Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making oven jerky of dubious antiscorbutic value

Isn't antiscorbutic an awesome word? It tickles me. Probably this whole post is just an excuse to write it repeatedly.

This week I made my first ever batch of jerky. As I mentioned in my tallow post, I was thinking of making Lex Rooker's jerky box, but this would entail some extra work and I was impatient to taste pemmican. I ended up making jerky in the oven.

If jerky is made at too high of a temperature, the meat loses its antiscorbutic properties. Among the zero carb community it is well known that Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote of this in Not by Bread Alone (the enlarged edition is titled The Fat of the Land). Today I came across another reference to this fact in volume 22 of the journal Medical Record.

Any process which will destroy vitality itself, as boiling, burning, violent chemical action, etc., will, if used in the process of preserving food, do much to destroy its efficiency as an antiscorbutic...

Those juices obtained by simple expression, as lime, lemon, and orange juice, carefully bottled from the fresh fruits; of meats, those dried in the sun and preserved in their own tallow, as the pemmican of the prairie Indian, which bears no more relation to the pemmican prepared for Arctic voyagers by contract, than their scalping does to a shampoo--all of these are known to be better than fruits or vegetables prepared by boiling, or better than chemically prepared tartaric, malic, citric, acetic, or other vegetable acids derived therefrom, or meats that have been boiled and canned, or salted and smoked, although, so far as chemistry can determine, their essential ingredients remain unchanged.

That was published in 1882, one hundred years before I was born. It is strange how much nutritional knowledge was cast aside in recent decades. Many people today are of the impression that only fruits rich in vitamin C can prevent scurvy.

It's not terribly important that my jerky is technically raw, since I will not be subsisting on pemmican alone and am in no danger of scurvy. It's only a fancy of mine to make it this way. So I left it in the oven on the lowest setting, with the door propped open about three inches at the top (I used a pair of tongs to hold it open). This most likely kept the temperature low enough to keep the beef from cooking while drying out.

My first step was to slice an eye of round roast into thin strips, after trimming the fat. I used the food processor for making the slices. Next time I probably won't. I did get some nice, thin, long pieces, but I also got a bunch of tiny, crumbly pieces of meat. 

I used ZIOH member larrymagee's toothpick suggestion to hang my beef in the oven from the rack like so:

The crumbly bits were placed on a tray below the hanging strips of beef. Then I simply left it all in the oven for 16 hours, turning the bits on the tray after about four hours. (The bits were doomed. They clearly cooked.)

For pemmican making, jerky must be dried until it snaps in half when bent. By that time, it is very dark in color.

I've never had jerky so dry before, but it quickly grew on me. The Caveman and I both kept snacking on it. Later on, I prepared the jerky for pemmican by chopping it coarsely with a knife...

...then tossing it in the food processor (yes, I washed the FP--not for the sake of killing germs but for the sake of keeping my jerky scraps dry).

The food processor didn't deal with the jerky as well as I'd hoped. My cheap blender was much better for getting smaller pieces (and for not overheating).


There are the startings of my pemmican.


  1. Excellent! I plan to try my hand at pemmican in a few weeks - we bought an excalibur food dehydrator and I am looking forward to trying this.

    As for the beef - did you put anything on it? Do you think it will go easier just cutting thing strips with a knife?

  2. Cool! I hope you guys have fun. The Excalibur looks really good.

    I'd read that people were finding their pemmican too salty when made with salted jerky, because so much jerky gets condensed into a small volume. I didn't put anything on it at all. I think it would be fun to experiment with different flavors though.

    I think it'll be easier to hang the meat if I spend more time in the cutting. The FP ended up not being the shortcut I was hoping for because it made soooo many tiny strips. Especially if I had a dehydrator, I'd rather dry the beef for longer next time than hang all those strips (not to mention the other tiny bits). Next time I will freeze the meat partway before slicing, too.