In the Mad Scientist Laboratory (AKA my kitchen), I have been experimenting with dehydrating meat and sauces (tomato and hot sauce). I have to say that I am initially pleased with the results. I will be using these in my new recipes for pouch meals.
Now the test will be shelf stability. I did vacuum seal my jars with my new food saver. I will be keeping watch on them and smelling for rancidity and moisture over the next few weeks.
UPDATE December 12, 2015: I have gone ahead and started to freeze these meats because of further information from the National Center for Home Preservation. I no longer leave them in my pantry.
Ground Meat Experiment
I got ground beef on sale for $2.89 a pound (80/20). I cooked up the meat and broke it up into small crumbles, about the size of a dried pea. (In retrospect, I may have been able to get away with a bit larger pieces.) I then rinsed this meat in a colander after draining off the fat for a good five minutes feeling with my hands until the meat no longer left a film on my hands. 4.77 pounds of meat cooked down to 2.5 lbs cooked (52.5% of it’s original weight).
Then I loaded up the dehydrator. It took 4 trays on my Nesco. I dehydrated for 12 hours on a temperature setting of 160 degrees F. When I cooled and removed the crumbles, I inspected it for any glistening puddles which would have meant there was still fat on the meat. No fat on mine, which was good. I emptied it into a 1-1/2 pint-sized Mason jar and had a little left over, which I re-hydrated. It tasted good, but next time I will season it as it is cooking. The dehydrated weight of the ground beef was a little under 6 ounces.
The next thing I tried was using turkey meat that I got for $2.59 cents a pound. I decided I wanted to make “sausage” crumbles with this meat. This I broke into two 2.5 pound bundles. One I flavored with ham base and breakfast sausage seasonings. The second batch I flavored with ham base and Italian sausage seasonings. I then processed it just as I had done the ground beef. This meat, starting at 5 pounds, cooked down to 3 pounds, 5 ounces when cooked (66.25%). The yield turned out to be much greater on the ground turkey because of the leanness of the meat, producing a greater yield AND cost savings!
I re-hydrated these two also after filling a 2-quart Mason jar and having some of each leftover. I put them in the same jar because, in the final analysis, after having tasted them, I discovered the breakfast sausage was a bit too bland for my tastes and the Italian sausage would be a bit too spicy for my guys. Another example of “It’s all in the seasonings!”
The full procedure—with recipes for Faux Sausage Crumbles—is here.
I also tried my hand at tomato sauce and hot chili sauce I previously made and canned/bottled myself. No oils were used in the making of these two sauces so I felt fairly confident that this would work.
For the tomato sauce, I took 9 cups and distributed 1-1/2 cups on each paraflexx jerky tray for a total of 6 trays. With the hot sauce, I used 4-1/2 cups for a total of 3 trays. I used a temperature of 135ºF/55ºC. Both sauces took over 48 hours to dry. When they were finished, I broke up the leather and ground them into powder. The tomato sauce yielded a full pint Mason jar, while the hot sauce filled a 1/2 pint Mason jar. I added a few grains of rice to the bottom of each jar and vacuum sealed them.
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