Sometimes I use liquid smoke, sometimes I don't. It doesn't always seem to add that much and you gotta admit "liquid" smoke sounds kind of weird. It invokes images of creosote leaking from woodstove pipes. Again, not something you want to associate with foodstuff. Still, I really like this bottle of Liquid Smoke from Stubb's: "Ladies and Gentelman, I'm a Cook" and "My life is in this bottle" just make you feel like you're getting some top quality liquified smoke.
You've cut the meat, mixed up your special brew and now it's time to introduce them to one another. Two choices here: throw them in a bowl (non-metal methinks) and toss a cover over it, or better yet put the whole mass inside a large ziplock bag, squeeze out the air, and seal it up tight. The bag method lets you squeeze and sqoosh the mix (also good for marinading, a trick from my Brother) without getting yourself or any utensils messy. Don't have too much fun squooshing, it's the liquid's job to tenderize the meat in an orderly fashion, you'll just get carried away and end up with a meaty goo only good for spicy meatloaf. Toss it in the fridge and leave it there overnight, maybe mix it up a couple of times if you remember, but don't sweat it.
We bought one of those cheapo American Harvester food dryers from Walmart a couple years back. Mostly it was to dry some of our garden produce but it also does a fine job with jerky. Alternately you can toss the jerky in an oven set on superlow with the door open a crack. I always screw up the oven part and end up with something that tastes like dried out, cooked roast...believe me, there's a difference. If you have a smoke house then you've got it made and can even skip the Stubb's.
Drain out the juice from the jerky mix (hey, maybe the dog would like some?) and then lay it out on the racks of whatever you use to dry. You might squeeze the slices between your fingers to get some of the excess juice off, but it doesn't matter that much, just makes for a little longer drying.
The American Harvester can dry six racks of jerky in about six hours. Half way through, or whenever you remember, flip the pieces over. If they start making crackling, creaking noises when you bend a piece then that's when you might decide they are done. Thicker pieces I'll place together and dry for a little longer. Too dry and it's more of a jerky fiberglass, too moist and you run the risk of it going bad or chewing it forever like some kind of super cud.
Get a couple squares of paper towel and press the jerky between them, this will pull off any oil from the fat you missed. If you find some fatty pieces eat them now or cut off the fatty section. Toss it all in another ziploc bag and you're done!
It doesn't store forever though. Time or critters will eventually get the best of it, probably depending on how much salt you use. I misplaced a small bag once and found it a year later. In the meantime some small, rolly-polly kind of bug got in and ate all of the meat but avoided the fat, gristle, and tendons. What was left was a rather unattractive lace filigree..and pepper.
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