They survived despite not having the tools for modern food preservation. The lack of all this comfort we have surrounded ourselves with today didn't stop them from surviving. They made the best of what little resources they had available at the time. With simple tools like a piece of metal or sharpened wood they were able to hunt animals and preserve meat for extended periods through a process of drying or smoking meat.
Many lived strong, healthy and long lives, even longer than what the life expectancy is nowadays. There were not so many health challenges then; they didn't have as many diseases, high rates of cancer, diabetes, etc. that are so prevalent today as a result of the modern diet and all it's processed foods and chemical additives that are harmful to health.
There is just no telling what harmful ingredient some greedy manufacturer might decide to add to his product to save cost -- but a lot of them have and continue to do so year after year.
This is why it is worrisome that so many people do not know how to do the simple but necessary task of drying or smoking meat on their own.
But knowing how to dry and smoke your own cuts of meat could easily be the best choice as a long term survival food.
How many ways do you know to dry meat? If you are like most people, you probably only know one way, and may be unaware that there are other ways to perform the same task faster or better.
Here, you will learn both ancient and modern ways of drying and smoking meat. You may find your favorite method among them, but that shouldn't stop you from learning a bit about the other methods even if you are pretty sure that one method is all you will ever need.
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Riots, looting, robbery, murder -- all over food -- will quickly result.
Another possible occurrence is a natural disaster that leaves people stranded with little facilities still functional to live the normal life we have gotten used to.
Depending on where you live, and the degradation of our planet, I believe it is safe to say we have not seen the worst natural disasters yet. How prepared are you for a world without electricity or gasoline? Would you still be able to feed your family if it happens?
Don't be that person who puts their hope for survival in modern day comfort foods -- instead be a leader who knows and is prepared to survive by going back to methods that our ancestors proved worked and even perfected.
Whether a time of feast or famine, you can have the meat resources that many others will lack. You can feed your family for several months ahead.
How did our forefathers do it?
The art of smoking meat as a way of preserving it probably started many thousands of years ago. An early tribesman would simply hang out meat to dry. The lack of chimneys in ancient caves and huts often made their shelters smoky. Early people realized soon enough that hanging out meat in such smoky places made meat acquire a different flavor and meat was also preserved for longer periods of time.
Smoking as a way to flavor and dry out meat and extend it's life became preferred.
Over time, early people also discovered that adding salt (curing) to the meat also increases its shelf life dramatically. Thus curing and smoking became popular and passed on from one civilization to the next.
Cold smoking is a way to get smoke flavor into the meat without necessarily cooking it.
1. First, the meat is hung up to develop a pellicle.
2. Second, the meat is dehydrated, but not fully, by the smoke. Curing should also accompany the process and the heat should be set at about 20°-30°C, that is 68°-86°F.
Properly prepared dry cure meats can be safely stored at room temperature -- see National Center for Home Food Preservation: Smoking and Curing.
You could also do smoke baking/roasting in your oven. You only have to place a pan filled with hardwood chips beneath the meat in the oven. As the temperature rises, the chips would begin to smolder and the smoke would envelop your meat.
Wherever you choose to do this, always ensure proper ventilation in other to avoid poisoning from carbon monoxide.
Many communities have specialized shops that sell smokers though if you shop locally (while good for the shop owner) you may pay more money than from an online retailer (for those of you on a budget consider following the link above to compare prices for smokers online where you may possibly save a hundred dollars or more on the same smoker).
Uptight Drum Smoker
This is an uptight steel drum that has been designed to deliver indirect heat and smoke to your meat. It consists of a drum, a pan to hold charcoal at the floor of the drum, and one or two cooking racks located up the drum. Everything is covered with a veil that leaves some room for proper air flow. Different drum sizes have been used to design this smoker. The possible sizes include 30, 55, and 85 gallon drums. However, the 55 gallon uptight drum smoker is the most popular.
Maximum distance is allowed between the coals and the racks. The distance might be up to 24 inches in order to ensure the meat is not heated directly. To control the heat, you only have to adjust the air intake and exhaust. Aim for equal intake and exhaust for best cooking. You may or may not use a drip pan depending on your flavor preference. This is because the absence of a drip pan gives a unique flavor to the meat that many people love. Expert smokers believe that the dripping moisture should be allowed to drop directly into the fire as this is what gives the true taste of smoked meat.
Vertical Water Smoker
This is different from the Uptight Drum Smoker. The first difference you will notice is its bullet shape. Charcoal or wood is what you need to generate smoke and heat with this bullet smoker. A water bowl separates the fire from the cooking grates. The water has two effects. First, it helps maintain the temperature and humidity in the smoking chamber. And it also adds flavor to the meat when water vapor combines with the smoke. A third purpose for the water bowl is to trap any dripping headed for the fire. This also adds to creating a unique taste.
You may find that you prefer this smoker because it is very easy to use. When the optimal temperature is reached, it is maintained without requiring much adjustment.
Also, they are relatively cheaper.
Here, the heat is generated by a gas burner, hence the name propane smoker. The gas burner is placed under the steal which contains charcoal or wood. The environment in the burner is strictly controlled so that there is no oxygen present; this makes the wood or charcoal smoke instead of burning. By design, there would be one or two holes on top of the iron box for proper ventilation. One reason you would enjoy this method is that it does not use as much wood as other smokers.
This smoker has a "smoke box" and a "fire box". The smoke box is where the smoke and heat is generated and then channeled into the food box, where the meat is smoked and cooked.
Learn how to dry meat, removing all the moisture from it, just the way our forefathers did it.
We will talk about how to cut, trim and debone the carcass of an animal in subsequent articles. That knowledge would be very vital if you are ever in a situation where you have to hunt and kill an animal yourself. For now, lets just assume you have obtained a large chunk of meat that you want to dry using a primitive method.
Short srips would take more space when hanged to dry, while meat strips that are too long may break because of the weight. Also, thicker slices would require longer drying time because it takes longer for the inner moisture to get to the outer layer where it can drip or evaporate. This is why you should ensure your meat is cut into strips of similar thickness. If they have similar thickness and they are evenly spaced you can expect that they will all get dried at about the same rate of time.
Cutting can be done while the meat is suspended on a hook or on a chopping board, depending on which is preferable or available.
But when you have salted the meat strips adequately, you will not have to worry about that.
The salt solution should have about 14% concentration. Just dissolve table salt in warm water and stir. The meat can then be dipped in the solution for 5 minutes before drying.
Metal hooks: You can use metal hooks made out of galvanized wire. Simply cut the wire in a way that it can easily pierce the meat. With the aid of these hooks, you can then suspend your meat strips on a horizontal stick, rope or wire. Ensure that you hook from the heavier/thicker end to ensure stability.
Loops: A thin string or thread is what is needed here. The strings should be divided into 30cm long pieces with knotted ends. You can then attach this string to the thicker end of your strips via double loop. Make the loop firm to ensure balance. You can see here for more details and pictures.
Metal Clips: This is probably the best way to suspend your meat strips. Make sure the metal clips are 4 - 7cm in diameter. You can simply attach the clip to the heavier end of the meat strip and suspend it via your horizontal rope. You can use this for any type of meat strip and be confident that the edges of your meat won't end up folded or curled when dried.
Note: Do not just place your meat strip over wires, ropes or tree branches. This will not allow for even drying because some parts will get too much sun while other parts are shielded. The meat would also be exposed to dust, rain, storm, insects and even birds and bird dung from tree branches up above.
Instead of just spreading the meat like clothes hung out to dry, set up your own meat drying system with homemade equipment using any of the tools or combination of tools mentioned above.
Also find a way to protect your meat strips from insects, especially if you have a large batch of meat to dry. You may consider investing in an insect screen or sections of mosquito netting carried by online retailers.
To preserve your dried meat, place similar length strips into plastic foils or cellophane. There are other things used for packaging but any of those two should do just fine. You could use transparent cellophane or plastic, that way you can easily observe the quality of your dried meat from time to time.
Now that you've learned the steps to drying and smoking meat, practice a few times, and then inspect the quality of your dried meat a few weeks from now and inspect for any signs of spoilage. Remember, if you do this correctly, your dried meat can last several months or even years. Now you know why dried meat (jerky) was a popular staple carried by many early explorers and mountain men in centuries past. This is an essential survival skill to learn and the good news is that you can learn and perfect the skill right at home in your spare time.
You now know how to dry your meat effectively the old school way. You have also seen the different smokers you can use for smoking. Try it out this weekend and let us know in the comments section if you have any questions. You might even inspire further discussions on the subject.