Preserving Spring – Lamb Jerky
There are many different for making a batch of preserves. Sometimes it may be driven by a memory of something you ate, a time, place or part of your childhood. It may be driven by something you read, heard about or want to try. Perhaps you simply want to experiment or have a trusted recipe that comes with the season. I occasionally make something because I think I can give it a funny name (`currant events`had me buying 3 different types of currants for jelly last year).
Sometimes I work a batch to simply learn. This was the case with Lamb Jerky – it`s an impractical amount of work to endure unless you are a wizard with a kitchen knife. I am not a trained chef or butcher though I am very, very comfortable in the kitchen and found this to be a near-painful amount of work (though a lot of fun and super educational).
What`s all the fuss about? When you make jerky, you want to avoid fat. Fat spoils quickly and lamb has a lot of it. It took several hours of work to yield about a cup for wonderful jerky. Working with lean beef or game speeds this process up by thousands of percent (you can basically slice the right cuts with little need to trim).
We started with a shank:
I recently attended a butchery workshop at Cowbell (if you are unfamiliar with the restaurant or the workshop and are interested in a 100-mile Toronto restaurant or learning about restaurants cooking nose-to-tail, the series is here) and it helped a lot. I recall Mark and Ryan emphasizing `different muscles are separated by layers of fat – follow the fat to teach you where to separate muscles.` This piece of knowledge really guided me in the process and I was able to cut the shank down sufficiently like this:
From there, it was time to trim it out further and remove all layers of fat. A sharper knife could have been a better friend but my sharpener was one-hour north of me. I did what I could – further breaking down the cuts above and trimming the cuts out even further.
From there, the process of making jerky is fairly simple. We followed the instructions of the National Center for Home Food Preservation which recommended marinating meat overnight (we went slightly longer) before dehydrating at 140 degrees – we added a final step that they also provided which was to cook the meat for an additional 10 minutes at 275 degrees on a cookie sheet. The final product should bend and crack instead of breaking. Rather than giving the full details and rewriting their very good article, click here to learn about the process in full.
Our marinade included soy sauce, salt, a touch of sugar, hot chilli flakes, Worcestershire and pepper (a basic recipe is also on their site at the link provided).
The taste and texture are awesome. If you’ve only had store-bought jerky, this is very little like it. The flavor is rich – hot, spicy and sweet all at the same time. The earthiness of the lamb appears a few moments after the fiery sweetness of the “candy coating” kicks in. It’s an addictive snack – I could eat the jar in a single sitting; about 4 hours of active work and 2 days of waiting could be gone in a moment. I must practice restraint. I must practice…
The final product is about 1-cup of jerky. It will last for 2 weeks in a sealed container on the counter or longer in the fridge (of course some freeze jerky in air-tight bags for even longer storage).
We will be experimenting with jerky’s and sharing recipes through the summer and into the fall as we prepare to (hopefully make) Jerky with some of the game we harvest in the fall.
Well that`s all for today`s post in our Preserving Spring series. We are continuing to write one per day as a follow-up to the article in Edible Toronto. We`re continuing to do one-a-day until complete and you can see the entire series by clicking here.