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Meat dehydration in the high desert.

It’s that time of year again, time to dry the meat! I did it up on the last ridge of high desert just west of California’s central valley. This is the driest region you can find that’s not too far from the Bay Area. It was so arid that the meat was quite dry and crispy after just 2 days in the sun. I couldn’t have lasted much longer out there myself it was so intense!

Most of the meat was submerged in brine for 5 minutes before hanging. The brine was a 3 lb box of kosher salt in a pot filled with water up to the 5 gallon mark. The meat hooks are just plain galvanized wire bent and cut with needle nose pliers. The Italian style clothes drying rack I used is available at Amazon.com, it’s just like ones I would see on the streets of Naples.  I put vaseline on the lower part of each of the legs to prevent ants from climbing up them.  I hung a small bell from the rack to hopefully wake me up if a larger critter tried to tug on the strips in the night but thankfully that never happened.  The meat was all grass-fed rump roasts that I purchased from the good folks at Moon Meadow Natural Beef, 28 pounds of it. It took almost 5 hours to slice it all up. I’m able to create very long strips by slicing into alternate sides of each roast and them pulling them out and flat and then further slicing into narrow strips. The second morning I inspected every strip and further sliced ones I found that were too thick and drying too slowly. By the 3rd morning it was all basically very dry with only a tiny bit of moisture left in a few spots. I loaded all the strips into a 6 gallon white plastic bucket with a few pounds of rice in a paper bag to absorb ambient moisture. The black rubber seal in the lid is coated with food grade silicone to try to create an air tight seal. It should last like that without refrigeration for many months. In case of a public emergency you won’t find me fighting over canned goods at the supermarket 😉 The beef can be cooked up with the rice, olive oil and salt. The raw dried meat also makes a great meal with fresh corn on the cob not to mention my special orechiette alla Bolognese recipe (coming soon). Having this kind of dried meat and healthy fats on hand to supplement any fresh produce you can find is a great strategy for long-term, off-grid survival. Dried starches of good, organic quality are great also: rice, lentils, pasta, you can even turn your dried beef and tallow into pemmican, though that’s hardly necessary unless you’re going to be too busy to cook anything.

Looking east towards the Central Valley.
Looking north along the hills on the west side of the Central Valley.