This is Part 2 of THIS post.
When I last wrote on the topic, my meat drying was approximately 50% complete. The next afternoon the elk and a few honey-dates were nice and dry and ready for pulverizing!
Because of the underwhelming power and quality of my food processor, I decided that it would be prudent to cut up the larger strip into smaller pieces. This worked, but overall my food processor just didn’t cut it. 😉 It worked out in the end, but the texture ended up a little too coarse for my liking…although still very tasty.
After cutting up the elk into smaller pieces, into the food processor it goes!
Like I said…my food processor is rather lacking in the major areas at which a food processor should excel — namely processing food. I finally gave up when the motor started getting more than just a little bit hot. Not a totally unacceptable result, but perhaps this would have been a job better left to the Blendtec blender. Will it blend? Probably. And if Blendtec wants to donate a blender to me, I’d be more than happy to give an honest review! In fact, if ANY company wants to donate their product to me, I’d be happy to do an honest review. Mr. Carnegie is not in the back-pocket of big-kitchen-supply and only tells it like it is.
Well, in spite of the problems I ran into, the end result was fantastic! The deep gamey flavour of the raw dried elk matched perfectly with the occasional hit of honey date. The fat itself is also full of taste, not at all like a vegetable fat (for example, Crisco®) so the end result wasn’t at all waxy or unpalatable — it was just a very rich meaty taste, but not at all overpowering like some jerky can be. I heartily recommend trying this at home. I have almost finished my first batch and am ready for another. Just be careful with your food handling and safety techniques, as you are ultimately eating raw meat.
Improvements for next time:
- The meat I got was uneven in size, shape, and thickness. This meant that before safe drying could occur, I had to flatten out the chunks I got with a hammer. This is messy, hard-work, takes time, and increases your chance of picking up a food-born illness. Trim, however, is very cheap in comparison with other cuts, which is something to consider when you’re buying rather expensive grass-fed game. So as an alternative to hammering out the meat, I suspect that a simple roller device (much like a pasta-maker or an old-style laundry wringer) would work quite well, flattening out irregular chunks. Of course, buying a large cut of meat would allow you to make even, thin, strips with ease, but at a much higher price.
- Another issue that came up was the drying process itself. For one, even my large toaster-oven isn’t large enough to handle any volume of meat (especially since the meat reduces by over 2/3, or more). A dedicated dehydrator would be much better. However, all of the standard home-use or DIY dehydrators essentially work the same way my toaster-oven works. That is, there’s a low heat-source and some air circulation (by fan or convection). This poses two problems. 1) Pumping in fresh air over such a long time period (48 or more hours), unless filtered has the strong possibility of contamination (think of the dust that collects all around your house, no matter how clean you are…now think of it landing on wet meat!). 2) You’re oxidizing your meat (or fruit or vegetables) as you dry them in a typical dehydrator. As food oxidizes, its chemical make up is fundamentally changed. It becomes full of oxides. Some people don’t think this is a problem, but think of that cut-up apple that’s sat out for a just a few hours, after it’s turned all brown. Who wants to eat that?!? The solution: a closed system dehydrator. Specifically, a vacuum dehydrator that uses minimal heat, vacuum, and a condenser to collect moisture. Vacuum dehydrators are often used in commercial applications because of their efficiency, ability to capture vapor, and not expose samples to external gases (air, oxygen, etc.). I will be thinking of plans for a simple DIY vacuum dehydrator.
- Pulverizing the meat with my food-processor was less than impressive. This could be remedied easily with a more powerful device. Lex Rooker uses a big #32 meat grinder, but haven’t been able to track one of those down locally yet.
- Next time I would like to render down my own fat from the same animal. It was just bad timing on my part that the butcher didn’t have any left.
Let me know if you have any comments of suggestions for this or future articles. I would love to hear what people think.
Mr. Carnegie, Scavenger Gourmet