Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Do you make Jerky? Pemmican?

I've been looking into making jerky, which I don't even like. Well, at least not the convenience-store pressed version containing soy sauce, sugar, artificial smoke flavoring, chemicals and preservatives. I have never tasted the real thing, which is just dried raw meat seasoned with salt and pepper, and maybe a bit of powdered onion, garlic or crushed red pepper flakes.

I'm interested to hear if you make jerky or pemmican, and how you do it. How do you use it? Apparently jerky-makers are almost fanatical about their jerky, and they must be abundant because there are all sorts of jerky tools for sale across the internet. (I'm away from home until later in the week so I probably won't be able to 'moderate' comments until then.)

Actually what I want to do is make some real pemmican that I can store in my emergency food stash, because it is the most nutrient-dense food I can fit (store) in a small area, and if made properly, it lasts for years.

Properly made jerky is a good place to start in making pemmican, and commercial jerky won't suffice because of government regulations in the high temperatures required for drying, too much salt, and all the additives. (Remember how salty the dried chipped beef in a jar is, for making creamed chipped beef on toast... aka SOS?)  I'm aiming for nutrition, not salty shoe leather.

Making jerky for pemmican is easy, although this method below would not be approved by the USDA because the meat is not cooked, just thoroughly dried as it was done for centuries either in the sun, or near a fire. Most sites practice CYA and recommend heating to 145ºF for at least 10 minutes to kill any salmonella and E.coli, and lots of salt. (I won't make mine that way.) Use your own discretion and faith in your butcher, but I suggest you avoid using store-bought CAFO beef for all the potential dangers and nutritional deficits.

I'll run through the process here, and again later with pictures when I make some. (Right now I'm waiting for the next butchering so I can get enough beef leaf fat make more tallow.) Get some very lean grass-fed beef (like eye round) and trim it completely. Slice thinner than 1/4 inch, which is easier done if the beef is partially frozen.

Season lightly with salt and pepper (you can add a bit of onion powder or garlic powder, and/or powdered red pepper along with the salt and pepper, but don't overdo it) and put it in your dehydrator at about 100º-110ºF. The object is to dry the meat, not cook it, and temps over 120ºF will cook it. (The salt and lack of moisture are what inhibits bacterial growth.) Turn the strips over several times during the drying process to insure uniform drying. How long it takes depends on thickness of the meat strips. When properly dry, it should bend but not snap, and not feel damp or have soft spots. Too dry is better than too damp because it can spoil if it's not dry enough.

If you don't have a dehydrator, here's a link to download plans to build a very efficient dryer for under $20, using a cleverly designed cardboard box and a 100 watt incandescent bulb. It will dry up to 10 pounds of raw meat.

Once the meat is fully dry, you can use it as is for jerky snacks, or grind it for pemmican.

Why use only grass-fed beef?
  1. Higher in beta-carotene
  2. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  3. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin (B1) and riboflavin (B2)
  4. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  5. Higher in total omega-3s
  6. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  7. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  8. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  9. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
What is Pemmican?
"Pemmican was a nutritionally-dense staple of the American Plains Indians, made in the summer from dried lean buffalo meat and rendered fat (tallow) as a way to preserve and store meat for winter, and traveling. When the frontiersmen, mostly early trappers and explorers, discovered it, pemmican became a commodity the Indians sold or traded to them.

The Hudson Bay Company bought tons of it every year to satisfy the demand. The basic unit of trade was an animal hide filled with pemmican, sealed with pure rendered fat on the seams, and weighed about 90 pounds. As long as it was kept away from moisture, heat, and direct sunlight, it would last for many years with no refrigeration or other method of preservation."
(Source: Lex Rooker)

Calories and Nutrition
When made correctly, pemmican from grass-fed beef is a complete food, and eating only pemmican for extended periods induces no nutritional deficiencies. (Think Eskimo diet.) One half-pound of pemmican will provide about 1500 calories.

Not all sites agree about the inclusion of dried berries in pemmican; some think it may have been just to please the 'white eyes'. After reading many sites and explanations, I have decided not to add dried berries to mine. If the berries are not 100% dry, they can spoil the pemmican. I'd rather dry my berries separately and just have them available.

Traditionally, Native Americans pounded the dried meat into a powder; fortunately we have blenders, meat grinders and food processors. Properly dried beef will be about 1/3 or so of the weight before drying, and needs to be ground to a chunky powder with some meat fibers remaining.

Once you have the meat ground to a slightly chunky powder, carefully weigh equal amounts of meat and rendered beef tallow. Then the tallow needs to be heated enough to be liquid so you can mix them; the mix will appear slightly wet, but the tallow/fat should all be absorbed by the meat with no excess fat pooling in the bottom of the dish.

Press the mixture into a mold (mini-loaf pans, cupcake tins lined with cupcake papers, pressed flat in plastic sandwich bags, etc.) and allow to harden at room temperatures. To store, wrap in butcher's paper, or aluminum foil (or both) to keep out any light and moisture. Store in a cool, dry place. I will put my wrapped pemmican in a heavy-duty zippered plastic bag or most likely vacuum-seal it, then into a food grade plastic container with a tight lid.

Some No-No's: 
Do not use butter or vegetable oils. Rendered pork or lamb fat could be used, but not recommended because of a lower melting point (like carrying it in a backpack, or on a shelf in in storage). Do not add anything that is not 100% DRY.

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