I supplied the main courses, about 8 pounds of Venison Steaks and 5 pounds of Kung Pao Pheasant. To cook the venison, I let the steaks warm to room temperature, patted them dry, salted and peppered them, then seared both sides in a pan greased with leaf lard. The Kung Pao Pheasant recipe I followed fairly closely with the notable omission of peanuts. When I cooked the pheasant, I was a bit worried about the spiciness as the thai chili and sichuan peppercorn levels in the air caused spontaneous coughing in my guests and I. Fortunately the spiciness of the dish was goldilocks. Hot but not too hot.
To deal with remaining defrosted steak, I sliced them into 1/4″ thick strips and marinated in my secret Thai jerky marinade. (Okay, not secret: Tamari, Fish Sauce, Chili Garlic Paste, Galangal Root, Thai Red Curry Paste). After about 36 hrs of marinating, I put the first batch in the dehydrator. Splitting the jerky into two batches was a great idea. I put them in prior to work, and when I came home, the jerky was ruined. It wasn’t spicy, wasn’t salty, and crumbled under the slightest pressure. I set it aside. With the remaining jerky, I decided to monitor the jerky more closely. After 4 hrs at 170F it was about 50% dry. I tasted it, and it STILL wasn’t spicy or salty enough. I broke out the big guns. I made a glaze, this time out of just Tamari, Fish Sauce, and Chili Garlic Paste. Then I dredged the partially dry jerky in the mixture and laid the pieces on the racks, then with a spoon, I ladled even more glaze onto each individual piece. I put the dehydrator back on, this time at 95F for 7 hrs. (overnight). The result was close to perfect: salty, flavorful, spicy, slightly pliable. I thought it was my best jerky ever, to be sure I brought it to the office today. Folks there seemed to like it a great deal as well. In fact, the only person who didn’t like the jerky was my vegetarian roommate who said it made the apartment stink. I think it smelled delicious.
Now, what about the first “ruined” batch? There is no such thing as “too dry” jerky. There is only “jerky that should be made into pemmican.” Pemmican for the unenlightened, is about the most Paleo food on the planet. Long before refrigeration, curing, and canning, pemmican was there making meat edible for months at room temperature. The “recipe” for pemmican is fairly simple, take meat that has been carefully trimmed of any and all fat, and dry it completely. Take the fat from the animal (traditionally Bison, Elk or other wild game) and render it to decrease the rate at which it goes rancid. Grind up the meat. Add the fat to the meat. For westernized pemmican, add some dried fruit for taste. Even well-made Pemmican isn’t “delicious”, it is however, incredibly calorie-dense survival food. It was the original “PowerBar.” Some folks will quote a meat/fat ratio… I say eyeball it. The meat starts as sawdust. Keep adding molten fat and mixing with a fork until it slightly darkens (from being moist) and begins to stick together. Then make it flat using your tool of choice, throw it in the fridge to solidify the fat. Voilà, you’re ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. This is the second time I’ve made pemmican. The first was with store-bought beef. Venison Pemmican tastes much better. I would even consider eating it before TSHTF.