As we switch gears from fishing season to moose hunting, and soon brown bear hunting, one thing you’ll always find in our packs is jerky. Like many game meats, jerky is a favorable preservation method because it can be prepared, vacuum sealed and frozen, taking up very little freezer space compared to raw meat. It’s also an easy, high-protein snack to bring along on outdoor adventures.
Although jerky can be made with a simple salt only, or salt/sugar cure, it’s fun to get a little creative with seasonings. The ingredients in this recipe are approximations so feel free to experiment with how much you use of everything, except for the salt.
To maintain food safety guidelines, make sure your jerky reaches a temperature of 145º for at least an hour. When smoking jerky in a hot-smoker that maintains 180º-200º temperatures, jerky sliced 1/4”-1/3” thick should reach food safe temperatures within 2-3 hours of smoking. Always test jerky for doneness either with a thermometer or by slicing it open to see that it is dried throughout.
3-4 pounds meat
2 quarts water
1/4 cup canning salt or Morton Tenderquick
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons black pepper
1-2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/2-1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cinnamon sticks
10-12 whole cloves
In a large glass or plastic container, whisk all brine ingredients with water until dissolved. Cut bear meat into 1/4”-1/3” slices, either across the grain or with the grain. (Partially frozen meat is much easier to slice evenly.) Add bear meat to brine and refrigerate 8-12 hours, stirring occasionally. Place a plate on top to ensure all meat remains submerged.
Drain brine and remove meat. Do not rinse meat. Pat dry or place on racks and let air dry for up to 1 hour. Follow smoking directions on your smoker. Cooking times vary greatly and depend on make and model of smoker and outside weather conditions. Try to keep the temperature of your smoker between 180º-200º. Check for doneness after 3 hours. Larger cuts of jerky can be finished on a baking sheet in the oven at 165º, check every 15 minutes. When jerky is done, place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Keep jerky refrigerated or vacuum seal and freeze for long term storage.