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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







Cellophane Gift Baskets


With Easter fast approaching, that means baskets.   Who doesn’t love those wonderful cellophane wrapped baskets filled full of chocolate eggs, peeps, bunnies and . .  . jerky?!!

Well maybe not the younger members of the family.   But just about everyone loves digging through a gift basket.  And,  knowing how to  wrap a cellophane basket yourself can be fun as well as money-saving.

We’ve found a couple of short videos (see below)  for those of you who would like to give it a try.

Aside from the contents, the supplies you’ll need are minimal – and you probably have most of them at home already.


  • Basket
  • Cellophane
  • Tape
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors

Don’t forget a cellophane wrapped gift basket filled with jerky making gear – or a variety of homemade jerky – makes a great gift for any occasion.

For an assortment of cellophane products  available on Amazon, visit this link.



Off-the-Shelf Seasonings

As promised, we’re taking a look at some OTS (off-the-shelf) flavors you can use when making jerky at home that you may not have thought of. Best part, you probably already have some of them.

  • Liquid Smoke
  • Teriyaki Sauce or Marinade
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Szechuan Seasoning Mix (packaged)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Chili Powder
  • Any flavored steak or BBQ sauce

These flavor enhancers can be used with either strips where you would marinate the meat or they can be mixed into the ground meat to be used in your jerky gun.

Note:  If using one of these flavor ingredients or a combination of them,  Morton Tender Quick  should be included as part of recipe for the cure.    The standard ratio of Morton Tender Quick  to meat is 1 tablespoon per 1 pound of meat.

To help you get started, we’ve placed a few  recipes below. [1]



Hot & Spicy Szechuan Jerky


  • 1 lb. ground venison (buffalo would be a good substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon Morton Tender Quick
  • 1 package hot and spicy Szechuan seasoning mix (3/4 oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Add the Szechwan spice mix and Morton Tender Quick  to the meat and mix well.
  2. Sprinkle soy sauce over the meat and blend.
  3. Use a jerky gun to extrude the meat into sticks and dry per dehydrator directions.

Chili Sticks


  • 1 lb ground meat   (beef, buffalo, venison)
  • 1 tablespoon Morton Tender Quick
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Note:  This one can be made hotter by increasing the amount of chili powder and ground red pepper. 


  1. Blend dry spices and mix into meat. It should be well blended in.
  2. Use a jerky gun to extrude the meat into sticks and dry per dehydrator directions.




Easy Oven Jerky


  • 2 lb. venison steak sliced into thin strips (or beef, buffalo)
  • Morton Sugar Cure  (plain)
  • Sauce – this can be your favorite steak sauce, BBQ sauce, liquid smoke or any other flavored sauce, i.e., sweet and sour


  1. Rub the Morton Sugar Cure  onto all sides of the strips and place on racks in an oven with door slightly ajar.
  2. Set oven temperature to 200 degrees F and dry until internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
  3. When the jerky is almost dry, remove and brush both sides with your favorite sauce. (If using liquid smoke, only brush one side as it can become over-powering)
  4. Return jerky to the oven until jerky is dry and the sauce coating is well set.


[1] The Complete Jerky Book, M. Burch