March 09, 2021
By Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley
If you shot an old buck and don't find that it tastes very good at the dinner table, jerky is the answer. If you're the only one in your family who likes venison and you can't eat them as fast as you shoot them – this is a more common problem that you think – jerky is the answer. Jerky makes the perfect snack, and it will be gone before you know it.
My suggestion is to skip those boxed jerky cures from your local sporting goods store. They're loaded with salt, and that's all you really taste. Making your own jerky marinade is easy. There's really no formula of ingredients that you have to follow. See what you have in your pantry, and make your own marinade based on the spices and sauces that you like. We're trying to eat less salt at our house, so the recipe below is light on sodium. Before adding the Prague powder/instacure, taste the marinade and if you wish, add pickling salt or soy sauce.
Some people don't like to use curing salt because it is a preservative, but I don't like botulism more. And it will help your jerky last longer. You can make jerky in the oven, but I highly recommend buying a dehydrator if you're going to make jerky a "thing" in your life. My oven is unreliable and the temperature only goes down to 170. I also like my jerky a bit sweet and sometimes the jerky comes out of the oven tasting a bit burnt. The dehydrator we have is from Open Country, and it works like a champ. We've also used it to dehydrate morel mushrooms in the spring.
Also, be sure to always practice safe food handling: take good care of your game in the field, package and store it properly when you get home, and keep everything cold up until you're ready to dehydrate. Also make sure that your hands, equipment and prep space are sanitized. Use only lean meat when making jerky; fat goes rancid too quickly. Store your jerky in vacuumed sealed bags in the refrigerator or freezer for a longer shelf life.
Prep time: 24 hours
Cook time: 3-4 hours
- 1 pound venison roast
- 1 cup of strong, black coffee, hot
- 5 tablespoons blackberry preserves
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
- 4 tablespoons ponzu sauce
- ¼ teaspoon Prague powder/instacure #1 pink curing salt
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- Remove all silver skin and visible fat off venison roast. Pat dry with a paper towel and set in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Meanwhile, mix together coffee, blackberry preserves, maple syrup, sriracha, ponzu and the curing salt. Allow to cool.
- Once meat is firm, cut thinly (about ¼-inch thick) against the grain. Place meat into a plastic zip-top bag and pour in marinade. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Remove meat from the marinade, shaking off excess moisture, and then lay the meat onto the drying racks. For a spicy kick, sprinkle red pepper flakes onto the wet meat before drying. Make sure the pieces are not overcrowded, not touching each other, for good air flow. Set your dehydrator to 160 degrees. I was able to fit all the pieces on just two racks and they finished drying in about 3 hours. The jerky is done when you can bend it and see stringy, white cracks. I like my jerky with a bit of a soft chew, but if you like really dry, brittle jerky, let it go longer in the dehydrator.
Tip: I occasionally rotated the racks for even drying. You can also double this recipe, but drying times will vary depending on the make and model of your dehydrator and how many racks you stack together. To be on the safe side, I dry my jerky in smaller batches. Check the jerky after 2 and a half hours to make sure your jerky doesn't get too dry.