
at this point. Wiped some greasy pieces with a paper towel. I was
surprised to find the chicken was a lot greasier throughout the process
than the beef brisket dried previously.
Bag and refrigerate overnight to let
remaining moisture equalize. At this point there is 1 lb 13 oz of
chicken with the flavor and consistency (it is pliable) of moderately
salty jerky. Cost = $3.02 / lb at this point.
Dry for 3 hours at 155 F. Now there is 1
lb 10 oz of dried chicken that cost $3.37/lb (not counting time and
supplies). It is hard (not pliable like jerky) and tan to light brown
in color (the greasy spots are darkest brown). You would classify this
as dried chicken, not jerky.
Vacuum pack in ~ 5 oz bags representing the lean meat from about 2 Chicken Leg Quarters.
In a few days, I will make chicken
noodle soup with one of these and give a taste test report. It will be a
couple of years before we will know if this is suitable for long term
storage or not.
After four months in the refrigerator, there is no discernible
difference in appearance. I opened one of the bags and soaked the dried
chicken in water for 24 hours, rinsing and replacing the water 4 times
to remove as much salt as possible.
I boiled it for about 5
minutes. It looks and tastes like fresh cooked boned chicken. The cajon
seasoning flavor intensified as did the brown sugar taste. Otherwise, I
don't think you can tell the difference, certainly not in a soup or
What I would do different:
Use white sugar instead of brown and leave out the spice.
Use a dry cure in a Zip Lock bag instead of a wet cure.
Add some ascorbic acid to help retain fresh appearance and lower pH.
I heated the meat to 165 F in water before curing because I read that
botulism bacteria will go dormant with dry heat and grow later. Higher
temperatures than about 170 F begin to cook the meat, changing both
flavor and consistency.
Several studies mentioned that removing
the fat was very important because it will go rancid by a
non-bacterial chemical process over time and give the meat a bad
Since you can store a lot of dried meat in a very small
space, I am keeping it in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator for
now. If the power goes off for an extended period, it won't spoil for
One of our friends has been canning cooked chicken in quart size Ball jars. She gave us a sample and we made chicken pot pie - delicious! You wouldn't know that the chicken was cooked months ago. I'm pretty sure stored safely in a dark, dry place it would keep for at least a year.
I mentioned elsewhere that I was making venison jerky. But everyone likes it so much I can't keep any around to store.
It will keep much longer than a year. There are many places you can use canned chicken....chicken and dumplings, chicken and rice, chicken pot pies, the list is endless. Thanks to a friend of mine from GTA, I now can all kinds of meat, including bacon.
My maternal grandmother used to can sausage in a simple manner. She would cook up the sausage patties as usual, then fit them down into a quart canning jar, then pour in the sausage grease to cover. Then she'd process in a pressure cooker canner.
To fix, just open the quart jar, remove patties and heat up on the stove in a cast iron skillet and serve!
No one in the household ever got sick from it, so I guess it worked!
Might be that she also slaughterd, butchered out and ground her sausage up herself!
Meat has been preserved for hundreds of years before the advent of refrigeration. Today the most popular ways of preserving meat include making jerky, which is basically a dehydration method, and the age old art of sausage making. Dehydrating meat for jerky and then storing it in an airtight package will keep the meat fresh for later use and is easy to pack. Sausage utilizes hog casings to create an airtight environment where spiced meat can be preserved without refrigeration for future enjoyment. Both methods allow you to experiment with herbs and seasonings to your liking so you can create your own customized preserved meats without the need for refrigeration.
I have been canning meat, poultry, pork, ground meat (both wet & dehydrated) and fish for years. Last summer I also did some salt fish and it was both easy to do and very effective. It does take a considerable soak time to get all the salt out before you cook and eat it, but the east of salting it down makes it a keeper for me. I have also made jerky, but simple dried meats (simpler, no smoking or marinating) but do not find them as palatable (even after soaking & cooking) as the canned. I guess it is what you are used to. I have even canned meatballs, meatloaf and cured hams - very nice, you can control what goes in the jars in terms of salt, sugars, seasonings and preservatives, and they are as easy to serve as heat and eat. So canned gets my vote.
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