In the wild, where access to refrigeration is limited or nonexistent, survivalists must rely on various methods of meat storage to ensure their sustenance in challenging environments.
From traditional techniques passed down through generations to modern innovations adapted for wilderness conditions, there are eight ways to store meat in the wild.
These methods not only safeguard against spoilage but also maintain essential nutrients crucial for sustained energy levels during trying circumstances.
Let’s dive in.
Smoking is one of the oldest and most reliable methods of meat preservation. Survivalists can use a homemade smoker or even build a fire pit with a suspended grate.
The meat is thinly sliced and then hung over the fire to slowly dry and absorb the smoke flavour. This method not only helps to preserve the meat by removing moisture but also adds a delicious smoky taste.
To smoke meat in the wild, survivalists can construct a simple smoking apparatus using natural materials such as rocks or clay.
They can create a fire and place the meat on a rack or hang it above the fire. It is crucial to ensure that the fire is not too hot, as excessively high temperatures can cook the meat instead of preserving it.
The type of wood used for smoking can also influence the flavor of the meat. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, or mesquite are ideal choices as they produce a rich, smoky taste.
Survivalists should avoid using wood from toxic or poisonous plants and should also be aware of the safety aspect of fire management in their surroundings.
It is important to note that while smoking is a reliable method, it may not be suitable for all types of meat.
Fatty meats like bacon or fish tend to smoke well, while lean meats like venison may require additional methods, such as brining or marinating, to ensure they retain moisture and flavour during the smoking process.
Curing is a traditional method used to preserve meat by removing moisture and creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria growth. When curing meat, the right balance of salt and other seasonings plays a crucial role.
Salt acts as a natural preservative by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Various herbs, spices, and sugars can be added to the curing mixture to enhance flavour and add complexity to the meat.
Dry-curing is a process where the meat is rubbed with a mixture of salt, sugar, and other seasonings. The meat is then left to air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area. This method allows the salt to penetrate the meat, drawing out moisture and creating an environment that inhibits bacterial growth. Dry-cured meats, such as prosciutto or beef jerky, can be stored for months or even years.
Conversely, wet-curing involves submerging the meat in a brine solution made with water, salt, and various seasonings. The meat is left to marinate and absorb the flavours of the brine. After soaking, the meat is laid out to air dry, removing excess moisture. Wet-curing is commonly used for ham, bacon, and corned beef.
Unlike fresh cuts that require constant cooling temperatures above freezing levels, preserved & properly dried/cured means it retains its quality high beyond 6 months.
Jerking is a widely employed method for preserving meat, especially in regions with hot and dry climates. The process involves thinly slicing the meat, typically beef or game meats such as venison or elk, into long strips to maximize surface area.
The slices are then marinated in a mixture of salt, seasonings, and sometimes sugar. The marinade not only adds flavour but also helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
In regions with high temperatures and low humidity, sun drying is often the preferred method. The meat strips are typically arranged on a clean rack or hung from strings in a well-ventilated area.
It is crucial to ensure proper airflow to aid in moisture removal and prevent any potential spoilage from occurring.
The drying process can take several days, depending on the climate and thickness of the meat slices. It is important to monitor the progress regularly, as overdrying can result in a loss of flavour and tenderness. Ideally, jerky should be dried until it is firm but still flexible enough to bend without breaking.
Once fully dried, jerky becomes lightweight and compact and has an extended shelf life compared to raw or cooked meats.
Fermenting is a unique preservation method that not only extends the shelf life of meat but also adds complex flavours to it.
During fermentation, bacteria convers the natural sugars in the meat into lactic acid through anaerobic respiration. This drop in pH creates an acidic environment that inhibits or slows down bacterial growth responsible for spoilage.
To start this process, survivalists can mince or grind their choice of protein, from beef to fish, mixing it with salt (typically around 2-3% by weight) along with desired herbs and spices for flavour enhancement. The mixture must then be packed tightly into a container without any air pockets before sealing it shut.
Creating an oxygen-free environment inside the container enables ideal conditions for lactic acid fermentation without compromising taste or texture quality.
The fermented meats should ideally be stored in cool areas away from direct sunlight while being monitored regularly to ensure they do not over-ferment. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
It is important to note that proper hygiene practices are crucial when fermenting meat. This includes using clean utensils, containers, and hands during preparation.
Drying meat is an age-old method of preserving food, which involves removing moisture from the meat. There are two main ways to dry meat: air-drying and sun-drying.
Air-drying, also known as dehydration or hanging, entails thinly slicing the meat into strips or smaller pieces that have a larger surface area for faster drying.
The slices can be seasoned with salt and spices to enhance flavor if desired. Then, each piece is hung on strings in an area with good airflow but protection from insects—this could be inside a well-ventilated shed or suspended between trees using homemade racks made of twine or sticks placed at suitable heights.
Sun drying follows similar principles but takes advantage of direct sunlight rather than relying solely on airflow for evaporation purposes.
Thinly sliced pieces need to be evenly spread out on clean surfaces such as trays covered by mesh screens – enabling efficient heat transfer while providing some barrier against bugs touching your produce.
Regardless of whether you’re air-dying indoors or outdoors under sunlight exposure, it’s fundamental to maintain proper sanitation precautions throughout every step since poor cleanliness may attract bacteria leading to spoilage.
Salting is a traditional preservation method that uses the power of salt to preserve meat. Salt acts as an osmotic agent, drawing out moisture from the meat cells and inhibiting bacterial growth.
To use this technique, survivalists can begin by cutting their fresh meat into manageable pieces or strips.
They then cover all surfaces of the meat with a generous amount of salt – sea salt or kosher salt are commonly used for their larger crystalline structure and lack of additives. The objective is to create a concentrated salty environment around every part of the meat.
After salting, it’s crucial to allow enough time for curing. Depending on various factors such as ambient temperature and humidity levels in your wilderness setting, you may need anywhere from several hours up until even weeks before significant dehydration occurs (and effectively extends shelf-life).
After the meat has been cured using a salt mixture, there are additional steps to ensure proper preservation. First, rinse off any excess salt from the surface of the meat and pat it dry with paper towels.
Next, you can choose to hang or air-dry the meat in a cool and well-ventilated area for several days until it develops a thin crust on its exterior. This helps further remove moisture from the cured meat.
Once dried adequately, store your preserved meats in dark places away from direct sunlight, as exposure to light can cause flavour changes over time. Also, note that higher temperatures might lead to spoiling or rancidity due to fats within stored meats becoming exposed.
Pemmican is a highly nutritious and long-lasting food source that has been utilized by Indigenous peoples for centuries. It was originally developed as a way to preserve meat during times of plenty so it could be consumed during leaner periods or on journeys where fresh food wasn’t readily available.
To make pemmican, the first step is to select lean meats such as beef, venison, or buffalo. The fat from these animals can also be used in the process. The meat is thinly sliced and then air-dried until there’s no moisture left – this helps prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.
Next comes rendering the animal fat into tallow, which serves as both a preservative agent & energy-rich ingredient. The dried meat “pemmica,” along with berries like cranberries, are ground into fine particles.
Additional nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, may also included if desired. Sometimes honey or maple syrup might be added, making the mixture sweeter while further extending its shelf life.
As one final touch, the rendered tallow heated (usually <100°C) up but shouldn’t boil during the mixing process. Once combined, the mixture would appear dense and sticky. but still holds shape when pressed together.
Then filled tightly into small portable containers like pouches, jars, baskets or animal bladders, which are airtight and provide further protection against spoilage.
The combination of dried meat, fat, and berries or nuts gives pemmican its unique taste. It provides an excellent balance of carbohydrates from the fruit/nuts for energy, along with protein & healthy fats to promote satiety.
8. Pressurizd Canning
Pressurized canning is a method of preserving meat that involves using heat and pressure to create an airtight seal in jars or cans, ensuring long-term storage. It requires specialized equipment called a pressure canner.
The raw meat needs to be prepared by trimming off excess fat and cutting it into smaller pieces suitable for fitting in jars or cans. The next step involves packing the meat tightly into clean, sterilized containers while leaving some headspace to allow for expansion during processing.
Once packed with meat, any added liquid, such as broth or sauce, should be included before sealing each jar or can with appropriate lids designed specifically for pressure canning. These lids typically have rubber gaskets that form tight seals when processed under high temperatures.
The filled containers are placed inside the pressure canner, along with sufficient water, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The lid of the canner is carefully locked in place before bringing up steam inside until venting occurs consistently from vents on top of its lid. This helps remove oxygen from within, thus minimizing spoilage potentials caused primarily by oxidation reactions between available moisture content and the meat.
Properly treated pressurized canned meats can be stored at room temperature for extended periods (upwards of 1 year) if kept away from direct sunlight & excessive moisture.
However, it is essential to regularly check the seals and look for any signs of spoilage before consuming.
Survivalists have various effective methods for storing meat in the wild. These range from simple techniques like drying and smoking to more advanced approaches such as building a root cellar or using pressurized canning. Each method has its own advantages and considerations.
Whether it is smoking, dehydrating, jerking or canning your meat in various forms, such as raw cuts or ground meats, each technique has been practiced for centuries by different cultures around the world. The choice of method depends on factors like available resources, climate conditions & personal preferences.
When properly stored using these methods, meat can remain edible and safe to consume for extended periods in the wild. It is crucial to follow proper hygiene practices throughout the preparation and storage processes to minimize any potential risks.