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Updated: Jan 3


We have talked about canning. We have talked about other ways to preserve fruits and vegetables. We have even talked about dairy products and eggs. But what about meat? Yes, one-third of our diet is meat. So how do we preserve meat so it can continue to fuel us through the winter months and beyond? Let’s get growing!



Intro


Welcome to the Pray, Just Plant podcast. I am your host, Crystal Mediate, and today here in Season 3 episode 9. We are going to talk about preserving meat. We have talked about canning and if it's for you. We've talked about other ways you can preserve fruits and vegetables. There are eight in total. We've talked about preserving eggs and milk products, or dairy products, but what about meat.


Are there more ways to preserve meat than just pressure canning, we're gonna find that out, we're going to pull back the screen that has hidden preserving meat and we are going to dive into what you can do!


I'm gonna put this in a list from hardest or what will take the most education to the very easiest method.


Canning


The first way is canning. Now pressure canning meat is not hard but it can be intimidating. I will tell you right, I was intimidated by pressure and to some degree still am. I think it has to do with this huge pot of rocking back and forth on my stove that just seems just a little bit scary. This process is just going to take time and patience. Start small and then work yourself up to the meats. I say this because pressure canning meat can take hours where green beans take 20 to minutes for a batch.


I do want to stress that when it comes to canning meat you have to use pressure canning and not steam canning or water-bath canning. Meat has to reach temperatures that are impossible to achieve but under pressure.


When you're pressure canning, you could use two different methods. You can use the raw pack method which is where you cut steaks or roasts into small pieces and you pack them directly into the jar. You add hot water to cover, then you seal the jar, and you are ready to place it in the canner. It's very easy and very simple, it is the simplest way that you can pressure can meat.


The next method is when you use recipes. This is where you cook the meat in a recipe like chicken noodle soup and then you pressure can the soup. The best places to find these recipes are going to be in different sections in your canning books. Like maybe under the bean section for baked beans with bacon or in the soup section. Or even in the tomato section for pasta with hamburger or chili sauce with meat.


The most important thing is just to find recipes that have been tested by others. Pressure canning is a delicate process so take the time to learn from others before jumping in the deep end with your own recipes.



Curing


The next process for preserving your meat would be curing. Now, this process isn't very hard, but it does take time and it does take a little knowledge. Because it is a science in a way. There are two different types of curing, there's dry curing which we're talking about right now, and brining, which we're gonna talk about in a few minutes.


So what is curing?


Curing is when you dry your meat but not utilizing dehydrating, but using some chemical or natural drying out agent, and the most natural, of course, is salt. But when you're dealing with meat, you can't just use salt. I know nitrates have gotten a very bad rap, but it's important if you're going to be wanting to make sure that no bacteria grows on your meat during the curing process you will need to use nitrate. Because even with salt some mold can grow on it. If you go back and listen to stories about salt pork or different curing methods from the past. You will always find in these stories where they talk about still needing to cut the mold off before they could consume their harvest. But if you want no mold and your product to be very well preserved, you're going to have to use nitrates. There are natural nitrates, you don't have to get the chemical nitrates, just do your research and find nitrates that will work for you.

And the easiest nitrate to find is that in curing salt.


Another name for this process of curing is called dry rub or dry curing. We used this process on our farm when we made bacon for the first time. The process was very easy, it just needed constant care. Because as the curing salt pulls the moisture out you will have to be sure the liquid is poured off out of the curing container and the meat is turned daily. You will also have to add salt as needed. This is not a leave it and forget method like brining. You will also need to find a cool place to store your meat as it cures. We used a spare refrigerator for this process. I think I have shared this before that until we get our root cellar finished we have converted a spare fridge into one. But once it is cured you can store your meat at room temperature, just like jerky.


As a side note, we found that the salt does make the finished product very salty. And that you are going to need to soak and rinse your cured meat several times to lessen the salty taste. But it does not go away completely.


Now I don’t want to discourage you from this method as there are some old-time recipes that call for salted meat and they are delicious. Just don’t expect to cook this meat with modern methods.





Brining


Let’s talk about brining. Brining uses salt also but in a different way. This is where you make a solution of salt and water, and you store your meat fully submerged in this liquid. There is a little story behind why we chose to try this method on the farm.


My oldest son does history reenactments. Where he and a group of others reenact period events. Like battles or just the lifestyle. And usually, at these events, they eat period food and recipes. And one of those recipes was salt pork. I mentioned above that you can make salt with dry curing but most of the salt pork used in the military was brined salt pork. I think it is because brining takes less salt, time, and care. Back to the story, he wanted to make his own salt pork so that he could also make the authentic baked bean recipe. This was a great opportunity for both my son and I to learn together and we just happened to be slaughtering our first pig here on the farm. Don’t you love it when the Lord aligns things for the good!


This process was very easy. After slaughtering and butchering our pig, my son and I cut all of the meat off of one of the hind legs and raw packed the chunks of meat into a clay crock. This 2-gallon crock was a crock that was designed for brining or fermenting. Once the crock was half full, my oldest son mixed the brine and poured it over the meat. We then continued to add the rest of the meat to the crock and then he poured more brine into the crock. We added brine until the pork was completely submerged in the liquid and covered it by 2 inches. I believe the water to salt ratio was 50/50. Once this was all done we stored the crock with its lid in our spare fridge. I told you before that we use a spare fridge as a mini root cellar.


This method was so easy and extremely tasty. I believe we used the last piece in June of the next year. So it lasted about eight months in the fridge. To use the pork, I made the Baked Beans my son wanted to make and pressure canned 7 quart jars full. Then the rest of the meat we used in recipes that call for ham. Like, potato salt pork soup, green chili sauce, and ham pockets. Now the meat tasted like ham but was not cooked like ham so it does need to be cooked in a recipe before consuming it.



Dehydration


The next way to preserve meat is dehydrating. The simplest form of dehydrating meat is jerky. We all enjoy a good stick of jerky now and then. There are some guidelines for dehydrating meat. It is very simple but you do want to follow a recipe. I mean, the process of dehydrating meat has been done since the beginning of time. You can use the sun. You can use your oven, you can use the dehydrator. You just want to make sure you are using a warm enough temperature that you're drying out the meat and cooking the meat.


Also, you are going to want to consider marinades as many recipes ask you to marinade your meat before dehydrating. Most marinades include vinegar and or salt, which will help the meat dry faster and add a nice taste to the meat. The usual temperature for dehydrating meat is 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, the length of time is going to depend on too many factors for me to share with you here.


Be sure to follow tested recipes and focus on using very lean, thin cuts of meat. And make sure that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 160 degrees or 165 degrees for poultry. But once dehydrated your jerky is shelf-stable as long as you store it in an airtight container.


Freeze Drying


Next is dry freezing. Now, this is not hard, but it is going to take moolah, some money. Because you're going to have to buy a dry freezing machine and they can be very expensive. I don’t know much about this method but I do know it is used quite often in RPGs. The Ready to Go meals that the United States Military, hunters, and food preppers use. Those are usually freeze-dried and so the process is very possible.


If there's something you want to do, I suggest maybe you get some of those meals and try them for yourself. You can get them at your local hunting store, or even survival store. If you're worried about dry freezing or you wonder if the investment into the machine is worth it, try it out first and see if dry freezing is something you want to do. I know my men every year, before they go up to elk camp, try to get one meal of those at the hunting store and try it out. It's just something fun that they get to do. It's not something that we do here at the farm, but I think it would be a very good investment if you're looking for a very long-term solution to preserving meat.


Smoking


Next is my second favorite, no I think it would be my favorite way to preserve meat. Because I love smoked bacon! I love it. It is truly something that George and I have been learning how to do for the past couple of years when we finally invested in a smoker, and I now have dreams of making a bigger one in our backyard. Yes, I want to smoke everything. I guess I just love the smoking process.


Smoking is dehydration but at a different skill level and taste level. What happens is the smoke and heat from the smoke dries the meat and adds a smoky flavor. I just want you to be aware that when you dehydrate or you smoke your meat is going to shrink.


But I'm sorry, there's nothing better than cherry smoked bacon or applewood smoked bacon. I'm just a bacon fan, I guess.


Freezing


I think the most common way we preserve meat is by freezing. This is the simplest way besides the last way that I'm going to be talking about in a minute. All you need to do is make sure that you are sealing the meat to avoid freezer burn. You can use Glad Lock bags, saran wrap, and then wrap with freezer paper, tape it, and label it. Freezing is the easiest way and the easiest way to package in the appropriate size for recipes.


For example, when we butcher our meat chickens, we piece them and package them just like the grocery store. We put all the legs together, thighs together, chicken breasts together. You see where I am going with this right? So that we can make recipes like buffalo wings or chicken alfredo. No matter what you use you want to make sure you press out as much air as you can because air is what is going to cause crystals in the freezer, which causes freezer burn.




On the Hoof


And the simplest way to preserve meat is on the hoof. Yes, that's what I said on the hoof. Old-timers, way back when, would wait. Maybe they would fatten a steer, or flock of geese, ducks, or chickens. For the fatten steer then would wait for a large gathering because more hands meant less work. But also more mouths meant the meat could be divided up between several families and used before the meat would go bad if only one family had that much meat. They of course did have all the fancy preserving methods we have today. As for the flock of animals they would only butcher as needed and not the whole flock at once. The easiest way is to wait to harvest until you need it or wait until the temperatures are right for slaughtering so you can preserve it outside. If you have freezing temperatures and a place where animals and pets and things can't get to it.


Recap


So let's recap, preserving meat all has to do with just following the recipes and following your gut as to how you think you want to prepare for your family’s needs and tastes. There are tons of different ways you preserve your meat. Pressure canning is going to be the hardest, not necessarily the hardest but the one that's going to need the most education. And then you have your curing. You can do dry cure or wet cure with brining. Which is when you put it in a saltwater brine. You have dehydrating and jerky is the number one dehydrated meat. Then you have freeze-drying, smoking, my favorite, and freezing. Simply wrapping pieces or portions for a recipe and putting it in the freezer. I would say freezing is the most expensive way to preserve, period. Because if the freezer fails or the electricity goes out you could lose a large amount of meat and produce very quickly. So maybe think about investing in a generator or something if freezing is your main source of preserving your meat. And lastly is on the hoof, wait until you are ready to consume before you slaughter.


I want to thank you for joining me here at the Pray, Just Plant podcast, and this is the first time you have tuned in, I want to welcome you!


I want to welcome you to the family here at Red Ridge Farm. If you need any other resources or downloads or ask any questions please visit me at my website.


And as always, don't let the world hold you back,


Pray, Just Plant!




Time Stamps

Intro 00:47

Canning 01:44

Curing 04:23

Tips and Tricks 08:16

Brining 11:06

Dehydration 14:47

Freeze Drying 16:39

Growing With God 18:50

Smoking 23:41

Freezing 25:50

On the Hoof 27:10

Recap 28:39

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