The problem with storing meat for use all year round is an old one. While considering your own preparedness with regards to meat, consider the following ways to preserve meat:
Tip: Following the harvesting of meat livestock, a period of ‘hanging’ will improve the flavor and texture by giving natural enzymes time to break down tough muscle fibers. The temperature range for hanging is 33 to 40-degrees-F. Fresh meat and poultry will rapidly deteriorate in temperatures above 40-degrees-F, so be wary of this. Without a refrigerated room, hanging meat can only be done during the cold months of the year. Hanging times range from 24 to 48 hours, sometimes longer for a more tender meat.
Since the mid 1940’s, freezing has become the most popular way to store meat. It’s quick, easy, and preserves the nutritional value and flavor. Obviously though, a freezer depends upon a supply of electrical power and may not be suitable for preparedness unless you have a source of alternative energy to power the freezer if the grid goes down.
Freezing meat is best at 0-degrees-F for longest shelf life. Wrap all pieces in individual moisture-proof packages to prevent freezer burn (or vacuum seal). Label each package with the type of meat and the date is was frozen. All meats will begin to slowly deteriorate in the freezer though. We generally rotate / consume our freezer meat storage within a one year cycle.
I have a few chest freezers. I bought this one years ago from Amazon. Still runs great!
Danby Chest Freezer, 7.2 Cubic Feet
Canning meat is convenient and economical, and is not dependent upon electricity for storage. Canned foods keep for a very long time (years). The key to safe canning is to follow proper canning recipes and procedures.
More: How To Can Chicken
Salt is the only essential ingredient for curing. It slows spoilage by drawing water out of the meat while also killing decay-causing microorganisms.
Meat cured with salt alone will store well (but will be tough and dry). An early salt cure was as simple as storing slabs of meat in a barrel of salt. ‘Kosher salt’ can be used for curing meat and is a type of coarse salt which is usually made without additives.
‘Curing salt’ is most commonly used today and is a special blend of salt and other ingredients including sodium nitrite (which has become somewhat controversial regarding potential health issues with large doses).
An MSB Reader said, “42 pounds of Morten’s Tender Quick fits in a 5 gallon bucket. Each ounce of Tender Quick cures about 2 pounds (small cuts) of meat, or about 1,300 pounds of meat for a 5 gallon pail worth!”
Curing is the first step in the smoking process, essential for good flavor. ‘Cold smoking’ is best for preservation (and for adding flavor) with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees F, and is more easily accomplished during cooler months.
The cold smoking process may range from 1 to 14 days. The preservative benefit of smoking is that the smoke contains tar-like substances that are deposited on the food. To a greater or lesser extent, they seal the surface, keeping air from coming in contact with the food. Fats in the food will not turn rancid from exposure to air, so smoking is particularly useful for preserving fatty foods. The smoke also kills bacteria.
Smoked meats may still spoil fairly quickly though, depending, so refer to research of your particular meat, recipes, and shelf-life storage.
More: Project Smoke
Jerky / Dehydrate
Dried dehydrated meat (jerky) has traditionally been made by drying meat at a relatively low temperature (140°F – 170°F) for an extended period of time.
Ideally the meat is marinated in a vinegar solution (grape vinegar is traditional but balsamic and cider also works very well) for a few hours, this being finally poured off before the meat is flavored.
The spice mix traditionally consists equal amounts of: rock salt, barbecue spice, whole coriander slightly roasted and roughly ground, black pepper and brown sugar.
This mix is then ground roughly together, sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. The meat should then be left for a further few hours (or refrigerated overnight) and any excess liquid poured off before the meat is hung in the dryer.
Lard Covered Pork
An MSB Reader said, “My grandmother, born 1896 an raised on a Midwest farm told me that when they butchered a hog they would lay slices of pork in a crock and pour lard over each layer then store in cold dark place.”
Apparently the lard method was used by pioneers years ago and by soldiers during the Civil War as a way to preserve their meat.
Pemmican is a nutritious, preserved food created by Native American Indians. It consists of a mixture of cooked, dried and shredded buffalo meat, or fish, which is combined with melted fat.
How to Make Pemmican – The Pemmican Recipe
The buffalo meat was first dried.
The dried meat was heated through over a low fire, and then beaten with sticks or stones into shreds.
Buffalo tallow was melted and the shredded meat stirred into the hot fat to create pemmican.
The pemmican was 50 percent meat and 50 percent fat.
Berries and dried fruit was sometimes added to the pemmican.
The pemmican would then cool and harden.
Pemmican would last for over a year and was eaten dry or boiled in water.
Share your own ideas, opinions and experiences about preserving meat: