Tips from The Fort on Making Beef or Buffalo Jerky at Home

The Fort used to make buffalo jerky in the 1960s for a special cocktail we serve called Salty Dog and Saddle Leather. This cocktail is made of pink or regular grapefruit juice and vodka over ice, served in a salted rim on a mason jar or highball glass, using the buffalo jerky as the “saddle leather” stirrer of the drink. Today, our buffalo purveyor makes our buffalo jerky using our marinade recipe. However, my husband Jeremy loves to make jerky at home a day before football games, hiking or traveling. We love it, as it’s all-natural and free of preservatives.

The Salty Dog & Saddle Leather (buffalo jerky stirrer) Cocktail. Courtesy of Erik Keith Photography.

The Salty Dog & Saddle Leather (buffalo jerky stirrer) Cocktail. Courtesy of Erik Keith Photography.

The American Indians taught the settlers how to dry buffalo meat to make jerky and incorporate it into meals. Pemmican, a dish of dried jerky, dried cherries, chokecherries, or cranberries and buffalo fat, rolled into 1” balls, is immensely satisfying. The Indians also taught the settlers to throw the jerky into a soup and reconstitute it as the meat in the stew. Drying meat was the Indian way to preserve the meat before there was refrigeration, and it was easily transportable. Today, it is the favorite snack of hikers and travelers.

Selecting and slicing the meat:
Select an inexpensive cut of beef or buffalo such as a brisket and trim the fat. Always slice the strips 1/8th to 1/4th inch thick AGAINST the grain. (The grain of the meat is the layers of meat). By slicing the meat against the grain, it makes it easier to chew when dried. TIP: Partially freeze the meat before slicing making very easy to slice.

Marinate the meat:
After you have sliced all the strips, put them into a glass dish and use either a simple marinade such as water, vinegar, and salt and pepper, or your favorite Teriyaki, or BBQ dry rub the slices. You may just want to add cracked black pepper or soak the strips in red or green chile. Marinate a minimum of 2 hours or soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Drying the meat in your oven:
Line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil to catch any drippings. Take the wire racks from the oven and place over the sink to catch any drippings as you arrange the slices on the racks. Using a paper towel dabbed with cooking oil, oil the racks before placing the strips. Place the strips vertical to the horizontal grate. Set your oven to the lowest temperature. Ideal temperature is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which will dehydrate the meat without cooking it. Prop the oven doors open to vent, using a wooden spoon, if necessary. It takes approximately 4 hours to dehydrate the meat.

According to 5280 Magazine, you’re not a true Coloradoan unless you know how to make homemade jerky! You can read that article here:

Have a great week!

– Holly

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