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Inspired in part by the ongoing experiments in dehydrating I’ve been reading about on the excellent Ideas in Food blog, and also out of a desire to preserve produce from next summer’s garden—and frankly out of a deep love of jerky—Michelle and I decided to invest in a good dehydrator.
We chose this one from based on it being reasonably priced and highly recommended by a local health food store.
I decided to leap into the deep end and start with trout jerky. Luckily, it turned out beautifully and my confidence for new experiments is high.
1 liter water
30g kosher salt
20g smoked salt
12 juniper berries (just broken)
150 ml amber maple syrup
Step one: I relied on Michael Ruhlman‘s ratios for brining, aiming for a roughly 5% salt brine.* I added the salts, maple syrup, and juniper to the water, brought it to a boil and then let it cool completely. I was trying to come up with something quintessentially Canadian in flavour, so maple, juniper and wood-smoked sea salt. Minus the fancy dehydrator, Native Canadians might have made something similar hundreds of years ago.
I cut the fish in a variety of shapes and thicknesses in order to see how long each would take and what the end effect would be. Once the cold brine was poured over the fish I added plastic wrap to the surface to keep it all submerged and let it brine 1.5 hours.
Step two: After draining the fish I patted it as dry as possible and then laid it on a rack in the dehydrator, making sure none of the pieces touched each other in order to encourage as much airflow as possible. I set the machine to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and five hours on the timer—based on the instructions that came with the dehydrator.
Step three: At five hours the thinner pieces were excellent—translucent in spots and chewy but not tough. The maple, juniper and smoked flavours all came through beautifully, but didn’t overpower the fish. The jerky is salty, but not aggressively so. The thicker pieces required another two hours at the same temperature.
I’m thrilled with the results and have come up with some recipe ideas for the finished jerky—starting with a rice-noodle salad with fish sauce, lime and cilantro and flaked pieces of trout.
Now, on to some more experiments! I’ve got some beef jerky underway that I put in a brine at, like, midnight last night, and have plans for fruit leather probably later today…stay tuned.
And Michelle and I have already been fantasizing about dried tomatoes and herbs from next season’s garden—despite the foot of snow still covering our back yard.
*Brining is a pretty important step in any kind of meat or fish jerky. It both helps to eliminate bacteria that might spoil the final product and improves texture and flavour.