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My Basement Smells Like Meat

July 23, 2012

Does that make me sound like a crazy serial killer of some sort?  Actually, I’ve been dehydrating meat and I did it in the basement to minimize the noise, heat and smell in the rest of the house.  I didn’t really relish the thought of walking into the kitchen and finding the dehydrator surrounded by salivating kitties, all thinking about how they could get the top off the machine!

I started on Friday by seasoning the meat.  For this batch, I used a package of “stir fry beef” so I don’t really know what cut it was originally, but the thin strips were ideal for dehydrating without having to do a lot of prep.  I seasoned the meat with sugar, salt, garlic, paprika, and cayenne, roughly adapted from Michael Symon’s recipe found here.  I covered this and let the meat sit in the fridge for about 18 hours.  I also unpacked the dehydrator, since it had never been out of the box, and gave all the parts a quick wash to take off any packing dust.

Saturday, I set up a table with the dehydrator in the basement and laid out the meat in the trays.  The instructions that came with the machine said to make sure the strips weren’t touching, so I ended up with about 3 trays in use.  Put the lid on, set it to medium and let it go!  We went about our business for a while and I checked on things after about four hours.  Some of the thinner strips were pretty dried out already, so I pulled those out, flipped the rest over and let them keep going.

I checked on the pieces periodically over the rest of the day and eventually let the thickest pieces go for almost a full eight hours.  The pieces were pretty well dried at that point, though still flexible.  The largest pieces of course took the longest to dry.

This jerky has a much more distinctively “meaty” flavor than the processed stuff you can buy at the store.  It clearly tastes like beef, to my senses, and is nicely spicy without the overwhelming saltiness that often comes with the processed jerky.

Finally, I separated it out into four piles and vacuum-sealed each pack for Pennsic.  Certainly we’ll be gnawing on it periodically, but the plan is also to rehydrate some of it and add it to things like beans and rice for dinners.  Meat that doesn’t need refrigerating!

I have a “ball tip” steak freezing slightly right now so I can slice it for another batch to be made tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see if different cuts of meat result in a different end product.

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