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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nesco Dehydrator

We started camping in tents when our youngest was still in diapers on the Labour Day weekend with good friends of ours.  In October of the same year, we packed up our kids and gear in the pouring rain to head to Pinery Provincial Park.  It rained the entire time we were there but as a family we were hooked on camping.  The following spring we bought a pop-up tent trailer and less than a year later bought a 28' Prowler.  Our kids were fanatics about homemade trail mix and beef jerky as snacks so I splurged and bought a Mr. Coffee 5 tray dehydrator (135 W).  When we bought our Jenn-Aire range in 2005, I switched to using the dehydrating cycle on it as the Mr. Coffee had burned out.  When we moved here, the Jenn-Aire went to one of our kids because I wanted natural gas for home canning.  Since last September, I have been unable to do much in the way of dehydrating as my new gas range does not go low enough in temperature.  It wasn't much of a problem until this spring when I wanted to start replenishing our dried food supplies.

Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator and Jerky Maker
A couple of weeks ago I bought a Nesco® All American Harvest® Dehydrator & Jerky Maker (FD-61).  Home Hardware ordered it in for me, which is one reason I love supporting this local business.  The dehydrator is a 500 W 4 tray model expandable to 12 trays.  It came with one fruit roll-up sheet but extra trays, screens and fruit sheets are available.  Unlike the Mr. Coffee where the heating element and fan were in the base, the heating element and fan are in the lid of the Nesco.  The nice thing about this design is food drippings never come into contact with the heating element or fan making clean-up a lot nicer.  Also, this dehydrator has an adjustable thermostat making it much more versatile than the Mr. Coffee one.  I do plan to expand this dehydrator with at least two more trays if not more depending on how much drying I'm doing.

loading the dehydrator trays with marinated beef strips
I decided to make a batch of beef jerky to test out my new dehydrator.  This is the golden standard in dehydrating for our family.  I use a lean cut of beef (eg. flank or round steak) either thin sliced from the butchershop or hand cut at home from a piece of meat from our bulk beef purchase or venison from my husband's hunt camp score.  The meat is marinated for 4 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.  The beauty of the marinate is it can be a very simple to complex homemade marinade or your favourite bbq sauce.  A curing spice that contains sodium nitrate and salt (eg. Morton's Tender Quick) should be added to the marinade in a ratio of 1 tsp per pound of meat.

beef jerky fresh from the dehydrator
I marinated the beef in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce.  I dried the beef jerky at 165ºF (74ºC) setting until it was tough but not brittle.  I wrapped the finished jerky in paper towels to absorb any excess fat before packaging.  Jerky is shelf stable for about 3 weeks or if vacuum sealed longer.  To extend the storage life, I store beef jerky in the refrigerator.  It will keep nicely for 6 months in the freezer, not that a batch of beef jerky would ever last that long around here!

The jerky was delicious.  I do think there was a bit of a borderline sweetness that while quite pleasant needed toning down.  Yet no one complained so it might have been just my tastebuds off a bit.  The next batch I make will be using Blazin BBQ's  Blazin' Nitro BBQ Sauce.  This is an award winning, specialty bbq from Canadian ribbers.  The sauce is only available through their restaurant or at ribfests they are participating in.  I think the sauce will make an amazing beef jerky!

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