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Turkey Jerky

11/29/09 NOTE: The USDA warns that meats need to be heated to 160 - 165F (for poultry) to kill any hazardaous bacteria that may be present prior to drying the meat. You can read about it at their web site:

This is the latest addition to the column 'Arts and Crafts for Unit Studies'.  Unit studies are one of the most versatile approaches to education.  They arenít just for homeschoolers.  However, homeschoolers have the opportunity to explore unit studies to a greater degree.  One of these ways is through introduction of cooking and other activities that take more than your standard classroom period of time.

This activity is one designed to include with a study of colonialism, pioneering, Native Americans, sea travel, westward expansion in the USA, or one on the wild west or cowboys.  Food storage was a major issue for pioneers and immigrants prior to refrigeration.  Yet, because of the high caloric need of their lifestyle, they still had to have access to proteins, carbohydrates, and salts on a regular basis Ö even when there was a lack of fresh game or other fresh foods.  One way that they dealt with this was by drying foods, including meats.

Here is a modernized recipe for Jerky Ö in this case a Turkey Jerky.  Its also easy to fix and tastes pretty good as well.


1 pound turkey breast or tenderloins boned and skinned
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar; firmly packed
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (substitute: 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke*
Nonstick cooking spray


1. Rinse meat and pat dry.
2. Pull off and discard any fat and connective tissue.
3. To make meat easier to slice, freeze it until it feels firm, but not hard. Cut turkey into thin, 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut breast piece with the grain, and tenderloins lengthwise.
4. In a bowl, stir together salt, water, brown sugar, garlic, onion, pepper, and liquid smoke. Add turkey and mix well.
5. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours; meat will absorb most of the liquid.
6. Depending on drying method, evenly coat dehydrator racks, (you need 3, each about 10 by 13 in.) or metal racks (to cover a 10- by 15-inch baking pan) with nonstick cooking spray.
7. Lift turkey strips from liquid, shaking off excess, and lay strips close together on racks.  However, donít overlap the strips as this could cause uneven drying.
In a dehydrator: Arrange the trays as the manufacturer directs and dry at 140 degrees Fahrenheit until a cool piece of jerky (remove from dehydrator and let stand about 5 minutes) cracks and breaks when bent, about 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
In an oven: Preheat oven to 150-200 degrees Fahrenheit, place pan on center rack; prop oven door open about 2 inches. Dry until a piece of jerky cracks and breaks when bent (see above), about 3-5 hours.
8. Let jerky cool on racks, then remove.
9. Serve immediately or store in airtight containers in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks.  Or store in the refrigerator up to 4 months, or still longer in the freezer.  Its doubtful that it will last that long. 

Makes about 7 ounces.

*Liquid Smoke is available in the condiment or BBQ section of your grocery store.  It may also be located near the salt or flavorings.

A taste variation for those who want to get fancy is teriyaki turkey jerky.  You prepare turkey jerky as above, but omit the salt and water and replace it with 1/4 cup soy sauce and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.


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