Beef and Chicken Jerky

Last Christmas I was given a really cool gift – a jerky maker!how to make chicken jerky

This thing works like a caulking gun.  You mix your ground meat with whatever spices or cure you are using, load up the barrel, and then smoosh the stuff out onto a dehydrating tray or cookie sheet.  After several hours in your dehydrator or oven – voila – jerky!  It’s that simple.  The coolest part about it is that you make your jerky from ground meat.  No need to thinly slice the meat anymore!

I actually prefer this kind of jerky.  Why?  Because it’s a lot easier on the teeth and jaws!  I have eaten (at least tried to) many commercially produced beef jerky products before that were just like shoe leather.  They had lots of flavor but took forever to actually eat!  The jerky made from ground meat tastes just as good but doesn’t cause sore jaws!

beef and chicken jerky recipe

hamburger beef jerky ready to be dehydrated.

The Nesco jerky maker I got has six packages of spices with six packages of cure.  If you buy this product, you should probably make a batch or two using the spices provided, just so you know what it’s supposed to look like, taste like, etc.. Then, branch out and try some other recipes.  I have gathered several good recipes and list them at the end of this article.  Once you try these, you can start developing your own recipe to reflect your own tastes!

One note about the “cure” package that is included in the Nesco Jerky Maker.  The cure contains sodium nitrite.  Large amounts of sodium nitrite isn’t good for you.  Period.  There have been lots of studies proving that it can cause cancer. Sure, small quantities here and there aren’t much of a concern simply because there are lots of naturally occurring nitrites in healthy natural foods that we eat every day.  Spinach has lots of nitrites.  So does celery.  By the way, so does your saliva!  So, what is the sodium nitrite good for?  It keeps the meat a nice pink color and it prevents botulism.  Deli meats are “cured” with nitrites to prevent botulism from growing deep inside the meat while it hangs in a cool room. However, I don’t plan to stop eating bacon or salami any day soon.  Nope.  So, why tempt fate and add more in the jerky when it’s not really necessary?

The biggest fear of not using nitrites is with the devastating effects of botulism poisoning.  It’s deadly.  But, for botulism to thrive (it’s actually the toxins produced by the botulism that causes the problems) it needs four things:  an anaerobic environment (no oxygen), moisture, warmth, and a low acid food.  When canning meat, you have an anaerobic environment, you have moisture and you also have a low acid food.  But, when you pressure can the food, you are able to kill the botulism before it can cause any harm.  That’s why you always pressure can any low acid food such as meats and most vegetables.

When making jerky, it’s perfectly fine not to add in the sodium nitrite cure if you are going to eat the jerky within a month or so.  Why?  Because you took out one of the major needs for the botulism to grow – moisture!  If you want to vacuum seal your jerky, which would put the meat into an anaerobic environment – just throw it into the freezer!  Now you have taken away the warmth AND the moisture requirement for botulism to grow.  That’s what I do.How to make beef and chicken jerky

One more word of caution.  Some dehydrators out there don’t get very hot.  For your jerky to be perfectly safe, the meat must reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, poultry 165 degrees.  This temperature ensures that all the pathogens that the meat can carry are killed off, including E. Coli, salmonella and other nasty bugs.  So, if you are drying in a conventional oven set at 170 degrees (which is the lowest most ovens go), you are perfectly fine.  However, if you dehydrator temperatures do not go that high, you will need to place your almost dried jerky strips in a preheated 275 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Since this will cook the jerky just a bit more, you will want to pull your jerky from the dehydrator before it has finished dehydrating to do this.  If, after the 10 minutes in the oven your jerky still isn’t done, that’s okay.  Just put it back into the dehydrator (after you have thoroughly washed the trays!) and finish dehydrating.  You have already killed off all of the bad bugs!

So – lets make some jerky!

HAMBURGER JERKY

This is the standard – or what my Nesco Jerky Maker was meant to be used with.  You can always buy your hamburger, but I prefer to grind my own.  That way I know what went into my hamburger and I can better control the fat content.

Once the hamburger has been ground up, mix in the spices and cure package (if you are using it) until it looks pretty uniform.  I found that when using my Kitchen Aid with the food grinder attachment, if I grind the meat using the large extruder plate, mix the meat and spices, then put the entire mixture back through the grinder with the smaller plate, I get a really good consistency that isn’t totally mush, but has mixed everything together really nicely.

how to make chicken jerky

The jerky “gun” loaded with the hamburger mixture and ready to go!

Now, load the barrel of the jerky maker. It will hold about 1 pound of meat.  Following manufacturer’s instructions, extrude the meat mixture onto either your dehydrator trays or onto a cookie sheet. Or, if you don’t have a jerky maker, roll the meat out between two sheets of waxed paper on top of a large cookie sheet.  Cut the meat into strips then freeze the entire cookie sheet with the meat on it.  When frozen (it shouldn’t take too long), you can carefully lift each previously cut strip of meat off the paper and place onto your dehydrator trays.  If you are using your oven to dehydrate, just separate the jerky strips a bit, leave them on the cookie sheet, and dehydrate it that way.  Once the jerky starts to dehydrate, flip them over and remove the paper.  Whichever method you use, carefully flip the jerky strips after about an hour, and then again at two hours.  It could take anywhere from 4-18 hours to sufficiently dry your jerky, depending on the humidity, temperature, method used and thickness of the meat.

CHICKEN JERKY

You can make jerky from just about any kind of meat you want to.  Of course we have all heard of venison jerky, beef jerky and turkey jerky – so why not chicken jerky?

how to make beef jerky

Chicken jerky ready for the oven.

I took two breasts I had frozen last week (see how I prepared 40 pounds of chicken), cut them into strips and then ground them just like I did the beef.  You have to be careful with grinding chicken, however, because it tends to mush up a lot easier than the beef or even turkey.  I ground my chicken breasts on the large extruder plate, then added spices, and put only half of the chicken and spice mixture through the extruder again.  When it was mixed again, it was a perfect consistency. Proceed just from here just like you are making beef jerky.

Now, as promised, here are some jerky recipes I have found and used.  I listed the web site that the entire recipe can be found and an ingredients list.  If you find a recipe you like, just visit the website to find the entire recipe!  Enjoy!

This one comes from:  www.allergyfreealaska.com

jerky 1

 

This recipe is from:   www.food.com

jerky 2

 

You can find this recipe here:  www.modernistcookingmadeeasy.comjerky 3

One more beef recipe:  www.offthecuttingboard.wordpress.comjerky 4

Now for some Turkey (or chicken) Jerky recipes.

Find this one here:   www.foodpreservation.about.comjerky 5

One more:   www.beefjerkyrecipes.comjerky 6

Have fun making and developing your own jerky recipes!  If you have a blog and have posted your version of the best jerky in the world, please let me know in the comments below!

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Good Night, Sweet (stevia) Prince

Good night, sweet prince”  (Forgive me, I love Shakespeare.)

What I am referring to is the death of my stevia plant.  I killed him.  On purpose.

how to grow stevia

He was a beautiful plant, except where I kept cannibalizing him!  😀

Why?  Because for it to survive, he must live inside my house, as he did last winter, and that’s not going to happen this year.  Why?  Well, for one reason, we are in the early stages of selling our home in the valley so we can move up to our future homestead and build our new house. (It’s about time!!) The garden where the stevia was planted (before I potted it up last winter) has long since been turned back into lawn – which according to our real estate agent is what most potential buyers want to see. So, my poor sweet prince has had to live in his pot on my front porch. 🙁

But more importantly, I don’t want to have the stevia in the house because last winter he became infested with an itty bitty critter called scale.  I’m not sure where the scale came from, and though I think I finally got rid of that pesky pest, but I don’t want to chance infecting my other house plants, either here or up on our future homestead.

Salad in the window

Here is my sweet prince in my windowsill last winter. The plant thrived and even bloomed in that south facing, warm window!

He served me well.  Very well. ” And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

Well, don’t be silly.  I know plants don’t go to heaven.  But I will tell you, this plant was heavenly!  Next spring I hope to start at least four stevia plants, and I will use what I have learned about growing this plant so my future sweet leaf plants thrive as well as, or even better!  What did I learn?

First – they like water, but don’t like wet feet.  In other words, keep their soil moist but not wet.

Second – they love sunshine – sort of.  When my stevia seedlings were first planted in the spring, they actually did quite well.  That is until the zucchini horned in on their space and shut out their direct sunlight!  Once I pulled out the zucchini (it got squash mosaic virus), the stevia started growing like wildfire!  Well, not really like wildfire, but certainly faster than it did when it was partially shaded by the big bad zucchini! Of course, that was in the spring.  Once the hot days of summer set in, the stevia seemed to suffer a bit in the strong sunlight!  I think they would have done better with a bit more afternoon shade.  Lessons learned.

One of two stevia seedlings in the garden.  Can you see how that squash leaf is starting to encroach in the stevia's sunlight?

One of two stevia seedlings in the garden. Can you see how that squash leaf is starting to encroach in the stevia’s sunlight?

Third – humans aren’t the only critters who like the stevia leaves.  I don’t know if bugs can taste sweetness (I am sure they can’t), but it seemed like every aphid, white fly and eventually scale wanted to munch on my stevia.  The white fly and aphids were easy enough to control with a spray made of water and just a drop of olive oil steeped in rosemary.  The scale seemed a bit more resistant.  I discovered, however, if I examined the plant every day and scraped off each scale as I found it, then continued to spray on my organic pest concoction, the scale was at least controlled (I haven’t seen an adult scale in about three months now) or completely eradicated!

Since I knew I wasn’t taking the stevia with me up to the future homestead and I couldn’t bring her into the house, I decided to harvest the last of her sweet leaves.  The simplest way to preserve the leaves is to just dry them in open air out of direct sunlight.  They dry to crunchy status within a day or two.  Store them in a jar or some other air-tight container and they can be used for at least a year.

how to grow stevia and what to do with it

Air drying stevia. It only takes a few days – then store in an airtight container.

How to I use my dried stevia leaves?  I drop some crushed leaves into my herbal teas. The heat from the water produces a lovely, natural sweetness.  Or, soak in very warm water for about 15-30 minutes (until soft and pliable and cooled off), crushing leaves against the side of the container every 5 minutes or so, then strain water into a pitcher of a cool beverage that you want to sweeten.  Lemon balm and stevia is refreshing on a hot summer day!

I have also made a tincture with stevia, which works great.  See this post HERE.

how to grow and use stevia

Store stevia syrup and/or tincture in dark glass bottles in a cool dark place.

As I throw the stevia carcass on the compost pile, I can only dream of next year’s crop.  I hope to be able to keep the new plants in the ground year-round, but we’ll see if that’s possible on the future homestead.  Being a semi-tropical plant, stevia does not like frost, and freezing temperatures are a death sentence.  However, with careful tenting and heavy mulching, I am hopeful.

how to grow and use stevia

Stevia flowers are beautiful and the plant usually blooms in the fall (November in my area). However, the blossoms can make your stevia leaves a bit bitter, so harvest as soon as you see the first blossom…      In other words, do as I say, not as I do!  😉

Do you have a stevia plant?  If you do, do you leave it in the ground for the winter or pot it up and bring it inside?  Also, do you have any special recipes you use your stevia in? If you do, please  share your recipe in the comments below, or add your post url containing the recipe!

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Forty Pounds of Chicken!!

This post contains an affiliate link. If you make a purchase from the link, I may earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps to finance this blog.  Thank you.

Recently I purchased a 40 pound box of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The chicken came in four bags of 10 pounds each, and this is what I did with it…

(drum roll, please)

What to do with 40 pounds of chickenWith the first bag of chicken, I sliced the breasts into planks and soaked them in marinade.  My dear hubby, Ray, then smoked the chicken planks before grilling them to perfection.  Once they had cooled a bit, I placed them on waxed paper and slid them into the freezer.  An hour or so later, when they were frozen, I used my Food Saver (aka “sucky machine”) to package them into meal sized portions.  We have done this many times before and really enjoy using this chicken sliced onto salads or mixed into pasta. Because of the smoked/grilled flavor and spicy marinade, it’s also great shredded in tacos and enchiladas, or used to make southwestern chicken chili or soup.  Of course, it’s really good just eaten as is – you don’t even need to reheat – just thaw and enjoy!marinated and grilled chicken planks

While Ray was grilling, I took another ten pound bag, sliced the breasts into cubes, then packed them into pint sized canning jars.  After adding plain ole’ water with a generous 1 inch headspace, I wiped the rims with vinegar (to make sure there wasn’t any grease, which could prevent a proper seal) placed the lids and rings finger tight, and pressure canned Canned Chickenthem for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  I opted not to add salt because this chicken would be used for cooking and/or baking, at which time I would add the appropriate amount of salt. The canned chicken can be used to make pasta dishes, ravioli fillings, chicken tacos, chicken soup – the list goes on and on!  The best part about canning chicken is that no further energy is needed to preserve it once it is properly canned!  If you will be pressure canning at an elevation above 1,000 feet, please follow current guidelines for processing time and pressures. You can get that information here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_05/chicken_rabbit.html

Freezing and vacuum sealing chickenNext, I prepared the rest of the chicken breasts for freezing whole.  There wasn’t really much to do except cut the two halves apart, and place them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet to flash freeze. I used four cookie sheets to do this because it’s important that the chicken doesn’t freeze together.  Also, the air space between the breasts helps to freeze them quicker.  I did cut off that weird nugget piece that goes under the wing of the chicken, and any fat on the chicken, and saved these pieces to make chicken stock. Once frozen, they were individually placed into Ziploc Bags and vacuum sealed.  This ensures freshness for at least six months, usually longer.  Our’s won’t last that long because chicken is our favorite meat protein.vacuum sealed frozen chicken breasts

The bits, pieces and parts that were trimmed off the breasts were slow roasted for several hours (to get that how to make and can chicken stockwonderful flavor),  then dumped into a large pot of cold water and stored in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, I skimmed off the fat that was floating on the top of the water, and then simmered for several hours with carrots, onions, garlic, salt, pepper and one bay leaf.  The broth was strained (reserving the chicken meat) and returned to the heat to reduce until it was a beautiful amber color.  I let the broth reduce to about half the volume I started with  because this really intensifies the flavor.  The broth was strained once more as it was ladled into pint sized canning jars, then pressure canned for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure to preserve it’s goodness.  I live lower than 1,000 feet in elevation, so 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure are sufficient to stop botulism in it’s track for me.  If you live at a higher elevation, please see the current recommendations for processing time and pressure for your area.  Again, you can read about the current processing times and recommendations on this website:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_05/chicken_rabbit.htmlmake and can chicken stock

The final tally from 40 pounds of chicken:

15 bags of marinated smoked and grilled chicken strips, each bag consisting of 5 to 6 planks (which is 2 meal sized portions – perfect for hubby and I)

8 pints of pressure canned chicken breast chunks.

14 frozen whole chicken breasts.

4 pints of canned reduced chicken broth (plus one half pint which is in my refrigerator)

2 cups of shredded chicken from the trimmings used to make the broth.  Chicken enchiladas, anyone?

So, where did I get this wonderful looking, fresh chicken?how to preserve 40 pounds of chicken

Zaycon Foods.  This is how Zaycon Foods describes their service:

Zaycon Foods is a privately owned company based in Spokane, Washington. The company was founded in 2009 with the simple mission to bring farm fresh meats direct to consumers at wholesale prices. You see, we knew all the farmers who had the best stuff around. Thanks to our experience in the grocery industry, we knew how to quickly move that great stuff from point to point, preserving its freshness, taste, and nutrition. So we asked ourselves: “Why are there middlemen involved? Why aren’t we just getting this food directly from the farms to the people who are going to eat it?” That idea grew into the company we are today. When we started off just a few short years ago, we offered only a few meats in a few areas. But thanks to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response we’ve gotten from all of you, Zaycon has grown like wildfire!”

That sounded pretty good to me, but I am a skeptic, so I decided to try it out by buying just one forty pound box of boneless, skinless chicken.  I paid $1.89 pound, which is a very good price where I live here in Northern California.  Zaycon calls the delivery of their food an “event”, and there are “events” all over the place!  All I had to do was arrive at a certain parking lot in my city between 5 and 5:30 PM on the specified date.  Easy enough.

how to freeze and or can chickenI was amazed to see just how simple the whole process was.  Ordering was easy. Then, on the appointed day, we got in the line-up of cars (we were #4) and in just a few minutes we were at the front of the line.  The gentleman asked us our last name, confirmed that we had bought one box, and forty pounds of chicken was placed into the trunk of our car.  It took less than 10 minutes and we were already on our way home.

When I got the chicken home and inspected it…

Holy moly!  Heavens to Mergatroyd!

These breasts were huge!  And to be honest, I had never seen chicken breasts sold like this before, still attached to the other breast!  I was also pleased to see that there was very little fat clinging onto the breasts. When I opened the bag containing the chicken, the odor wasn’t at all like the odor ofl store bought chicken.  Ah ha…  so this is what fresh chicken is supposed to smell like!!

Will I use Zaycon Foods again?  Yes!  YES!  This was the best chicken I have ever purchased in my life – seriously!  Cross my heart!

The next “event” in my town that I will be ordering from will be the bacon event.  I have to be careful not to buy too much, because my freezer space will be limited when we move up to the future homestead (hopefully soon!).  But, this will give me a chance to try canning bacon!  To me, having to buy in bulk is really the only disadvantage of buying from Zaycon…   You see, 40 pounds is the smallest box of chicken breasts that they sell.  That being said, having customers buy in bulk is exactly how they are able to keep prices so low – which is okay for me because I am able to can some and freeze some.  However, sharing the cost of a box or two and then processing the meat with friends sounds like an excuse for a party!

If you would like to see the Zaycon web site, click HERE.  I promise, if you buy chicken from Zaycon Foods, you will be impressed!

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Chinese Plum Sauce

Canning Chinese Plum Sauce

The last of our Santa Rosa plums. It was a very good year!

Our Santa Rosa Plum tree outdid itself this year.  I have canned a batch of crockpot plum butter and we have 12 quarts of organic plum juice all put up and ready for the winter.  I love plum cobblers and we have had quite a few, but geeze louise, I shouldn’t be eating them every night!  I could, but I shouldn’t. 😀

So, I searched my canning books and right there, in my handy dandy Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, was a recipe for Chinese Plum Sauce! Perfect. This is the stuff that you slather on a pork loin or ribs, and it makes that sweet, tangy, sticky crust.  MMmmm…

Then, I found a couple more recipes, almost the same, just tweaked a bit.  So, I decided to follow several recipes (the main ingredients were all the same) but tweak the spices just a bit to suit my taste.

Dearest Hubby went out and picked the last of the plums off the tree for me.

Thank God.

No really… I did thank God that the plums are finally done! This recipe takes 10 cups of pitted plums, so it was a winner when it came to using up a lot of them.

Bottling Chinese Plum Sauce

A little over 8 cups of finely chopped (in the food processor) Santa Rosa plums.

Of course, the first thing to do is wash the plums.  The recipe calls for ten cups of finely chopped pitted plums.  I ran mine through the food processor – after pitting of course!  It’s just faster this way and you don’t lose any of the juice that you might lose if you were to manually chop them up on a cutting board. Although I had much more than the ten cups of plums needed to start with, these were the last of the year and so several of them had worms inside or bird peckings, so I tossed those.  I ended up with just a little over nine cups, about 2/3 of a cup less than the recipe called for, but I went ahead with the sauce anyway!  Usually it isn’t good to change a tried and true and safe canning recipe, but I knew that with the amount of acid (1 cup of vinegar) that was added to the plums, the sauce would be more than safe.

Jarring Plum Sauce

First, all of the ingredients for the sauce, except the plums, were brought to a boil on the stove. This had a very, spicy, pungent, vinegar smell.

All of the ingredients were added to a large pot, brought to a boil, and then the plums were tossed in.  This was all allowed to boil for about 2 hours – until it was thick and syrupy.  The smell was amazing!  It was sweet and sour at the same time, but had just a little hint of a spicy, peppery scent also. While boiling down, the peppers and onions seemed to just melt into the sauce, so it became very smooth and appetizing looking. You can see in the picture below how it sticks to the side of the pot.  Well – fair warning – it sticks to the bottom of the pan, also!  For the first hour or so, stirring every 10 minutes seemed to be just fine.  But after a while, when the sauce is reducing and getting thick, you need to stir more often.  During the last 15 minutes or so, I actually stood over the pot and kept the sauce moving.  Constantly.

It was worth it.

Canning Plum Sauce

After about two hours, the sauce was thick and syrupy, and the smell was mouth-watering!

The recipe said it would make four pint jars, but I opted to use half-pint jars instead, so I ended up with eight half-pint jars.  I chose the smaller size because it seemed a bit more realistic in terms of using sauce. Especially since it’s just me and my hubby now.  The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or so, as long as you don’t contaminate it by dipping your  basting brush back into the jar after you have based the raw pork.  So, but by using the smaller jars I figured there would be less chance of waste.

When it comes to canning the sauce, although there are onions, garlic and peppers in the recipe, there is also a good amount of vinegar (1 cup), so this recipe is fine for the waterbath canner.  Even though I used smaller jars, I went ahead and left them in the waterbath canner for the full 20 minutes, as I figured it couldn’t hurt (it’s a sauce, no worries about it becoming mushy) and I would rather be more safe than sorry.

How to bottle Chinese Plum Sauce

This recipe made eight half-pints of delicious sauce .

As usual, I couldn’t wait to try some!  We had a pork loin roast just hanging out in the freezer, minding it’s own business – so the next morning I put it in the refrigerator in a bowl swimming in a jar of the plum sauce.  As the pork loin thawed, it was marinated with the plum sauce!  That evening, I grilled the pork loin “low and slow”, adding more sauce every time the loin was turned.  After almost an hour, this is what I ended up with:

Jarring Chinese Plum Sauce

Pork Loin Roast Grilled with Chinese Plum Sauce

It is so good!  The sauce coated the juicy pork loin with a sticky, carmelized sugar glaze that was out of this world good!  This recipe is a keeper!

EDITOR”S NOTE:  Where it says you need 10 cups of finely chopped, pitted prunes – it should say pitted plums!  

Chinese Plum Sauce

Maybe next year I should make two batches of this wonderful sauce!

Now I wish I had more plums! 😀

 

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