Storing and preserving meats can be a tricky task especially when it comes to spending time out in the wild during a camping trip. This is why learning how to preserve meat in the wild is a good skill to have either for those going on a long camping trip or even for those learning how to hunt for your own food.
You definitely wouldn’t want to end up with spoiled meat and nothing to eat during your trip – believe me; I’ve been there and it’s no fun. Preserving and storing meat is a skill every happy camper and outdoor enthusiast needs to know to be able to survive and there are a few methods we will look at here. Luckily, they really isn’t that difficult.
THINGS YOU’LL NEED
For Wet Curing Meat (Brine)
- Sugar/honey/maple syrup (optional)
- Hooks for hanging meat (made of materials that will not rust)
For Dry Curing Meat
- Sugar/honey/maple syrup (optional)
- Other herbs/spices for a dry rub
For Simple Preservation
For After Curing
- Jars, Ziploc bags or any container to keep the meat
- Portable cooker
- Alternative: natural fire starters (for those who want to cook over a fire) such as dry wood, flint, tinder, twigs, stones, a magnesium block, etc. You can check out ways to start a fire without matches here.
- Smoker – you can buy a smoker almost anywhere.
- Alternative: use a charcoal grill as your smoker but be sure it has a lid. If not, you need to bring one
- Wood for smoking (hickory, maple, cherry, oak, or other fragrant woods)
How To Preserve Meat In The Wild
STEP # 1: Cure The Meat
Curing the meat is a fancy way of saying, “cover the meat in salt”, and that’s exactly what you’ll need to do. Adding salt to the meat dehydrates the meat so that bacteria cannot grow in it. This is how meat used to be preserved before refrigerators or coolers came along.
There are two ways to cure the meat, which is listed above along with the materials you will need: a wet cure or a brine and a dry cure, more lovingly known as a dry rub.
Method A: Wet Cure
- Create a salt-water solution. The ideal is 15-20% salt to water. Or you can also do it as a pound of salt, with half a cup of sugar to three quarts of water. The sugar, usually brown, can be replaced with other sweet ingredients like honey or maple syrup. The sugar will help balance the saltiness of the meat.
- Cut the meat evenly into slabs then place these slabs into your salt-water solution. Leave it in the solution for around 5 minutes.
- Take the meat, place each slab on a hook and hang it out to dry. Be sure not to hang the meat in a sunlit area as this can result in uneven drying. Ensure also that the area is well ventilated. The meat will be ready in 5 days.
- Learn more about brine here: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-science-behind-how-brining-works-221708
Method B: Dry Cure
- Cut your meat into slabs.
- Create your dry rub depending on your taste, but remember, salt is the most important ingredient. A good starting point is about a pound of salt with a quarter cup of sugar. Again, the sugar helps balance the saltiness out. You can also add herbs and spices that you enjoy such as peppers, dried rosemary, etc.
- Generously rub each slab with the dry rub and keep them tightly packed in your container.
STEP # 2: Smoking The Meat
Smoking the meat is a great way to add more flavor to your meat as well as helps preserve it longer. The longer you can smoke it, the longer the shelf life will be. If you smoke your meat overnight, it could last around a week. Two days of constant smoking will last the meat anywhere between 2-4 weeks. Of course, the longer you smoke the meat, the stronger the flavor will be. You can watch an example of smoking fish here: [vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1beLnpi57jA”]
If you have a smoker:
- If you have a smoker, you can simply use that to get the job done. Follow the instructions on your smoker and you should be fine.
If you have a grill:
- If you don’t have a smoker, but have a grill, you can modify it. Grilling differs from smoking because grilling uses direct high heat, while smoking uses indirect heat for a longer time.
- Move your charcoal to one side of the grill and light your fire. Add charcoal until it gets hot.
- Slowly start to add your fragrant wood on top of the charcoal and keep it heated until it starts to get very smoky.
- Put your meat slabs on the opposite end of the heat. Cover, and leave it for as long as you want.
If you only have the outdoors:
- Dig a hole in the ground big enough to accommodate your fire.
- Get your wood, place it in the hole and start the fire.
- Cover the fire to lessen its heat strength. A good way to do this is to build a ‘teepee’ on top of the fire. You can also cover the fire using a poncho, a sheet or anything else. Just make sure it won’t catch fire.
- Cut your meat into thinner strips and hang them on a hook and above the fire. Make sure it is high enough that the meat gets smoked rather than cooked.
You can learn more about smoking meat here: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/beginners-barbecue. Once you’ve done this, all you need to do is cook your meat when you’re ready to eat, either with your portable cooker or the fire you already have going.
So there you have it, a couple methods that are easy to learn that will help you preserve meat in the wild, whether it is meat you’ve brought or meat you’ve hunted. Nothing beats having fresh, hot, and newly cooked meat while in the great outdoors. It definitely will add to the whole “jungle experience”.
Not only did you learn how to preserve meat for your camping trip, but you also learnt an important skill for survival in case you find yourself lost in the woods for some reason. If you have any questions or have more techniques on preservation you want to share, tell us in the comments, we’d love to hear from you. And if you have a friend who would benefit from this information, feel free to share it with them! Happy camping!