During the hundreds of years humankind has consumed venison, spices, rubs and dipping sauces have changed far more than the two basic requirements — deer meat and a way to prepare it. For jerky, that most likely means one of three things — salt, low heat or a dehydrator.
According to BDN Maine blogger Robin Follette, who is an outdoors and agriculture writer, venison jerky as a whole hasn’t changed much, but what has changed is the technique and safety around preparation.
“Instead of using salt, the methods are a lot safer now,” Follette said. “We’re not just setting it out to dry.”
She explained that a few hundred years ago, hunters and others living many days at a time in the woods, would shoot a deer then salt and hang the meat out to dry. Not only was it a way to preserve meat, it was a good protein source at a time when coolers were nonexistent.
“A lot of hunters would, and still do, take deer as a protein source,” Follette said. “Nobody leaves the house thinking they will get lost and jerky is tradition.”
Though hunters in Alaska and other far reaching places may still salt meat along the way, modern-day chefs have the luxury of ovens or dehydrators. This makes preparation quicker and allows for more variety, Follette said.
Want to give it a go yourself? Try these venison recipes submitted by BDN Maine Outdoors readers:
The recipe for my favorite jerky contains a sweetener. It’s not a lot, but enough to give it a little different flavor. Robin Follette
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Using a sharp knife, slice the venison no more than ¼-inch thick. It’s helpful to have semi-thawed meat to slice, rather than thawed. Mix ingredients until well blended. Cover meat slices and marinate six hours to overnight. Pat meat slices dry to speed drying time.
In a dehydrator with temperature control:
Set to 170 degrees
Place the slices on trays, side by side, but not touching
Check on the jerky after six hours. If it is still very flexible continue to dry for one hour. Check hourly.
The jerky is finished when it is dried throughout. Break a piece in half to check. The center should be dry.
In the oven:
Set to 170 degrees or the lowest setting if above 170.
Prop the oven door open 1 inch to allow for air circulation. A piece of crumpled aluminum foil will hold the oven door open. Check hourly. If it is still very flexible, continue to dry for one hour. The jerky is finished when it is dried throughout.
This is a great method for jerky made in the fall and winter because it adds warmth to the house while drying.
“I have had my share of deer meat — I’ll be 92-years-old on Sept. 19. I have trapped, hunted and fished since I was 11-year-old. You can cook tenderloins on buttered cook stove covers. If there are many people eating, you will be lucky to get any. — Hazen Trueworthy, East Winn
“Here’s an appetizer that I make plenty in the fall to entertain through the spring. The new peppered apple cider vinegar that is now available in stores, adds another subtle kick to the mustard and is wonderful with the salami.” — Kate Gooding, Bridgton
Venison Salami with Ginger Mustard Dipping Sauce
1 pound ground venison
⅓ pound ground pork
2 tablespoons quick curing salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with clean hands. Divide mixture into four equal portions. Form each portion into a 3-inch diameter roll on top of heavy duty aluminum foil with the shiny side in. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Place wrapped rolls in baking dish and add water to come halfway up the rolls. Bake for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce.
Ginger-Mustard Dipping Sauce
½ cup ginger syrup or maple syrup
⅓ cup dijon mustard
1 tablespoon peppered apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix well.
Back straps work best for this recipe. Enjoy, but make many because they will go fast. — Jon Lee
Thin strips of venison cut into 2½-inch pieces
Spread cream cheese on steak, add a jalapeno slice, roll, and secure with a toothpick. Broil or grill until the steak is done.
Mince meat for pie
2 packages of raisins
4 pounds venison cooked in water and ground with 8 quarts of peeled and quartered apples
2½ sticks of Oleo
2 packages of brown sugar
¾ to 1 jar molasses
2 cups vinegar
5 teaspoons cinnamon plus a pinch more
2 heaping teaspoons of cloves
Add water to make ingredients juicy, cook and continue mashing on the stovetop throughout the day.