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Old Time Jerky Making

Dehydrators and ovens have made making jerky at home easy. But for those who want to try making jerky one of  the old-fashioned ways, we’re posting some methods[1] below.  These would be good to know for long-term camping or for   survival food.


OFJ_1Early Jerky – Native Americans


Some of the earliest jerky was made by Native Americans who would cut the meat in  thin strips and then hang them over racks made of thin branches. In the south and southwest, this was particularly easy since the air was dry.  However, when in the north a small, smoky fire helped speed up the process.  Drying time would depend on the type of meat and whether or not air/fire was used.


Old-Fashioned Jerky


Another method as described by Col. T. Whelen was to take the lean cuts of meat and dry them over a fire (or in the sun).  The strips should be cut wide, long and about 1/2 inch thick.  These would then be hung on a framework about 4-6 feet off the ground.  Below the rack would be a small, slow, smoky fire of any wood – OFJ_3except those with resin.*  The meat would be allowed to dry in the sun / wind; however, would be covered at night or in the rain.  This method should produce jerky in several days.


Note: The fire should not be so hot as to cook the meat.  This method produces a hard jerky that if kept away from damp and flies will keep for a long time.    It should also be noted that while this type of jerky can be used in stews, soups, etc; it should not be considered as a long-term food source as it has no fat.


* This is a partial list of trees / plants that should not be used because they contain resin [2]

  • Cedar
  • Fir
  • Juniper
  • Pine
  • Redwood
  • Spruce
  • Yew
  • Larch
  • Sweetgum
  • Aspen
  • Willow
  • Birch
  • Sarsaparilla


Campsite Jerky


OFJ_2This method requires a little more effort but if you have the time would be a good way to teach the younger members of the family about the ‘old days’.


The meat should be cut into strips, laid flat and sprinkled on both sides with pepper and lightly with salt rubbing both  in. Put a hole in each end of the strips and thread with cotton thread or cord then tie off to make a loop.  In a boiling pot of water, dip each loop for 15-20 seconds, remove, then re-dip.   These dipped strips are then hung to dry.


If hung outside in the sun, cover with cheesecloth to keep bugs off, as well as hanging them high enough so other animals can’t reach them. As an alternative, hang on a clothesline in a cold, dry room.

Strips should be dry in 4-5 days.






[1] The Complete Jerky Book, Monte Burch







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