Homemade Bison Jerky
Intermountain Bison sells buffalo jerky and it's available at a price that is impossible to beat doing your own. But if you are the adventurous type that loves to experiment and insists on having everything your own way, we're going to show you how to make your own bison jerky. There are many reasons to make your own jerky, which have nothing to do with price. Maybe you like a fiery-hot, picante jerky. Or maybe garlic is your thing. Or you like it slightly moister than what you get in the bag. Whatever your reason, we'll help you get started. You should be aware of a few things before we get started, however. If the meat isn't dried properly and isn't at the proper percentage of moisture, it's not shelf stable. Let me say that again. You must dry your meat properly to get a shelf stable product. Yes, you can still store you jerky perfectly well in the freezer, but if you let it sit out for very long (several days in a hot humid environment) it's going to mold and have all kinds of nasty bacteria you ought not eat. On the other hand, you can take jerky that is more moist out of the freezer and take it hunting with no problems. So read on to find out how to make and how to store your own jerky. Let me also clarify that the following ingredients are a base -- a starting point. The ingredients you could use are limited only by your imagination. But this will provide a good base for those just getting started. It should also be noted that you're going to prepare this marinade by your nose and your taste buds, not by fixed amounts, so decide in advance you're going to have a little fun with this. Ingredients: Bison Sirloin Steaks You can use just about any cut of meat, but jerky works best out of lean meat. Fat in the meat will go rancid and invite mold and spoilage, so well-trimmed, lean meat is the meat of choice. Worcestershire Sauce Don't buy cheap Worcestershire sauce. You're not going to use that much, so get Lea & Perrins or another quality brand. Soy Sauce Again, get a good quality soy sauce. The difference in notable. Honey We like organic, raw honey, but pretty much any 100% pure honey will work. Smoked Paprika Again, get a good quality paprika and make sure it's fresh. Read the expiration on the label. Garlic Powder Not garlic salt! Garlic powder. Again a fresh product works best. Onion powder Fresh onion, very finely minced will work here as well. But powder is easier. The fresh onion will provide a superior flavor. Try some of both. Hot Peppers This could be cayenne pepper, chipotle peppers, red chili flakes, or any of the fresh peppers. You decide. Remember cooking will concentrate the flavors, so don't get carried away. Spices This is where your creativity comes in. You can try cumin, it goes well with Worcestershire sauce. Or fennel (the spice you would recognize from sausage links,) or just about anything else you can think of. Of course you're not going to want to forget salt and pepper. Kosher salt is nice because it's chunkier. If you want to make a peppered jerky, fresh, coarsely-ground black pepper is a must. Be creative here. Go through your spice cupboard and taste everything in there. See what you think would work and add some. As always, start small and build up over time. Cooking Instructions: First you're going to want to cut the steaks into strips. The thinner you slice the meat the more tender it will be. For a more tender, easier to eat jerky cut the meat across the meat fibers. For a more traditional jerky, cut with the fibers of the meat. You don't want your strips to be too thick, as they will be difficult to dry clear to the middle. The thinner you slice your meat the quicker they will dry in the oven. One little tip here is it's easier to slice meat that is tempered. That means if the meat is in transition between frozen and thawed when you cut it, it will be easier to get uniformly sized pieces. Once you have the meat sliced, set it aside while you prepare the marinade. In a large mixing bowl combine equal parts Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. This is the base. A cup or so of each is a good place to start. Next add some honey to taste. How much? Your nose will tell you when you have enough. Or a quick taste to confirm what your nose is saying. Next, add the spices, the paprika and powdered onion and garlic. Mix well smelling the mixture as you stir it. The way this is done is you add a little and smell while you're stirring. Then add a little more. When you think it's about right, take a little taste. Then add whatever you need. Spices with a pungent taste (like cloves or cinnamon) and those with heat (like cayenne and pepper flakes) should be added at the end of the process. Same with the salt and pepper. Once you have the marinade prepared, add the meat and let it sit refrigerated over night. In the morning, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a rack over the foil-lined pan. Stretch the meat out on the rack in an even and uniform way. Preheat the oven to 150 - 200 degrees (higher for thinner pieces and lower for thicker pieces) and place the pan in the oven for 3-4 hours. You'll need to check the progress from time to time, which won't be hard, because your entire house is going to smell absolutely heavenly. You want to dry the meat, but you don't want it over done. If the meat breaks like a cracker, you went too far. It should be slightly dryer than fruit leather, but not as dry as a cracker. When the meat is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool. You'll want to take the meat off the rack so it doesn't stick when it's cool. Be sure you store your jerky in the freezer. It should easily last 6 - 9 months in the freezer if you package it right (see our post on how to freeze properly.) Take the jerky from the freezer when you're ready to use it. It will have a shelf life of a few days at most, so don't take out more than you can eat in a short time. Conclusion: Making your own jerky is fun and allows you to have exactly what you want when you want it. If you like it thicker, you can do that. If you like it more moist (within reason) you can do that. If you like it fiery hot, you can do that. The possibilities are limitless -- literally. It's going to cost a little more (probably a lot more when you factor in your time) but you're going to be able to get exactly what you want. If this all sounds like more work than it's worth, well, just click on the jerky link on our website. Our selection is good and our product is the best you can buy. If you want to make your own, have at it. It's fun and you'll enjoy the process. You'll also have an appreciation for why jerky is more expensive than other snacks. It's a lengthy process and requires a lot of hand work. The process above described is the basically the process we use every day to make our Intermountain Bison jerky. That's why it's the best. Let us know what spices you use and how you prepare it. We'd love to hear in the comments about what you're doing. Now, go on. Give it a go. You'll never be sorry you tried.