I’ve decided I’m going to make an effort to post every week about the ways I incorporate non-standard meats into our diets – from hearts and livers to tails and feet (maybe even a snout if I can get my hands on a soy-feed-free one) to everything in between that is icky and gross.
So to start it all off, I’m going to talk about the jerky I made for our recent road trip. “Jerky?” you say, “There’s nothing mystery-meat-esque about jerky!” Ah, but there is in my jerky!
I put chicken livers in my jerky. And we eat them without heating them past 105/110-odd degrees. Yuppers. I know, we must really be tempting fate. But I have full confidence in these chickens, their healthy livers, and their relationship to our health and prosperity. (However, I would not recommend trying this without full confidence in the chicken livers you are using! The instructions below give options for non-confidential-livers.)
And with the way I made this jerky (which I figured out as the best method, for our taste preferences and available ingredients, based on multiple experimental batches), you can’t even barely taste the liver, nor will your unsuspecting victims. At least I don’t think so. And J doesn’t think so, and he’s a pretty discriminating liver-discoverer; I gave up trying to sneak it in things, and just tell him outright whenever it’s there, because then he at least knows to expect it. But even he thought these weren’t liver-y. However, individual results may vary.
- 2 chicken livers
- Whey (about ½ cup +) from raw or cultured milk (i.e. with live active cultures swimming around in it)
- Approx. ¾ lb ground beef
- 1 ½ t sea salt
- ¼ t fresh black pepper
- 1 t marjoram
- 1 t thyme
- ½ t rosemary
–Soak chicken livers in whey overnight, and for up to a week, in the fridge.
–Remove livers from whey (and discard!), dry livers with paper towels, and place them in food processor with beef, salt, and spices. (See below for alternate spice mixtures.)
–Process until meat is fully ground up and spices are integrated.
Alternate spice mixtures: (My favorite was the one I listed above, but these combos weren’t bad either.)
Pepper-lovin’: 1/2 t smoked paprika, ½ t plain paprika, 1 t oregano, ½ t leaf thyme, ¼ red pepper flakes, ½ t fresh ground pepper
Italian: 1 t basil, ½ t garlic powder, ½ t thyme powder, ½ t onion powder, 1 t oregano, ¼ t fresh ground pepper
Hot&Spicy: 1 t cumin, ¼ t cayenne, ½ t curry powder, ½ t garlic powder, ½ t fresh ground pepper
There are various methods you can take with this. If you have a dehydrator, and trust your source of chicken livers, you can dry them somewhere around 105-110 degrees. I know this sounds really low, and if it doesn’t seem high enough for you, you can always turn it up. When working with the dehydrator, if I trust what I’m drying, I tend to try to dry things at as low a temp as I can, to preserve the enzymes if possible. If you don’t trust your chicken source, or don’t have a dehydrator, you can put it in the oven at 170 or 180 degrees, whatever the lowest it will go is.
I used parchment paper to line the trays of my dehydrator.
Shapes and sizes
I tried various techniques to create easily edible, uniform jerky pieces. I tried spreading it out thinly and scoring it into strips. I wasn’t a big fan of this texture, having pureed the meat so finely, the strips turned out too thin and paper-like. (I tried this also just mixing the ground up chicken livers in the ground meat, without putting everything in the food processor. I wasn’t a big fan of that either, it just didn’t hold together well and was too greasy. Which could have been a factor of that particular batch of ground beef, I’m not sure.) I also tried spreading out thicker strips, but had a very hard time making them uniform in thickness.
What worked best out of all the attempts was the Wilton Cake Decorator that I picked up at a garage sale years ago that I’ve kept stashed away up above my fridge! See, there is a good use for those things even after you abandon cake decorating and cookie making! (I’ve also used it for beautiful and easy deviled eggs.) Using this, the jerky kind of came out like Slim Jims – tubes (without the tube itself, since I didn’t use any casing) of flavored delicious meat
I suppose you could probably just as well use a jerky maker, but I don’t have one, and didn’t want to invest in one when I didn’t have to! The point is, you want to get a consistent, uniform thickness to the meat, so that it all dries at the same time. If I remember correctly, these took about a full day to dry, at the 105-110 degree temp.
Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives on Flickr Commons. Apparently this was one of a series of post cards that circulated in South Africa in the early 1900s to disparage the quality of Chicago packed meat products.
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