The Amish are great people to learn from. You can turn to the Amish if you wish to learn how to live off the land.
The Amish are not survivalists or off-grid enthusiasts. Their survival know-how results from living the way their ancestors did. They avoid technology and as such have perfected living without electricity or refrigerators.
One thing that you also need to know about the Amish, is that the elderly Amish are known for having all their teeth pulled and replaced with false teeth.
Plus, keep in mind that dentistry is a recent phenomenon. Anyone living two hundred years ago in relative isolation would rarely have seen a dentist, if ever.
Why do I mention this? It’s really hard to eat jerky or any other kind of dried beef without a full mouth of teeth, or like the elderly Amish, with false teeth.
Related: 5 Lost Survival Lessons I Learned from the Amish
So how do you get dried meat into a state that people who have difficulty chewing, can eat? The Amish solved this problem by making a gravy with it. Other solutions include pulverizing it with a wooden mallet or grating it into powder. The gravy option is interesting and very tasty.
This article will look at two aspects of dried beef gravy. How to dry beef, and how to make a gravy from it. This will ensure that no matter the state of your teeth, you will still be able to preserve protein by drying it, and then have a way of consuming it.
Dried Beef Principles
Drying beef, sometimes also called curing, is easy. Removing moisture is the key to preserving meat because bacteria and fungus need a moisture-rich environment to propagate.
You also want to ensure bacteria and fungus don’t spoil your food while it’s drying. You can just hang meat to dry, and it could work, but it’s risky, as the meat could spoil.
To prevent spoilage while drying, it’s essential to treat your cuts beforehand with salt and vinegar. Most people will say you only need salt. I am not most people. Salt works well for bacteria, and vinegar for mold and fungal growths.
The technique I am about to describe works well for drying tit-bits, and long cuts of meat up to an inch or two thick. You will need meat, a cutting board, a knife, salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, and a container.
1. Cut the meat into thin strips.
2. Spice the meat and gently work all the spices through.
You will need around 20 grams of salt per pound of meat. The thicker the cut, the more salt you can add. I also add black pepper for taste.
You are welcome to add some chili, some Cajun pepper or even coriander to enhance the taste once it’s dried. I also added a small amount of brown sugar, it’s the way my grandparents did it, and it adds some taste.
3. Place the spiced meat into the vinegar.
I prefer brown vinegar, but you can use other types of vinegar depending on your taste preference. What I do is mix the dry spice into the meat cuts, and then add it to a container with vinegar.
⇒ What Happens If You Soak Your Meat In Vinegar Overnight
You want the vinegar to slightly cover the top of the meat. The way I do this is to add some vinegar to a bowl, and then lay my strips into the vinegar. I then add a small amount of vinegar every time the meat strips rise above the vinegar.
4. Turn the container from time to time to assure all surfaces are marinated.
Using a tight-fitting container or bowl for this will be your best option for not wasting too much vinegar. Once in the vinegar, I will move the pieces around every hour or so, using my hands or a large mixing spoon.
Depending on the thickness of the cuts, you want to leave them in there for around 4 to 24 hours. 4 hours for titbits, 24 hours for two-inch cuts.
Drying the Meat
You can then hang the meat up or lay them on a grid to dry. Depending on the temperature, humidity and thickness of the cuts, this could take anything from 2 days to three weeks.
Related: Be Aware Of This When You Smoke Your Meat!
Do not attempt this if the humidity is too high, as the moisture content of the meat equalizes to the moisture content of the surrounding air.
If the humidity is too high your meat won’t dry. Unless you expose it to dry air flow using commercial dryers or the dryer that you made with a server fan and a lightbulb.
1. Place the meat on a grid or hang it out to dry.
I use a screen grid made from pine wood and 20% shade net.
2. Lay the meat on the grid and cover.
This is what the dried beef will look like over time.
Once the meat strips are fully dried, you can store them however you want. I pack them into pillowcases and hang them in my pantry. The pillowcases protect from bugs and rodents while allowing airflow.
They will eventually dry completely. If you want to retain a bit of moisture, you can store them in airtight containers or vacuum pack them. The Amish are known for also canning dried meat.
Related: What Is the Best Canned Meat?
If you see mold growing on the meat, you can brush it with vinegar and hang it out to dry again. This rarely happens, but now you know how to deal with that.
The dried beef has a long shelf life. Here it really depends on how well it is stored. If you keep it away from moisture and protected from light, it should last months if not years.
The fat on the meat will eventually dehydrate completely, and become almost like a powdery substance. The meat itself will turn brown, then yellowish, and eventually pale. By this time, thicker pieces will be as hard as wood.
You can continue eating, as the meat and fat don’t spoil or become dangerous to consume. The issue is that the lipids in the fat degrade, and the amino acids in the meat also decay.
The problem with eating it after a few years is that it will have much less nutrition, so protein and energy are compromised. But it will not do your health in or cause food poisoning or other digestive issues.
The salt and minerals should stay more or less the same as with the fresh product.
Amish / Mennonite Dried Beef Gravy
Dried beef can be eaten on its own. You can also grate it finely, and serve it on a slice of bread with some butter.
The Amish dried beef gravy is the “uber” way of consuming dried beef and making it soft for eating. You can serve the gravy on rice or over potatoes. Grate some cheese over it to add something special.
Related: Meal in a Bag: Hamburger Gravy and Mashed Potatoes
- ¼ lb. dried beef
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk
- Black pepper, to taste
- Melt butter in a skillet
- Tear the dried beef into small pieces and stir into the melted butter
- Cook meat until slightly browned
- Stir in the flour
- When the flour is dissolved, add milk, stirring constantly
- Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens
- The longer it cooks, the softer the beef will become.
There you have it, folks. Dried beef – done. Different ways of eating dried beef – done!
Though some Amish have adopted recent technologies, most still retain knowledge long forgotten by most modern folk. The Amish are food preservation experts.
Amish are incredibly dependent on the modern society . For a lot of things to include food, gas and supplies. Without that they collapse just not as fast as city folks on this page.
Um, no, but in some ways far worse. They’ll cut down all trees on their farms and buy kerosene, for one. Break into one’s house he’ll kill you faster than most of us would. niio
Can’t really eat the tree but thanks for playing
Thankfully modern dehydrators make the process far easier and something we can do here in the horribly humid southern states. I like a marinade with a bit more seasoning to it. You can also make jerky with any lean meat, such as pork loin, chicken, turkey or venison.
I use a dehydrator now, as it is faster and much more convenient than laying out to dry, prepping the meat prior in a salt and vinegar marinade. However … growing up, my mother, who not due to necessity was a prepare, from growing up in the depression. She canned, and preserved a variety of foods, including a home made dried beef jerky. I was suspicious even growing up about her method, of creating dried meat / jerky, but I never got sick from eating it, and it was very very tasty. She cut beef (usually made from inexpensive roasts) into 1″ slabs. Then she cut those slabs into 1″ cubes. She marinated the cubes in a salt and vinegar mixture at least 24 hours, then she let them dry on a towel. Then she rolled the cubes in ground pepper … before impaling each cube with a needle, pulling kite string … so as to have several feet of cubed beef on a string. Then she hung the string on our clothes line in our back yard, not covering the meat … allowing them to bake in the Arizona summer heat, for a couple days until almost rock hard.
The cubes were ready to pull off the string, and bag up … and made a great snack for growing boys. They were hard, like taking a bite out of lumber, but biting along with the grain, got a chunk into your mouth, we sucked on until the meat was saturated and easy to chew. If too peppery, the pepper could be rubbed off before chewing.
I always worried about flies landing on the meat, leaving trace evidence of what ever they had landed on prior … but apparently due to the heavy pepper, I never saw a fly attempt to land on it while it hung on the line.
Orion: wjhat about worrying about bird poop/
I recently made pemmican for a historical reenactment. I get very lean round roast at the butcher and froze it for 3 hours. My husband sliced it up thin on the electric slicer. Then I put into the dehydrator overnight. Next morning I crumbled it up into my blender and I ground it all into a beautiful powder. Eager to try gravy.
I’d like to know how that turns out. I’ve been wanting to try making pemmican for some time.
I made Pemmican 8 years ago and it is still in perfect condition. Labor of love.
yes, make the gravy in your microwave for a real historical treat !
It’s my understanding that most tribes also added berries and/or rendered fat to their meat mixture before drying. Did you use any marinades or add any fruit, spices, etc., and if so was it before or after freezing?
Some years ago, I spoke to a little girl from a small island off the coast of Alaska. She was dreaming of some Eskimo ice cream. It was made with lard, sugar, berries and fish.
hello Hiai, I oven dried garlic peppered spiced raw meat till it’s snap breakable, but try to stay under 120 F, (100-115 is ideal). Laws require dried meat products like jerky to be brought to temps above 150 F. Then I used a blender to chop until I got the consistency I wanted. Mix 50% meat to 50% rendered fat heated to below 150 F, put into any tin pan mold, let it cool. Looks like dark oatmeal or a wax block. Wrap it up in foil, or light proof paper, then plastic bags. Pemmican is not a raw food as native Americans have demonstrated over and over that consuming raw meat that was dried at temps below 120 F, with sufficient fat present to supply calories- will maintain good health, prevent scurvy, develop good bones. Add dried berries up to 5% if you choose, but they do increase the chance of spoilage. This info is available in Claude’s book “The Lost Superfoods.” Good luck!
That isn’t pemmican…or did you just make 2 separate comments?
Whether replying to mmcan or the other polite contributors, we all depend on modern convenience and labor saving. But, as our focus is SHTF, we learn how to do like our forefathers did so we can survive. And doing it the old way saves money by saving energy.
How is this different from beef jerky?
since jerky is dried meat, there doesn’t seem to be much difference, maybe the spicing and/or marinading?
Jerky is cooked or smoked before or during the drying process. This dried beef seems to remain raw.
this looks like some good recipes to try with both modern convenience appliances and by manual methods. I really like the idea of stringing the meat (like popcorn) and hanging to dry.
Good article with great information!!!
It is sad that mentally ill people are not banned from making
mean spirited and hurtful comments.
If one of your children were doing this it would cause the worlds
longest time-out in a dark corner.
I’m sure that the folks in charge see what is happening.They
must not care.
“Mentally ill” is not a reasonable observation, nor thoughtful to those who have such conditions. On the other hand, “stupid” and “immature” are ever-so-appropriate.
As for banning such commentators, it’s better to let them have their say, then let them retreat to the safety of their anonymity (and self-generated hate), and yes, maybe a dark corner where they can brood while thinking of other snappy things to say to people who aren’t listening. Once we start censoring, it has no limits.
I think the folks in charge care; just maybe not regarding the same things.
Raw dried meat is still raw. If parasites are in it, they’re still alive. Carne asado seco is traditional. Cooked meat that’s then dried. Amish may do it raw dried, but they also use a lot of brass and copper to kill parasites. If making pemmican, cook the meat, then dry. Use a mallet or hammer to break it up. Cattle bungs are the best, but any sausage casing will do. Remember, these are also raw! Best pemmican was then hard smoked. Leave a bowl under it and save the grease, AKA smoked tallow. It used cost more than good butter. niio
Red, can you explain a bit more about using brass and copper? It sounds to me that you’re saying they use copper or brass pots and pans and that somehow affects the parasites?
Wondering if this is how the buffalo jerky I get from a small specialty outfit (Healthy Buffalo .. in NH) is made. Comes from S Dakota I believe. 10$ a bag but soft chewy and delicious compared to the other more common jerky I have tried. Was hoping to learn how to make it at home.
Neither of us are medical psychiatric specialists and I didn’t stay
at Holiday Inn but I know bat shit crazy when I see or hear it.
You’re right Chuck.
I only have a masters in counseling.
The Amish add gravy for tenderness. Another way to make the strips of beef easier to eat, is to cut them cross-grain resulting in shorter muscle fibers.
How you store your foods DOES matter. Once the meat is dried properly, putting it in a container that keeps out air and light is best. Humidity can cause dried meat to soften, and enough humidity can cause it to mold.
A pillowcase may prevent some insects from getting in or dust, but mice can make quick work of a pillowcase. Ridemt-proof containers are impermeable such as metal or glass.
Food grade buckets may deter them for a time, but they can chew into those, too.
My first winter at my current location, I thought I was smart to store birdseed in a wheelie bin so I could easily move the bin about the barn as needed. Come spring, after the snow was mostly melted, I went into the barn as I had done daily to refill the bird feeder. There was a hole chewed at the top of the wheelie bin! No one was in the bin when I opened it, but I went out and promptly obtained a galvanized trash can for the birdseed. No problems since.
All of the dried meat recipes I’ve seen advocate for using leaner cuts of beef as fat is hard to dry and can go rancid. I tried making biltong. I used a dehydrator since I realized by the second day my location was too humid to have air drying work. I hedged my bets after drying it by storing it in the freezer. Figured if I wanted to use it when hiking, boating, or camping it would last longer in the freezer. I found it too salty for my taste just plain, but it was very good mixing it with vegs and water to make a soup. A few potatoes took care of the saltiness and it was quite enjoyable.
It depends on which amish communities you speak of, also dont confuse mennonites with amish, there is a difference. Many young amish are returning to thier roots, with a few changes. Those on this thread stating otherwise shall keep in mind the entire amish lifestyle, go ahead, plow your field with horse and plow, your child leaves the community and is shunned for life, try not talking to your child forever
I gave your coment a thumbs up because you’re right shunning ones child for life is a bit harsh. a Loving God forgives and so must we.
Any thoughts on using this method for pork or mutton?