Pineywoods Beef Jerky - An Easy, Tasty Recipe
A winter tradition at Ozark Akerz Regenerative Farm is to make a big batch of beef jerky with about ten pounds (4.5 kg) of Pineywoods beef roasts, a little pepper, and a little salt. No fancy marinades and the flavor is amazing!
When I lived in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as a kid, there was nothing better than a piece of biltong which was usually made of beef but sometimes kudu. When I moved to Canada at the age of 8 my beloved biltong was replaced by beef jerky which was almost as tasty. Over time the quality of store-bought jerky has deteriorated badly. The added flavors have taken the place of true beef flavor. Most homemade jerky recipes emphasize the marinade. We love the flavor of our Heritage Pineywoods Beef so much, we don't want to cover it up.
We have made jerky with venison, but the flavor of Heritage Pineywoods Beef is by far our favorite. Everyone that tries it loves it. Jerky making has become a new Christmas tradition, then we make another batch in January, it doesn't last long! Winter is the best time for jerky making because running the oven or dehydrator for long periods of time helps heat the house. Our ultimate goal is to learn to dry over an open fire, more on that once we've figured it out.
What you'll need to make Pineywoods Beef Jerky
The basics for the job
Paraphernalia that make our lives easier
The most time consuming tasks are slicing and clean-up. If you are going to do 10 lbs at a time we suggest using an electric food slicer. This dramatically reduces the slicing time and gives you more uniformity, but a sharp filet knife will do the job.
If you're using the oven, you'll need jerky racks. Look for racks that stack on top of each other so you can dry more jerky at once. We like the Lem Products racks because they are a bit bigger than others and the tray is great for catching drippings. They have a starter kit with one tray and 3 racks. We started with 2 racks and now stack them 5-6 deep. The tray also comes in handy as a catch for excess salt and pepper that falls through the rack when seasoning the meat. Cleaning the wire trays is made a lot easier if you soak them for a few hours before scrubbing them. The trays that came with our Excalibur dehydrator are a lot easier to clean.
Time To Make Pineywoods Beef Jerky
The preparation and anticipation of jerky making for us starts 40 hours before we cut our first slice. We take the Heritage Pineywoods Beef roasts out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator. Forty hours later the outside of the beef is softening but the inside is still well frozen, making it easier to cut thin slices. The time will vary based on the temperature of your freezer, your refrigerator and the size of the roasts. Our roasts average between 3.5-4.5 lbs (1.5- 2 kg). If you're in doubt, check the roast every so often.
1. Your first step is to use a filet knife to trim the fat. Don’t be afraid to trim a little meat with the fat. We freeze all the trimmings and add them to to the pot when making tasty soups or bone broths.
2. Slicing the meat is quicker and easier if you stop to sharpen your knife occasionally, especially if you are slicing a lot of meat. Thickness is a bit of a personal preference, but we've found with that the thickness of store bought sliced cheese it about right. Place the slices in a bowl.
3. Once you've completed the slicing, you can lay out the jerky on the racks and season with salt and pepper. Having two people for this job saves a lot of time, one can lay out the meat on the rack, the other can season and move the racks to the oven/dehydrator. How much salt and pepper to season the meat with is based on personal preference and can take a bit of trial and error. If you're unsure, season the trays differently so you can discover what you like best.
The amount of time you leave the jerky in the oven or dehydrator is a matter of preference too. If you prefer a chewier jerky, 4 hours will be about right but if you like it crispy like potato chips, 6 hours will get you the result you're looking for. Our dehydrator has a specific setting for beef jerky, which is 155F (68C), we set the oven at 160. Some ovens may require you to crack the door a bit to allow the moisture to escape, check your owners manual to see specific instructions. Note that you can't really tell the final texture of the jerky while its dehydrating, it may get a bit crispier after its removed from the oven and sits for a while.
The other thing to consider is how long and how you plan to store it. I don't have much self-control, our jerky disappears in less than a month so I don't have a problem leaving our jerky on the counter in glass containers. If we are storing it for longer periods, we usually freeze it in small portions. We eat it frozen or thawed, it's tasty either way. Sue has become a fan of the freezer option because I can't always find every single package, so she actually gets more than a piece or two before its gone.
We find that the flavor of the jerky gets deeper and more pronounced if it sits for a few days after removing it from the oven. It's about as easy to not eat freshly made jerky as it is to not eat freshly baked bread!
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