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Pioneer Jerky Recipe/Method to share

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I'm new here as a member but have read a lot before joining. I've been asked to share a recipe I learned that surely used to be well known but very likely now is not. It is how the early west pioneers used to make jerky from their game meat.

The purpose was quite likely aimed more at functionality (staying alive through the cold winters) than at fine tuning the flavor. This is how they kept their game meat edible through winters in places where it doesn't always stay below freezing all winter (though now that I live in Alaska we don't have that problem here icon_smile.gif).

This was taught to me about 20 years ago by a man that was 90 years old then and he learned it from his dad who learned it himself in the 1800s; I had bought a house from this 90 year old man that was built in the 1800s, and it came with a smoker as old as the house I think; it was a (mostly) stone with (some) wood structure built into the hillside with an old wooden door; you go in the door, passing the wooden racks and tend the fire on the far side which is not unlike walking into a burning building each time you tend the fire or check your meat.

He did the entire animal which I did not and would not do; I would at a minimum rescue the tenderloin, backstrap, and hindquarter steaks first, and am more likely only do do this to its neck or front shoulders, but I'll describe his way:

Pioneer Jerky the old fashioned way:

There are a total of only 3 ingredients: one big game beast, salt, and smoke.

Kill the beast, field dress and hang upside down without hide for a week in cool temperature and with air moving, to age the meat.

Fill your laundry tub in the nice cool garage with water, and put as much salt in it to where no more salt will mix in; more salt just goes to the bottom and sits. A potato will float if you want to double check if you have enough salt in there.

Cut the beast into 6 to 8 pieces (a hindquarter, front shoulder, neck, are all "pieces", etc...).

Soak all pieces submerged in saltwater for 3-4 days straight. Dump the saltwater and fill with fresh water; soak in that for 24 hours.

String each piece up in the smoker (don't lay on a rack) and smoke for a very long time; it is done when most all the moisture is gone from the meat. the meat is hard, not soft.

Yes it is dry. Yes it will last a winter without constant refrigeration. Yes it is the saltiest thing you have ever tasted.

Great uses of this meat:
- add to a stew in place of the meat and the salt. It re-hydrates the meat and adds all the salt that the stew needs, even considering the potatoes in there.
- take smaller chunks of a piece hiking/hunting and eat it then, which replaces the salt your body needs then while providing good meat for you; and its very light to carry.
- it makes great use of the neck of the beast; the meat strips off with the grain really nicely and you get it all off the bone that way
- the larger pieces are great to slice thin and eat a variety of ways (these are the choicest cuts); notice when you do the relative color change as you get farther from the outside of each piece; you can clearly see how far the salt permeated directly

Of course this is an unusual recipe that came from hard times. Likely this recipe has little place in today's world.

I'd recommend trying it the first time with only the neck and front legs of the beast you killed; its really hard to get anything but grinder-meat out of these parts anyway, and this recipe makes excellent use of those parts.

Again, thanks to you guys here whose advice I've gotten by my reading here - without you even knowing I did so! - I'm just trying to give back here. I'll post more modern recipes too when I get more time, like during the long cold winter here in Alaska when we only get about 4 hours of light per day and only visually see the sun for 2.
post #2 of 7
That was some good reading and info. We sometimes need to remember where this all started from and how easy we have it now compared to the old timers.

Maybe those stalls ain't so bad after all !!!!!! PDT_Armataz_01_03.gifPDT_Armataz_01_12.gif

Thanks for sharing.
post #3 of 7
Thanks for sharing and welcome to the SMF. I remember many years ago watching some show on PBS about how they use to preserve meats the same way. Doesn't sound too tasty, but then again, at that point the purpose was survival.
post #4 of 7
Welcome aboard and thanks for sharing. I'm always interested in reading about getting back to basics.
post #5 of 7
Interesting reading, Thanks for sharing.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

tasty... but salty

The old man that taught it to me was fairly thrilled both that I was interested to learn it, and that I actually liked it. His son wouldn't eat it.

Putting it into a stew while out camping really makes you appreciate what a treat it was - say... around 1900 or so - when they'd pull some of this out in the dead of winter and call it livin' high on the hog!

We have it so spoiled these days - well, I know I do. PDT_Armataz_01_12.gif

I'm glad you guys liked it.
post #7 of 7
Very Nice.I have a pic somewhere of a old wharf on east coast-near boston-before refridgeration-the fish was all salted in the sun to dry for storage-landlubbers

YEP a little salty-.Was the way......
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