Wild game jerky is awesome! The Deerslayer clan loves it. There are several types; whole muscle jerky, some that is made from extruded ground meat (pressed out, ribbon-like, through an implement that looks like a caulk gun) and some that is pressed into casings like Slim Jims.
I’ve only made one type, whole muscle jerky. Since it’s what my family prefers, and doesn’t require too much extra equipment, it seemed like the logical choice. I’d recommend starting with a prepared curing mix to start with. It will allow you to learn the ropes and adjust the mixture later on according to your preferences. The mixes are readily available at hunting/camping/outdoors shops and online. I’ve used Hi Mountain brand and, after a few adjustments, have been quite pleased. I was able to use the oven rather than a dehydrator. The jerky ends up softer than other brands I’ve tried, which I liked. It was also very flavorful. I used the original blend and thought that it tasted like what jerky is supposed to taste like. There are 21 jerky flavoring blends available, including teriyaki, hickory, bourbon, Cajun, and others. So there is a flavor to suit every taste.
Very thorough instructions are included in the package as well as a package of cure, seasoning, and a shaker.
The most important thing to remember when making whole muscle jerky with wild game is to start with a large enough muscle that can easily be cleaned of as much sinew, silver skin, and fascia as possible.
There are several large muscles in the hindquarter of large game animals that lend themselves nicely to this process. Smaller muscles will often have sinew, silver skin, and fascia that marble through the meat creating an unpleasant “flossing effect” when trying to eat the jerky.
This is a venison hindquarter muscle that I’d use for jerky. All white membrane would need to be removed before slicing.
Another hindquarter muscle that would be nice for this purpose. Once again, all white membrane would need to be removed.
This is one more reason I was so excited about having a nilgai in the freezer! The hindquarter muscle is so large it provides an exquisite “canvas” on which to work.
This is 1/2 of a large hindquarter muscle from a nilgai. It’s the same muscle as the venison shown above but twice as large.
– This is one gorgeous piece of meat. The other half of the muscle is gonna make fabulous steaks! It helps the process to toss the meat in the freezer for 30-45 minutes before slicing. I use a serrated bread knife or a filleting knife for the thin slicing.
I cut the meat 1/4 inch thick and sliced the wider slabs into more slender bits. I cut some of the meat along the grain as the directions suggest. Some, however, I cut across the grain, as an experiment. It worked just fine and didn’t require as much effort to tear off.
I mix my cure and seasoning in a jar rather than the shaker. It gives me room to shake and mix (and perhaps dance just a little bit.) I decided to use 1 1/2 to 2 times the amount recommended in the instructions. It allowed me to thoroughly coat the meat and end up with a more flavorful end product.
According to the directions included in the Hi Mountain Jerky mix, I used a maximum of only four pounds of meat (after trimming) for my batches.
The thinly sliced meat was liberally sprinkled on both sides with the cure and seasoning mix
Cure and seasoning were “massaged” into the meat before it was put in a zip bag and left in the fridge overnight.
Slices were arranged on two cooling racks and placed in a 200 degree oven for approximately 1 1/2` hours. The lower cooling rack was placed on a cookie sheet to catch drips. The oven door was held ajar with a wooden spoon. The four pounds of meat actually required 4 racks and two oven’s full of cooking.
The dried meat that results is flavorful and pleasant to eat. It must be placed in plastic bags and refrigerated or placed in the freezer.