Levi’s 3-Step Oven Venison Jerky
For my son, waking up on a freezing cold morning, wrapped in a blanket, to the aroma of Grandma’s venison jerky after it has spent the night in the dehydrator, is a divine moment. There is always a crackling fire to warm up by; and Grandma hands him a salty savory piece if thick, dry chewy jerky. Levi is happy. This must be to him what coffee is to me.
The recipe below does not require a dehydrator, but it produces venison jerky with a chew that gives you just the right amount of fight – no shoe leather. Its flavors are layered… first the savory pungent meaty flavor, followed by a smokiness in back of your throat. Then as you chew, the salinity gently kicks in and intensifies. It is not sweet, or overly peppery. It is quite good.
In what seems like another life now, I married a hunter. No need to divulge how long ago that was. Suffice it to say that I experienced the life of a hunter’s spouse. There were long hunting trips with his hunter dad and hunter brothers and hunter friends, after which I would be presented with slabs of game meat, or even whole animals. Born and raised a city girl, I knew city foods. Meat came in nice neat little packages. You knew what it was by the label.
This hunting thing was definitely a new food experience and one that I did not fully appreciate at the time. Now, I view it as a gift. I got to learn – up close and personal – about cuisine which would have otherwise remained foreign. For example, a city girl learns quickly that deer and store-bought cow are not interchangeable. Lean, gamy venison requires its own cooking methods.
Preferring the kitchen, I never took up hunting… never had the desire. But I was willing to learn to cook all variety of game… well, drawing the line at squirrel. To me, squirrel is either the cute little furry animal that playfully leaps from tree to tree, to be watched and admired while one sips coffee on the porch, or it is a rodent… either way, I don’t want to eat it. On the days that squirrel came into my kitchen, I exited it with great haste, leaving strict instructions that there must be no remnants left behind for me to find. My apologies to those of you who are more adventurous eaters; you have my admiration. But I am still not eating squirrel.
While my relationship with the hunter did not last forever, my relationship with wildgame did. My kids, having grown up with these flavors, mostly from Grandma “Hunter’s” cooking, love venison! They crave it. In fact Grandma and Grumpa’s venison jerky have become a highly treasured favorite for my kids. This recipe is inspired by their’s, per my son’s taste. The leanness of venison makes it inherently beautifully suited for jerky.
Nutrition and Medicinal Uses
If you are a vegetarian, then you likely get your nutrients through other means, although you are probably not reading this particular blog post anyway. If you are a meat-eater, and have access to venison, here are some things to consider – and why I am cool with my kids’ love of the stuff:
- Wild game venison comes from animals that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and have lived torture-free and uncaged
- In addition to B vitamins and minerals, venison contains Omega 3; as does grass-fed beef. Omega 3 in venison is comparable to Omege 3 in salmon, making it one of the healthiest land animals one can eat! Omega 3 is vital for brain health, heart health, and a long list of of other body parts… You can’t get this from store-bought land animals, unless your market carries grass-fed beef.
- Ancient diets which are still used in modern times opt for wild game over caged animals for a variety of reasons. Many believe that modern science proves ancient wisdom to be valid.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine uses deer antler to produce a powerful soup, beneficial for the kidney, spleen, bone, muscle, and blood flow.
Important! Know your source!
My kids are very fortunate to have a reputable source for venison, and other wild game. Unethical hunters give a bad name to hunting in general. An ethical hunter follows the rules in place for the protection of the species, does nothing to cause unnecessary suffering, and processes the animal in a safe and responsible way. Oh! …and no waste. If you do not hunt yourself, you should feel confident in your source.
All in all, given the choice, I will always prefer to have my children consume a clean and happy deer who lived in the wild, over antibiotic-filled and bleached animals commercially available.
Special Diet Notes
- For a Paleo diet, this venison jerky makes an ideal snack.
- Venison is a great component of a healthy sports diet, and can provide an athlete with vital protein as well as Omega 3.
- Of course, you can do this with other meats, but they must be very lean cuts. Suggestions: flank steak or top round steak- remove the fat.
- Making your own jerky eliminates all the additives and nitrates.
- Clearly, this recipe is not for vegetarians, but one can certainly make vegan jerky!
How to Make Venison Jerky – an easy dehydrator-free method
On a recent visit with the hunters, my kids scored some frozen cuts. Which cuts? Not sure, the package said only “roast 10-13”. My kids love venison jerky. So we decided this roast from 10-13 should become jerky.
With the meat partially thawed, it is easier to slice.
Tip: if the cut of meat is tender, it should be cut with the grain. Otherwise, it will fall apart too easily. If it is tough, it should be cut against the grain, so the jerky is not so tough that it feels like chewing leather.
My kids actually like their jerky on the tough chewy side. They like to fight with it just a little bit. This extends the flavor. All things considered, I decided to compromise. This is cut at kind of an angle between “against” and “with” the grain.
Slices should be to your liking, usually between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. My slicing is not too precious. My son likes variety in textures – some thick, some thin. So my aim was to make slices uniform enough for the meat to dry somewhat evenly, but irregular enough for textural variety.
Next, prepare a marinade with any flavors you like. This is my son’s… see recipe below.
Add it to the venison slices and marinade overnight.
Be sure to work the marinade through the strips.
After sufficient time to infuse all those flavors, at least overnight, set oven to its lowest temperature. Mine is a little under 200° . Line a rack with foil to catch drippings and place it on a low level.
Another rack should be placed on the highest level.
Using skewers or toothpicks, hang your aromatic venison strips thusly…
Alternatively, you can simply lay each strip across a rack to dry. Be sure to flip them over half-way through. I like hanging them for even drying, no need to flip them, and it amuses me.
Close the oven door, but prop it open, slightly. This will allow moisture to escape for proper drying. I use a wooden spoon.
After one hour…
After three hours… the sun is shining brightly through the kitchen window, umami aroma fills the house, we like the texture, and we can’t wait any longer.
We are calling this done!
Levi’s Venison Jerky
This jerky is made with flavors that make my son very happy. You can use any flavors you like! Another option: a juniper berry-rosemary-red wine concoction.
- 1 lb venison (or a very lean beef cut, such as flank steak, remove any fat)
- 1/2 c liquid aminos, or soy sauce
- 1/2 t garlic powder
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 t pepper
- 1/2 T brown sugar
Step One: Slice
With a very sharp knife, slice roast to desired thinness. Usually between 1/8 in and 1/4 inch. It is easier to slice a roast that is partially frozen.
Step Two: Marinate
Combine all remaining ingredients. Add them to venison slices. Marinate refrigerated overnight.
Step Three: Dry
Preheat oven to 150° – 200°, opt for the lowest setting. Either place venison strips directly on the rack, or hang them from a rack with toothpicks or skewers. Layer tin foil underneath to catch drippings. Prop oven open slightly so that moisture can escape. I use a wooden spoon. Allow strips to dry 3-4 hours, or until it reaches the texture you desire. A larger batch of venison will require a longer drying time.
Levi’s Grandma stores her venison jerky in plastic bags in the freezer. The kids LOVE snacking on it cold.
We only made 1 lb. today. By the time I post this blog, it will all be gone. Otherwise, I would have stored it in the fridge or freezer.
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