Jerky – strips of lean meat that are treated with a preservative, such as salt, then dried at a relatively low temperature for several hours – has been enjoyed as a healthy snack for hundreds of years. When properly treated (with salt or smoke) and dried, the low water content of the finished product means that it can keep for a long period of time without spoiling.
Since venison is naturally a very lean meat, it’s ideal for making homemade jerky. And as Brent and I decided to start processing more of our own deer meat this past season, we set aside several hams to make jerky. Due to the large volume of jerky we wanted to be able to make, both this year and in years to come, we invested in a commercial-grade deydrator from Cabela’s and the jerky/slicer attachment for our LEM meat grinder (which is essentially the KitchenAid stand mixer of home meat processing). The grinder attachment made creating uniform jerky slices quick and easy, and the high-quality dehydrator ensured more uniform drying and an overall better jerky product.
Making your own deer jerky involves three main steps. First, you’ll need to slice the meat into thin strips, generally about 1/4 inch in thickness. If you don’t have some sort of slicer at home, a very sharp knife will do the trick as well. Second, mix up your jerky marinade. There are several recipes out there for marinades, but we prefer the Legg’s Old Plantation Seasoning jerky seasonings, such as Cajun, Teriyaki, and Peppered. These mixes call for combining the seasoning, curing salt (“pink salt”), and water. Once you’ve coated the meat in marinade, refrigerate for 24-48 hours, turning occasionally.
Once you’re ready to begin dehydrating the jerky strips, simply arrange on your dehydrator trays according to the directions. We dried ours at 140 degrees for 6 hours, which yielded a nice, dry jerky that wasn’t too brittle either.
Once dry, simply transfer your jerky to your preferred storage containers and enjoy! Vacuum packed bags are best for long-term storage, but around our house, the jerky gets eaten up so fast, Ziploc bags do just fine.
For more venison recipe ideas, check out our Venison Recipes collection.