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Long Term Making and Storage of Jerky
First select the lowest percent fat cuts of meat possible. Meat with more fat can still be made into jerky, but they should be eaten within 2 to 3 months generally and are not good for long term storage.
Wild meats (deer, etc) vary but generally have lower fat than beef.
Pork and other domesticated meats are not good for long term storage.
Generally the best beef to use is London Broil.
If using ground meat choose 93% fat free or better.
Cut the jerky into thin strips no wider than 1/4 inch thick.
Some say to cut the meat with the grain and others say against the grain, but for me this doesn't matter.
If cutting it by hand, it is easier to cool the meat by placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes. It cuts better when it is cold.
For me, it makes more sense to have a butcher cut the meat for me as the slices are uniform and better for long term storage.
Subjecting the meat to a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before dehydration will kill all bacteria living on the meat.
This is doubly important if you are using wild meat as it often contains more bacteria than domesticated meats.
Most home dehydrators will not go up to 160 degrees. I solve this problem by placing the prepared marinated jerky in an oven, pre heated to 400 degrees, for 15 to 20 minutes before placing the jerky in a dehydrator.
Make sure the jerky is not still in the marinade when you do this, as you want the meat to spend at least 10 minutes above 160 degrees to ensure that all the bacteria are killed and you cannot be assured of this if the meat is still in the marinade.
Just prior to placement in the dehydrator, lightly spray a solution of ½ teaspoon of potassium sorbate dissolved in 16 ounces of water onto both sides of the meat. Potassium sorbate is a non toxic preservative that inhibits yeast, mold, and bacteria growth.
Potassium sorbate is largely ineffective if the pH of the meat is above 7.2.
Potassium sorbate is shown to be highly effective as an inhibitor of bacterial growth at pH 6.4, with its long term effectiveness basically doubling for every 0.2 point drop in pH.
All meats generally have a pH of 7.25 to 7.50 which is slightly alkaline.
To make the meat last longer, you have to lower the pH of the meat to at least 6.4.
To accomplish this, you need to marinate the meat in an acidic marinade.
An acidic marinade inhibits bacterial growth and also makes other preservatives (especially potassium sorbate) more effective.
For me, I choose Texas Pete brand hot sauce. The flavor is to my liking, and just as importantly, one of the main ingredients is vinegar which generally has a pH in the 2.2 to 3.0 range.
As an added buffer, I also add pure white distilled vinegar (pH of 2.4) to the Texas Pete.
The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid.
Almost all vinegar available to me is around 5% acetic acid or less. I know it is possible for vinegar to have as much as 18% acetic acid but I have yet to find a source for it locally. If one were able to make or otherwise find vinegar that had a higher acetic acid content I would assume that would be even better.
Salt acts as a preservative by further inhibiting bacterial growth. It also provides necessary nutrients and improves taste, in my opinion.
Specifically salt has an affinity for water and will sequester any water remaining in the jerky and make it unusable by bacteria.
Sugar, when used in a marinade, increases the chance of growth of yeast, molds and bacteria. For this reason it should be avoided in marinades used to prepare jerky for long term storage.
Sugary marinades are fine to use if you plan to eat the jerky within a few weeks or a month of preparation.
Generally the drier the meat is the better. If the heat setting on your dehydrator is adjustable, opt for 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit with the longest dehydrating time.
12 hours at 135 degrees is far better than 8 hours at 140 degrees.
You want jerky that does not bend and “cracks” when you try to bend it. This means the moisture content is as close to zero as possible and this enables the jerky to last much longer in storage.
I think "brittle" is the best way to describe what you want the jerky to be when its done.
After thorough dehydration, place the jerky in roughly ¼ to ½ pound (dry dehydrated weight) increments in Mylar bags along with an oxygen absorber and seal using a vacuum sealer such as a food saver.
For added safety I add an oxygen absorber before I seal the jerky in the Mylar.
I don’t trust the heat sealer that my food saver has, so I use a straight edge (like on a level) and a clothes iron to make 2 complete seals in the Mylar, in addition to the one made by the food saver.
Store the jerky in a cool, dry, dark place.
Freezing will not increase storability of properly prepared jerky.
If you follow all the instructions provided here, the jerky will remain edible and uncontaminated for at least a decade.
Do not handle the jerky with bare hands after it has been heated above 160 degrees. To do so basically defeats the purpose as you are theoretically reintroducing bacteria onto the meat. If you don’t have food handling gloves available, at least wash your hands thoroughly using a strong antibacterial soap.
For extremely long storage, I mix 16 ounces of Texas Pete (or similar) with 4 ounces of pure white distilled vinegar and one tablespoon of regular table salt, and marinate for at least 12 hours, usually 24 hours in the refrigerator. You can add just about anything else to the marinade for taste so long as it does not contain any sugars or alkaline ingredients.
The longer the meat soaks in the marinade the more it lowers the pH of the meat and the longer it will store. Generally if the meat is stored in an acidic marinade for 24 hours the acidity of the meat is optimal. Storing it in the marinade for longer than 24 hours doesn’t seem to decrease the pH.
The best I have ever been able to manage was to get the pH of the jerky down to around 4.6. That was with several extra steps and was not an efficient way to prepare jerky IMO. Generally, soaking the jerky for 24 hours in a solution with a pH of around 2.7 will get the jerky down to about 5.8 or so.
Do not allow the meat or the marinade to ever come into contact with aluminum foil. If it does, the acids in the marinade will eat through the aluminum foil and the aluminum will dissolve into the meat. Even when the meat is completely dry, the acids in the meat will dissolve the aluminum.
I’ve been doing this for about 3 years now, but I got this information from someone who has been making jerky this way for more than 20 years. I’ve personally eaten jerky that was prepared this way 12 years ago.
In my opinion, if you follow the directions given here, you can produce jerky that can be stored for at least 15 years.
I agree with the steps above. Flash cooking the meat for long term storage is important. It's called the "lethality step." You don't need to do it in an oven for a long period of time, however. Just take the meat out of the marinade and set aside in a strainer. Boil the marinade on the stove and drop the meat in it for about 20 seconds. That's it.
Omission of sugars is also a good idea for long term storage, as is over-drying the jerky so that it is brittle. Brittle jerky is actually very good with cold beer-- especially a good IPA.
I always use plenty of balsamic vinegar in my jerky-- it's essential for red meat, IMO. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to keep the jerky in a vacuum sealed container. The small home ones seem to work well.
Everyone should keep in mind that dehydrated meat in general-- not necessarily "jerky" snacks-- is an excellent survival staple. Dried meat easily gets re-hydrated in sauces, soups, and casseroles. I want to dry beef, venison, chicken and pork and seal in vacuum pouches for stable shelf storage. We'll see how it goes.
New to Jerky Making
I just made my first jerky yesterday, and am making another batch today, and was curious about its applications for long term storage.
In my online readings, I have noted the importance meat drying people have placed on nitrites to prevent botulism growth. I'm curious why it's not included in the steps by the author. I have curing salt (4oz for 100 lbs of meat > about 1/4 tsp for a lb of meat.)
Does anyone with experience drying jerky in a dehydrator use this "curing" step to promote safe storage? I also find it more palatable when it's "leathery" and not brittle. I know this means slightly more moisture remains, but with the salt content used, and nitrites included in the marinade, as well as an air tight container (glass jar or mylar) with an oxygen absorber, do you think that the potential longevity with be compromised with a slightly softer jerky?
Thanks ahead of time for your opinions
For what it's worth, I make my jerky in the oven. It may take a bit longer but works well. I have an oven that's probably older than me, so the temp control sucks. But my method is to marinate first then skewer and kinda bake. I set the oven at about 150 or so and keep the oven cracked open with a metal cookie cutter. This is supposed to let the moisture get out and speed the drying process. I went the oven route because I didn't feel like buying a dehydrator. Anyway, I use a round roast, pretty low fat content and the jerky tends to disappear within a week so I have yet to venture into long term storage of the stuff.
As for the cure, my marinade is mostly soy sauce with liquid smoke, teriyaki sauce, and worstishire. So it basically sits in a brine overnight before drying it out.
I've done a mess of reading on curing and preserving meats. The nitrates, namely Sodium nitrites, do not appear to be 100% required but make it last longer. Also sugar appears to be another common ingredient in the curing of meats (I'm sure it serves a purpose but I don't really know what).
Again, I haven't salt cured squat for longevity purposes. But here's some more of my thoughts. Pork should store longer than beef with just a salt cure. I think this is due to fat in the meat itself (pork having less). I'm also under the impression that a combination of a brine and smoking will pretty well destroy any bacteria issues you'll have. Read "smoking" as actually smoking or dehydrating. For a short clip on salt pork check this guy out. Jas Townsend on YouTube. Here's a link.
My research is based on 17/18th century recipies, documentation etc. My logic behind chosing this path is that we (as humans) knew how to do this at one point and have since forgotten. That and the use of normal ingredients seems more attractive to me than preservatives you can't pronounce. That's just me though. Heres a parting link for y'all. It's a bit more modern, but really informative.
And yeah, I know this thread is about long term storage of jerky, I just can't separate jerky and the curing of other meats. The same theories should apply. Anyway, good stuff out there. May just have to cure something and see how long it lasts.
I have made jerky before but not long term. Would this recipe be ok for long term or should I add or take away anything.
i plan on vacuum sealing it.