The holidays are coming and the kitchen smells like garlic and fennel. It is time to make jerky.
What’s the main ingredient? Beef, of course. I am typically a fan of lots of nice, flavorful fat in meat, but fatty jerky means a mess in the dehydrator and oily face and fingers later. I used ground beef for this batch. It’s quick to mix and using an extruder means I can make uniform tubes of meat that dry evenly.
I’d be uncomfortable serving ground meat that is not ground locally and raised on pasture. I like single-animal foods, not a mixture of thousands of animals I’ve never met. Jerky in a dehydrator barely reaches high enough internal temperature to be considered cooked and may do so very slowly. It seems only prudent to begin with the safest product possible.
I had a few select roasts cut from a hindquarter, but most of the hindquarter was ground. I think the forequarter is most tender and the hindquarter is more flavorful. Gristle – nasty connective tissue does not become edible through grinding. Be picky! When in doubt put trimmings in the dog pile. I am a fan of fat for flavor, but for jerky ground meat with no added fat avoids a mess in the dehydrator.
Preservatives can be a scary idea, nitrates and nitrites sound dangerous. I used to avoid them. Many preserved meat products that lack added nitrites contain celery seed, which contains naturally occurring nitrites. So, I only know enough to tell you that you need to decide for yourself, and my choice of celery seed is about convenience and flavor. The time that the meat is most vulnerable to bacterial growth is while the seasonings are being mixed in, the jerky is being extruded and before the temperature rises. Work cold and work quickly. Clean surfaces, clean tools, gloves are a nice touch. If your dehydrator is slow to warm you can make jerky in a low oven.
Better than Chocolate Beef Jerky
2 pounds lean ground Milking Devon beef
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Sea Salt finely ground
1 teaspoon Celery seed
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Thyme
Grind spices together until finely powdered. An electric coffee grinder is ideal.
2 Tablespoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke
Mix all ingredients, an electric mixer with a paddle works well.
Using a jerky press or extruder pipe spirals of meat onto dehydrator shelves covered with parchment paper or silicone sheets.
Dry at 145 to 165oF for 8 to 12 hours or until dark and rubbery, turning once after 2 hours.
Refrigerated storage is recommended.