Use only fresh lean meat, well trimmed so that it is free of fat and connective tissue, generally it is a good idea to dry the jerky within 24 ahns of the kill to prevent any spoilage or contamination. Meat should be sliced with the grain, not crosswise. Remember to ask permission to use the sharp knife for this. Cut the meat into thin strips about 1/4 hort thick and 1 hort wide. Thinner strips means crunchier jerky.
Add the salt and spices as desired. A few that might be used are: chili, garlic or onion powder, black, red or white pepper, curry, ginger, coriander, oregano, cumin, thyme or allspice. It all depends upon the taste desired in the final product. A wine or soy sauce marinade would give more of a teriyaki taste. Even a bit of cinnamon might be added for a different taste.
Cure and marinate the meat strips at a cool temperature, approximately 24 ahns. Salted, spiced meat should be placed in stone crocks and placed in the cooling pit during this time.
Place the marinated strips of meat in the smokehouse, spread in a single layer on the wooden benches. Once the meat is placed in the smoke house the temperature should be fairly high for the first 30 ehn or so. After that, bank the fire so that it slow-smokes the meat. Smoking time varies according to meat type and personal tastes, anywhere from 6-12 ahn. The best wood for smoking is probably tur, although any hardwood can be used.
Remove the jerky from the smokehouse or oven before it gets too hard and dry. Meat will be approximately half its fresh weight after drying or smoking. Store jerky in the same stone crocks that you used for the marinating process. Properly dried jerky will last almost indefinitely at any temperature, however, its quality does deteriorate after a few months.
Freshly killed meat is really not very good and tends to be tough. Muscle fibers have to go through the complex biochemical changes called rigor-mortise and relax before they become tender. This process requires about twelve ahn during which the meat needs to be chilled as much as possible but not frozen. The old timers would say that you had to take the "animal heat" out before it was fit to eat.
The basic method of preservation is to use salt - lots of salt! If you take a piece of fresh meat and cover it with salt; water comes out and salt goes in. This is called "taking salt" and is the fundamental principle of the curing process.
Salt alone tends to make for a dry tough meat; adding ingredients to the salt will add texture, flavor and color. In formulating curing mixtures, brown sugar or molasses is used to enhance the action of salt, improve flavor and keep the meat more moist and soft during aging. Other seasonings such as black or red pepper and paprika may be added as well.
Recipe for Curing Mixture
12 stones salt
1 stone molasses or brown sugar
1/4 stone black pepper
handful of paprika
dash of red pepper or cayenne
Coat the hams liberally with the curing mixture and place in the smokehouse spread on the rough wooden benches. Check and turn the meat daily as it absorbs the salt. Hams should stay in cure for about 2 days per pound. After the curing period, just brush off the salt leaving a thin coating of attached spices and hang in a cool dry storage area. Hams may be smoked if you wish for an alternate flavor.
Use the same curing mixture that you made for the hams, coating the slabs of bacon liberally. As a rule of thumb, smaller pieces such as bacon should stay in cure for 1.5 days per pound. It should be salty but not too salty to eat without soaking. Check the bacon daily, when you are satisfied with the cure, brush the salt off and hang. Bacon is best if smoked.
Smoking the Meat
Use a couple fairly green tur logs about foot in diameter. Once you have it burning on the dirt floor of the smokehouse, adjust the distance between the logs so that they smolder actively but don't flame. A fire of this type should burn for a day or so with minimal tending, just check it every few ahns and make adjustments. Smoke does not need to be thick and heavy to flavor meat. Bacon should eaten before summer as it starts to get rancid if hung too long. Once smoked, hams and bacon may be hung in a cool dry place until used.
Preparing fish for smoking
For large fish, remove the backbone by cutting along the other side of the backbone to produce two fillets or boneless sides. For small fish, the backbone can be left attached to one of the sides. Cut the sides of large fish into uniform pieces about 1 inche thick and 2 inches wide. Small fish halves can be brined and smoked in one piece.
Smoking fish is similar to smoking meats. There are two methods of smoking fish.... the first method is hot smoking (kippering).. after the fish is gutted, cleaned, washed and split the head can stay on. It is placed in a brine of water, coarse salt, vinegar, sugar and a variety of spices -- dill and sage are a good ones. You can add whatever combination you like.
The fish is left to marinate in the brine for only a couple of hours -- 3 at the most. Then placed in the smoke house at very high temperatures... slowly increasing the heat after the first two hours then left to smoke at the higher temperature for an additional 4 to 8 hours. This method leaves the fish moist lightly salted and fully cooked but the shelf time in the chilling pit would only be a couple of days.
The second method called cold smoking is very much like the first. You gut, clean ,wash and split the fish. Prepare a brine and place the fish in to marinate, but with this process the fish is left in a lot longer -- up to 2 days in a cool place to sufficiently brine.
When ready it is washed and drained then laid in the smoke house at a much lower heat and left for up to 5 days of steady smoking. Cold smoked fish has a much higher salt content and less moisture the the hot smoked fish but can remain in the chilling pit for months.
Parasites that are common in fish are killed in the hot smoking method.. as with anything be diligent in dressing the fish.
There are two kinds of salting for fish. One is a light salt process usually a pickling brine made from vinegar, salt and spices packed into jars or casks used for smaller inshore fish. The process is relatively simple and takes only a couple of hours... after the fish has been gutted and the head taken off, fins snipped off as well.. its cut into manageable pieces skin and bones left for flavour.
Taking some clean jars or large casks.. pack the fish with vine onions into the jars or casks... make a brine in a large bowl using vinegar.. strong white and sometimes malt works best for this.. sprinkle in a generous amount of coarse salt, sea salt is generally used then add various spices.. dill,mustard seed, peppercorns, cloves, fennel seed if you can get it.... stir this mixture and pour over the fish filling almost to the top best estimation two fingers from the top.
Let this sit in a cool spot to marinate for about 2 hours. The last part of the process is to cook the fish. Find a large deep kettle or pot and place the jars inside not to tight then fill with water just until the water level hits half way up the jars hang over the fire and boil gently for up to two hours.. let the jars cool then store in a cool place. It is ready to eat right away.
The second kind of salting is called heavy salting. This process which is longer is used for larger outshore fish. After the fish is caught, it is gutted, cleaned, beheaded, the fins clipped off, the sound bone removed, split then washed well. Some fish contain parasites and worms. These are easily removed by washing -- be diligent and look over the flesh well.
Using very coarse salt the fish is coated well.. totally covered until a crust of salt sits on the surface and is rubbed into the flesh.. Store the fish in puncheons or pounds (a large watertight barrel or cask used for storing things such as fish, molasses etc. pounds where usually 5 feet in height and could hold up to 40-144 gallons. Sometimes they are sawn in half to make two tubs used for washing the fish) for about 2 weeks to get the salt to soak in well.
The next phase is drying. After the fish has gone through the salting process it is taken from the pounds, washed very well, cleaned with a brush and drained to remove the salt. The fish is then laid out piled on flakes ( an outdoor platform on which fish were dried, built on posts and shores, that is, bracing poles on angles, with a floor constructed of longers.. long wooden boards and spread with boughs which kept the fish off the longers that might burn the fish in hot weather. These could be 12 feet off the ground with walkways of wide boards placed across so the one taking care of the fish could traverse easily or smaller versions close to the ground to work easier) the fish is left for days up to weeks to receive the proper curing and drying. It is piled, spread and respread every day to insure every piece is dried properly.
After it is dried it is taken in and stored in a cool place... you might have to pick insect larvae (maggots) from the fish this is to be expected -- flies love fish... the mark of good salt fish is the fish that has the less maggots on it or none at all so make sure to salt the fish well.
Salt fish keeps for long periods of time and can be used in a variety of things from soups to stews, fishcakes and just eaten the way it is. The best method is to soak it overnight in warm water.. drain off the water and boil it until it is rehydrated and not as salty in flavour.