Venison jerky is a nutritious snack food that is prized by hunters and hikers alike. It contains less fat than beef jerky but is not available commercially. When prepared properly, venison jerky loses the gamey taste which some find objectionable. Venison jerky has the best taste when it is prepared from fresh cuts of meat, usually the smaller pieces that are left over after the ribs, steaks, and roasts have been prepared. There are many venison recipes around, but this is one I learned from the camp cook at our hunting lodge in Michigan.
The secret to making your own venison jerky is making the best use of those left over pieces of venison after butchering. It may take a little extra time and patience, but it’s worth it. To begin with, gather up all the smaller pieces of freshly cut meat and using a small sharp knife, trim off any excess fat and gristle. If you venison becomes much smaller than your thumb you should probably discard it or throw it into the stew pot.
The next step goes a bit further in the trimming process. You need to slice the venison as thinly as possible. Don’t worry if the pieces are small, as you want to have smaller pieces for proper drying and packaging. A good thickness is around 3/8″, as anything thicker will take longer to dry and may not cure properly. Once you have sliced up as a reasonable amount of venison, place it in a pan and cover it with a marinade. Let it rest in the marinade according to your taste, but at least for an hour. On the average, two hours as a minimum will do just fine. Be sure to refrigerate it and keep it covered.
Here’s a recipe for a good, basic marinade. You can experiment with your own marinade, if you like.
1 tbl. crushed garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 small onion, sliced
2 tbl. Lemon juice
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
Variations: You can add a small amount (1 teaspoon) of ginger, if you like.
Mix the ingredients together before adding to the slices of venison. Make sure that you have made enough to cover the meat completely. If you have left over marinade, simply store it in the refrigerator until you need it again. It also works well for beef jerky.
After the venison has had time to soak in the marinade, lay out the pieces on a rack with a collecting pan, such as a cookie sheet, underneath and place the pan in the oven. Turn the oven to its lowest setting or 180 degrees. Close the oven door and let the low heat and time do its wonders. After at least four hours of drying time, sample the venison jerky for doneness after letting it cool down for at least ten minutes. If it is done well enough for your taste, package up your homemade venison jerky and enjoy on your next outing or football game. Try using a food vacuum sealer for long term storage.
If you like the flavor of wood cured venison jerky, which you shouldn’t attempt using your wife’s kitchen oven, try converting an old grill to an electric smoker. If you can find an electrical heating element like that in a dishwasher, you can mount it inside the grill and attach the wiring. Be sure to do this right, by insulating your connections properly to avoid the possibility of electrical shock.
Cover the heating elements with a thin layer of hickory chips and plug in the unit. After a while, the hickory will begin to smolder a little. When the unit is ready, you can place the venison strips on the grill, close the cover and let it dry to perfection. You might have to experiment a bit with this, as the hickory smoke can become a bit strong if left too long.
You can try pounding dried berries, such as cherries, blueberries and raspberries into the venison jerky before storing it. Delicious and nutritious, the berry favors add sugar, vitamins and carbohydrates to the jerky, which are essential for survival.