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Smoked Beef Jerky Recipe

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I got a smoker last year. It's something that I've been interested in for a while. Not just because it make amazingly mouthwateringly delicious food. It's the tradition of food preservation that I found compelling. Smoking foods to preserve them has been used for a very long time and I wanted to add it to my list of traditional skills.

I got in my head that I wanted to try making smoked beef jerky. Regularly beef jerky isn't my go to snack. I generally find it to be too sweet, or too soy saucey, or something. But I do like the idea of preserving meat that way, and I figured if I had more control over the recipe it might turn out more to my liking. 

I read a ton of recipes. There are no shortage of jerky recipes out there. 99% of them start with a ton of soy sauce. This has never made any sense to me. I know Lewis and Clark subsisted on a lot of dried meats, and I KNOW they weren't lugging around barrels of soy sauce. It just doesn't seem very traditional to me. So I made my own recipe with apple cider vinegar instead of soy sauce. 

Before I get to the recipe, let's talk about the smoker. I'm using a Weber charcoal smoker. I call it the R2-D2 model. Not sure what it's really called. I modded my by added 4 screws near the top which allows you to put the meat rack up higher. It worked great for hanging jerky.

I've used electric smokers and prefer the charcoal. I made a ring of unburned charcoal in the shape of a "C" in the bottom of the smoker and added about 12 live coals to one end. It ends up acting like a charcoal fuse and burned plenty long for this. I put apple wood chunks along the top of the coals and they smoldered and produced nice smoke as the "fuse" burned. It stayed right about 180 degrees the whole time. I ended up smoking the jerky for 3.5 hours and it ended up more smokey than it needed to be. Next time I'll give it a good smoke for an hour and then let it dry out at 180 degrees for another two hours. 

Prepping the beef! There are plenty of different cuts that will work. Look for something lean. You're going to want to cut off as much of the fat as you can. Don't worry too much about marbling in the meat. It will render out on the smoker. Partially freezing the beef before hand helps make the slicing process easier. Slice it 1/4 thick. You can slice with the grain for a more firm jerky or across the grain for a jerky that pulls apart more easily.

The Recipe:

- 2 lbs. of lean beef
- 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 5 cloves of garlic (diced as small as you can)
- 1 tsp Molasses
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

Mix all these together, and marinate the sliced beef for at least a few hours (I did overnight.) After it's good and marinated pull the strips of beef out and dry them off with a paper towel. Run a tooth pick through one end of each strip. This allows you to hang them vertically in the smoker and saves a lot of space. I add a bit more fresh ground pepper at this stage and then on to the smoker they go! Make sure the temperature stays around 180 degrees. Keep and eye on it to make sure the temperature is right and it's still producing good smoke. 

smoked_jerky_colter_co
smoked_jerky_colter_co

When they're done take them off, remove the tooth picks and dab off the rendered fat with a paper towel. Enjoy it fresh of vacuum seal and store in the freeze for long term storage. I bet it won't last long enough to need to store it though :) 

As I said, this was the first time I tried this, but will NOT be the last! My 8 year old son (who helped me) refers to it as "Beef Bacon." That a pretty accurate description! It was a huge hit with the family. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

instructional article

DIY Fire starter smack down

I've seen a few different kinds of DIY fire starters ideas floating around. I wanted to try a couple out and see which performed better. I'm also doing this with my 8 year old son to each him about the elements that make a good fire starter. I chose to do a wax & cotton version and a wax & saw dust version. I'm evaluating these based on a few factors: 

1: Ease of creation (with kids)
2: Ease of lighting with a ferro rod.
3: How long do the burn.
4: Simplicity of ingredients

I'll include a step by step of how to make each below, but first... How do they stack up!?

colter co fire starter smackdown-01.jpg

After trying both of these I like them both for different reasons. The wax & cotton fire starters are super easy to make. They are compact, water resistant and easy to light with a ferro rod. Either of these fire starters would be super easy to light with matches or a lighters.

The advantage of the wax & saw dust fire starters is the burn time. They burn a very long time. Living in the Pacific Northwest one of the major concerns for getting a fire started is working with damp wood. Having a full 13 minutes of burn time to work with gives you a much stronger chance of burning some of the moisture out of damp wood and getting a good blaze going. 

Now for the How To:

WAX & COTTON FIRE STARTERS

Using a double boiler melt wax or paraffin in an empty tin can. I opted for the tin can option because I didn't feel like getting murdered by my wife for ruining another pan :) It makes clean up easy... just toss the can into the recycling bin. I used 6 votive candles to make 22 fire starts.

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Cover a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Once the wax is melted dip 100% cotton rounds into the wax briefly. Let the excess wax drip off back into the can before placing them on the parchment paper to cool. I recommend holding the can over the parchment paper to avoid creating a trail of dripped wax. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

That's really about it! Once they cool they're ready to put into your fire starting kit for your next outing. When you use them, you can tear them in half to stretch them farther if you need to. Rough up the cotton fibers as fluffy as you can get them if you're using a ferro rod to start these.

colter co fire starter
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WAX & SAW DUST FIRE STARTERS

Find a couple empty paper towel tubes or toilet paper tubes. Mark 1" increments along the tube. Cut along those lines to create 1" cardboard discs. These serve as molds for the saw dust. 

colter co fire starter
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Fill the molds with dry saw dust on parchment or wax paper. Pack it in as well as you can. Next melt the wax in a doubler boiler as described in the wax & cotton directions. Carefully pour the wax over the saw dust. Remember that sometimes when you pour liquids slowly then can drip down the front of the can and off the bottom. Just make sure that you have both potential drip points over the parchment paper before you start pouring. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

Let them cool down and then peel the cardboard tube off and they're ready to go! I used a little bit of shaved magnesium with the ferro rod to get these going. Again, with a match or a lighter these things would light up like a Christmas tree. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

This image does a good job of showing the difference in flame between these two. The wax & cotton burned really well, but the wax & saw dust burned really high and long. If you feel up to taking the extra steps and mess, the saw dust is pretty great! I feel like the combination of the two is pretty solid as well. If you put even a quarter of the cotton fire starter on top for a quick easy light and a big chunk of the saw dust and wax on the bottom you'd be set. 

Let me know if you have a favorite DIY fire starter! 

article

Knot tying was the first outdoor skill that I learned on my own. I found an old wilderness survival book and followed the diagrams until I figured out every knot in the book. It was incredibly empowering! I loved that book and carried it with me everyday until it got water damaged, dog eared, ripped, and eventually fell apart. I still carry those knots with me in my mind (although I do occasionally need a refresher on a more obscure knot). After years of using and teaching these knots I decided to make a knot tying guide that wouldn't suffer the same fate as my beloved book. I narrowed it down my top 16 most useful knots and put them on a bandana. The bandana itself serves a thousand uses and, unlike a book, doesn't have any issues with water. It's a powerful tool for teaching (and reminding the old woodsman.) If you have kids that are just starting to learn outdoor skills, this is a great way to give them the assets they need to learn on their own. It's a memory and a skill that will stay with them the rest of their lives. 

 

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A buchcraft meal in a tube

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I came across a fantastic book called "Camping and Woodcraft" by Horace Kephart. Published in 1957. It is jam packed with amazing traditional outdoor skills, gear and ideas. I recommend checking it out!

One of the things it mentioned is a food called Erbswurst. Which translates from German to mean pea sausage. I know, it sounds terrible, but hear me out! It's a mix of fats, and split pea flower squeezed into a sausage casing that was used heavily by the German soldiers during WWI. You can cut about an inch off the sausage and boil it to create a rich pea soup. And because of the high fat content it's very shelf stable. It's really an ideal survival and bushcraft food. It doesn't take up much space or require much prep work to make. 

I decided to try this idea out, but I wanted to make a few adjustments. First of all, I decided to use lentil flour instead of pea flour. I prefer lentil soup and it's slightly higher in nutritional value. 

I also adjusted the ingredients slight because I had a hard time finding hard fat. It's the pork fat that holds it's form and gives sausage its structure. I replaced the hard fat with regular pork fat sliced off a pork chop at the meet department of my local grocery store. 

Here's my complete recipe: 

Linsewurst (lentil sausage)

- 1/2 lbs. bacon
- 1/2 lbs. pork fat
- 1 lbs. Lentil flour
- 1/2 onion
- 3 teeth garlic
- Salt and pepper as desired

 

colter co erbswurst

I began by putting the bacon, fat, onion an garlic in a food processor and turning it into a paste.

colter co erbswurst

I put that paste into the frying pan and cooked it until it the fat rendered out and the onions and garlic cooked through. 

colter co erbswurst

While that was cooking I put the lentils into our Blendtec blender. It turned them into a nice powder pretty quick. There are other ways to do it. A grain mill or another heavy duty brand of blender will do as well. 

When the bacon and onion mixture is nicely browned add the lentil flour. Mix it together well and be ready to work with it while it's still warm. It will start to set up once it cools and that makes everything more difficult. Because I didn't use the hard fat, it made the final product more soft and easier to work with. 

colter co erbswurst

Traditionally this mix would then go into a sausage casing. I didn't have any laying around and did really want to do that anyway, so I make my own casings out of vacuum seal bags. The long term storage of these in a freezer is my end goal and these bags made sense and are super easy to make custom sizes and fill. I used a funnel to force the mixture down into the make shift casing. 

colter co erbswurst
colter co erbswurst

Then I just sealed them up and blamo! you got a lentil sausage!

colter co erbswurst

I did a little backyard field test to see how it turned out. I mixed 1 tablespoon of mix for each cup of water. So each tube would be about 6-8 servings of soup! I boiled it for about 5 minutes to give the lentil flour a chance to turn into a nice broth. It was very satisfying and hearty. 

colter co erbswurst

In the end, I think this makes a fantastic base for wilderness improvisation. I might try a version with different seasoning, and a version with black bean flour instead of lentil. I plan on using it to add fresh foraged plants to on my next outing. I think a hand full of sliced nettle leaves, or a thistle root boiled in this could be pretty amazing! 

This soup is great to use in connection with our Forager bandana. It identifies and explains 7 common edible plants. Several of which would work nicely in this base. I will be using both this year with my kids to help them gain more knowledge and appreciation of wild plants. 

 

Please let me know if you have any experience with traditional Erbswurst. I'd love to hear it!