How I Preserve Food: Smoking

Smoked Venison Jerky

Remember when I participated in the What’s Your Threat? round robin with a lot of other bloggers a little while ago? Well we’re at it again, only this time everyone is sharing a different way that they preserve foods. I love this, and I love that there are so many different and unique ways to look at food preservation.

This time around, I decided to share with you how we cure and smoke meats, this time specifically focusing on venison jerky. Because jerky is one of my families favorite snacks, our Big Chief Smoker sees a lot of action, all year long. Not only do we smoke jerky in it, we also smoke fish, cheese, and various cuts of beef and pork. We love that smokey flavor!

Making venison jerky is pretty simple and only takes a little planning and preparation. Like most things, the rest of the time is spent just waiting on one step or another to be over so you can move to the next one. Jerky can also be pretty forgiving, so don’t worry about messing it up. I’ll walk you through how our family makes plain and simple pepper jerky, and give you a few other spice options that we also enjoy to get your creative juices flowing.

Peppered Venison Jerky

We use a cure and smoke method with our jerky. First, we cut up the venison into strips and remove any fat, connective tissue, or silver skin. This just helps to ensure that your end product is the best quality that it can be. You don’t want to go to the time and effort of making jerky just to end up with and inferior end result. Then, we add the strips of meat to a cure. To make the cure that we like, we simply mix 1 quart of water, 1/2 cup of non-iodized salt and 1’2 cup sugar together. You can add other seasonings and spices to this, but more on that a little later. I didn’t take a picture of these steps because….well…because I was doing them and I *sort* of forgot. Sorry!!

Let the venison sit in the cure for 12 hours. Then drain the meat and rinse it well. What the cure does is use salt to remove the liquid from the meat and replace it with a saline solution (the cure you mixed up). Next, lay the pieces of meat out on cookie cooling racks. Make cure you leave a little space between the pieces so air can get all around each of them. Let it sit in the refridgerator, overnight, uncovered. This helps to dry off the meat, if it’s still wet when you put it in the smoker, the smoke tends to kind of “slide” off of the jerky. We find that this step takes your jerky from good  to great!

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Once the meat has sat overnight, it’s time to smoke it. I mentioned before that we use a Big Chief Electric Smoker, so my directions for smoking will be specifically for that make/model. You may need to adjust a bit depending on what smoker you own. For us, we transfer the meat from cooling racks to the racks for the smoker. At this point, you can add additional spices or seasonings to your jerky. For this jerky, we opted to heavily pepper the meat so that we would end up with pepper jerky. You can add whatever you wish.

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Place the racks into the smoker and fill your chip pan with whatever wood you’ve chosen to smoke your jerky with. We’re using alder today, but the choice of wood is certainly up to you.

Smoked Venison Jerky

Lightly wet the wood chips and place the filled pan on the electric coil and replace the front of the smoker.

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Smoked Venison Jerky

According to our directions, we needed to go through 2 pans of smoke before leaving the jerky in the smoker to finish. When the second pan of chips has been used up, unplug the smoker and let it sit. As soon as the smoker is completely cool and no traces of smoke remain, open it up to check your jerky. It should be completely done. Try out a piece or two before taking the jerky off of the racks and placing it in a container. Don’t cover the jerky until it’s completely cooled, or else it will sweat in whatever container you’ve used and ruin your jerky.

Smoked Venison Jerky

Now, you can vacuum seal it in bags or jars, if you end up having enough left to store ;)

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little peak into how we make jerky and I hope it inspires you to try it, too. Do you like smoked foods? Have you ever used a smoker to preserve foods before?

Here are some more ways to preserve food from a few of my friends. Happy reading!!

 

The Prepared Bloggers - How We Preserve Foods

Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.

Mom with a PREPHow to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder

Preparedness MamaMake Jam Without Pectin

Mama KautzDehydrating

Busy B HomemakerFreezer Jam

Ed That MattersAnyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage

The Apartment PrepperEasy Marinated Mushrooms

The Homesteading HippyHow to Use Your Pressure Canner

Montana HomesteaderMaking and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup

Are We Crazy or WhatHow to Dehydrate Cherries

Your Thrive LifeHow I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar

Melissa K NorrisRe-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?

Real Food LivingPreserve and Store Grains wiith Dry Ice

Cooke’s FrontierSmoking

Homestead DreamerWater Bath Canning

Evergrowing FarmHow to Preserve Red Chile

Survival SherpaModern Mountain Man MRE’s

The Backyard PioneerFermentation

Trayer WildernessHow We Preserve Food

Living Life in Rural IowaVegetable Soup

The Organic PrepperHow to Make Jam without using added Pectin

Homesteading MomHow I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup

A Matter of PreparednessHow I Preserve Using Mylar Bags

Learning Lessons On Food Preservation From Little House on the Prairie

Zucchini Bread

This is a re-cap of my podcast for this week, Learning Lessons On Food Preservation From Little House on the Prairie, if you’d rather read than listen. If you enjoy listening you can find all of my shows in the Cooke’s Frontier Archives on The Survival Mom Radio Network.

This week, I’ve spent the week doing a couple different kinds of food preservation. I’ve been dehydrating and we’ve been smoking meat to make jerkey! I love using both of these types of food preservation, for different reasons.

Dehydrating foods is at the top of my list for ways to put food by. Does anyone ever say that anymore? Putting food by always makes me think of days gone by, of the ladies of our pioneer roots filling their cupboards, cellars and attics with foods to sustain their families through the winter.

We’ve been reading the book, Little House in The Big Woods and I have always loved the part of the book describing all of the foods in the attic.

“Now the potatoes and carrots, the beets and turnips and cabbages were gathered and stored in the cellar, for freezing nights had come.
Onions were made into long ropes, braided together by their tops, and then were hung in the attic beside wreaths of red peppers strung on threads. The pumpkins and the squashes were piled in orange and yellow and green heaps in the attic’s corners.

The barrels of salted fish were in the pantry, and yellow cheeses were stacked on the pantry shelves.”

These were people who didn’t have the store to fall back on, who knew that they MUST have these stores of food because there was literally NO WHERE else for them to go if they ran out. The next few paragraphs in the book talk about butchering pigs and smoking venison, but to me- they share a lesson.

If we want to have a bountiful harvest, we have to work with a singular purpose in mind and that is survival. Yes, we have modern stores and conveinences to fall back on but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all have the skills, knowledge and drive to be able to preserve food for our families like that? It would be amazing.
However, since I am not able to live like that right now, I must focus on what I can do and for me that’s learning many different ways of food preservation. Today, we can employ some of the same techniques as Ma and Pa in our own homes.

Dehydrating is one of the most popular ways to preserve food, after freezing and canning. When you dehydrate food, you’re taking as much as 90% of the moisture out of the food and putting it into a state of food-hybernation. There isn’t enough moisture left to cause rapid deterioration, but enough has been removed to allow for a year or so of storage. Also, dehydrating foods causes them to shrink so that many pounds of fruit or vegetables ends up being only a few ounces or maybe a few pounds that can be easily stored in a much smaller space.
This week I dehydrated blueberries and I shared how I do that in a post last week: How To Dehydrate Blueberries.

After my berries are dehydrated, I use them in all of our favorite recipes- like muffins, pancakes and even in our morning oats. I simply pour a little boiling water over the berries and let them sit to rehydrate while I mix up my batter, then I drain the berries if I need to and then add them to my cooking or baking.

Another way we really love to preserve foods is by smoking them. We love to smoke fish and venison, and to make our own jerky. In fact, my family loves venison jerky so much that we have to make it on a fairly regular basis. Making jerky is a pretty basic process, and I’ll be doing a how to post on it very soon.

Smoking foods is another food preservation method that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. You might soak your meat in a brine, cut it into thin strips and lay it out over a smoldering fire. We’re talking caveman stuff here!! It’s one of the oldest ways out there to preserve meats and it continues to be popular for a reason.

I also want to share this recipe for Zucchini Bread (pictured at the top of the post) that I thought I’d pass on since everyone should have the little green summer squash running out of their ears right about now.

How do you preserve foods? Have you dehydrated or smoked foods? I’d love it if you would share your recipes or stories on the Cooke’s Frontier Facebook page, or you can email me at cookesfrontier@yahoo.com as well. I love hearing from you, so feel free to share and send mail my way. I try to answer all of the email I get, so who knows- you might end up with a new email pal ;) LOL