Fresh Jalapeno and Curry Waterfowl Jerky
Waterfowl Jerky Made Easy
By Eileen Clarke
The trouble with making jerky out of ducks and geese is that compared to a venison rump or shoulder roast, they don’t lend themselves easily to neat slices. An easy solution to those odd cuts is to grind them. Not only do you end up using every square inch of those geese or ducks you originally got up at 4am to go hunting for, but ground meat jerky is a lot easier to chew than sliced. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to ‘shoot’ jerky out of a jerky gun than to attempt to slice it absolutely the same thickness over and over again.
So let’s talk about this jalapeno and curry jerky. Latin cooking isn’t the only place you find hot peppers. They’re very common in Indian cooking–and many other locales in South Asia. So pairing curry with jalapeño is a natural, and very tasty combo. A note of caution: the hottest part of any spicy pepper is the seeds and the white membrane inside the pepper. If you love heat, chop them into the jerky mix. If you’re looking for dynamic flavor but not fire, trim them off before mincing, but either way, always use rubber gloves to handle the peppers so you don’t end up with an eye-full of capsicum.
One more thing: most people overcook jerky. Don’t. Three hours at 160F is enough time for waterfowl jerky to cook safely—anything more than 65 minutes at that heat equates to a proportionally higher finished temperature. Jerky should flex easily without snapping. It should never be brittle. (And as long as you keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, like any cooked meat, you don’t have to add nitrates, which commercially prepared jerky contains.)
1 pound ground meat waterfowl meat
2 tablespoons minced jalapeño pepper (about 1 medium-sized pepper)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 good-sized cloves)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preparing the jerky
Mix the peppers, garlic and spices into a uniform paste, then mix them thoroughly into the meat. Chill in a tightly sealed plastic bag or storage container overnight to let the flavors develop.
Cooking the Jerky
Shape the jerky with a jerky gun and arrange the jerky strips on grids over foil-lined drip pans. Preheat the oven or dehydrator to 160°F and cook about 3 hours. If you have a fairly new oven, be aware that their lowest temperature setting is often 180F, not 160, so cooking time will be less. The other variant is the jerky nozzle’s size: my Lem’s jerky cannon nozzle is slightly thicker than the red plastic gun I used for years.
Let the jerky cool and air dry in the turned-off oven or on the counter, for 6-8 hours, then store in resealable plastic bags, in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Handling jalapeños safely:
Step one, put on a pair of rubber gloves. Years ago, my friend Sil was cooking chili in elk camp high in the mountains, while her husband and a couple of friends made a scouting tour. She made the mistake of chopping the jalapeños bare-handed before answering a call of nature. When the guys came back for lunch, they thought Sil had been attacked by a grizzly bear and had rolled all over the snow-covered hillside to fight the bear off. They expected to find her bloody and bruised. No. She was just embarrassed. (It will hurt just as bad if you rub your eyes.)
Cut the top off the jalapeños. Then stand them up on your cutting board, slender end down, and slice them in half lengthwise.
For robust flavor, remove the seeds and white membrane and discard. If you like fiery stuff, leave the seed and membrane intact.
Slice the jalapeño halves into thin strips, skin side down on the cutting board. Then slice crossways. Two tricks here: First, because the outside skin is tougher than the flesh inside, it’s easier to start the cut from the inside of the pepper. Second, after you slice the peppers into thin strips, turn the cutting board 90 degrees to cut crossways. It’s much easier than re-orienting 57 thin slices of pepper.
About the chef:
This recipe is from Eileen Clarke’s book, Stalking the Wild Jerky, with over 100 delicious variations of jerky flavors. Eileen has also started a game cooking blog on her website: www.riflesandrecipes.com (406-521-0273). Just click on the cookbooks or blog tab for more great recipes.