Fall and winter are ideal times for making jerky since the cooler weather allows you to place your dehydrator in the garage without worrying about insects contaminating the meat. Bacterial growth causes the greatest safety concern when making jerky. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends meat be heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before being dried. Heating the meat to this temperature assures any bacteria present will be destroyed. Using the dehydrator alone will inactivate microorganisms, but will not kill them.
Cook the meat by baking or simmering.
Using the oven method, place the jerky on cake racks with baking sheets underneath and bake in a 325 degree oven. Check the internal temperature of the meat using a digital thermometer.
To simmer jerky in a marinade, prepare two to three cups of your favorite marinade and bring it to a rolling boil over medium heat. Add a few meat strips, making sure the marinade covers them. Reheat to a full boil.
After pre-cooking the meat, place the strips on a rack, place rack in the dehydrator and maintain a constant temperature of 140 degrees during the drying process. This is important because the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils, and it must remove enough water to prevent microorganisms from growing.
Jerky is adequately dried when a cooled strip cracks, but does not break when bent.
Each year I receive calls from people who make sauerkraut early and find it spoiling. With this summer’s extreme heat, this may be a greater problem. The ideal time for making sauerkraut is in the fall when the weather is cool. In order for the cabbage to ferment, it needs to contain natural sugars found only in fall cabbage. Cooler weather allows fermentation to take place at a rate that discourages spoilage.
Shred or cut the cabbage about 1/16-inch thick, about the thickness of a quarter. It needs to be broken up or pounded enough to bruise the cells to reduce the sugars.
Prepare sauerkraut in a large stone or glass crock or food-grade plastic bucket.
Do not use aluminum, copper, iron or galvanized-metal containers. Fermenting sauerkraut directly in jars is also not recommended; there are more opportunities for spoilage and undesirable microbial growth.
Use canning or pickling salt. Use 3 tablespoons salt for each 5 pounds of shredded cabbage. Don’t reduce the amount. Pack cabbage down so the liquid is drawn to cover the cabbage.
Let it sit and keep it between 60-75 degrees. It will take three to four weeks at 70-75 degrees and five to six weeks between 60-65 degrees. Higher temperatures will encourage spoilage and the cabbage will not ferment below 60 degrees. For quicker fermenting, there are starter cultures you can purchase from places like Amazon on the internet. Fermenting can be done with a starter in seven to 10 days.
When fermentation is complete, sauerkraut may be canned or frozen for long-term storage.
"Let’s Preserve Sauerkraut," a flyer, is available from your local cooperative Extension office or on the web at http://extension.psu.edu/food-safety/food-preservation.
Each year when cabbage is readily available at produce stands, I like to make freezer slaw. Freezer slaw, like freezer pickles, contains a high proportion of sugar. This helps to preserve the texture of the slaw.
Yield: about 5 pints
Source: "Ball Blue Book"
2 pounds cabbage
1 large green pepper
3 large carrots
¾ cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup vinegar
½ cup water
Shred cabbage, green pepper and carrots. Add onion. Sprinkle with salt. Let stand 1 hour. Drain. In a saucepot, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; boil 3 minutes. Cool. Ladle sauce over cabbage mixture. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir well. Pack slaw into freezer containers leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label and freeze.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.