Refrigerated meat is a recent innovation. Before the widespread availability of refrigerators, a variety of methods were used to preserve meat. The ancient Egyptians would use salt to keep their foods. Applying salt to the meat draws the moisture (which causes bacteria) out of the meat.
The answer to the question about what meat does not need refrigeration is that virtually all meat can be treated in some way so that it does not require refrigeration.
In this article, we will look at the various products and treatments that make refrigeration redundant.
Beef jerky (dried meat)
Beef Jerky is a dehydrated meat product is an acquired taste that has had all of it’s moisture has been removed from this product, which means it will keep indefinitely (12 months). It’s packed with protein and is very transportable, its clean wholesome good stuff.
If you start with a pound of meat, you will end up with just four ounces of jerky. This process is the same one as used by the ancient Egyptians and many other cultures around the world.
Drying is by far the oldest preservation technique for meat. Canning is only just around two hundred years old, and refrigeration the newcomer only appeared in 1913, when Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit.
Later, in the 1940s, home freezers started to appear.
The theory behind drying food to preserve it is based on the fact that enzymes cannot contact and react with the food in the absence of moisture.
These enzymes could be bacterial, fungal, or the naturally occurring enzymes in the food itself.
Types of drying
There are two methods of drying food naturally. The first is sun drying, and the second is shade drying (adiabatic drying). These types of drying have a long history.
These days natural drying is not recommended for meat and mostly confined to fruits and coffee. The lack of a constant heat source makes natural drying potentially dangerous, and health regulations have stopped this method commercially.
Regulations now state that when drying meat, it must now be heated until the meat reaches 160°F, and then it can be slowly dried in a low heat oven.
The reason for the 160°F is that it is when bacteria die. Commercially produced jerky follows these regulations and is quite safe.
Another way to preserve meat is to freeze-dry it. When the meat is flash-dried, it has a shelf life of 25 years, long enough for any camping trip.
The meat is sealed in a bath of nitrogen, which explains its long-life. Even when the pack has been opened, the meat will still have a life of a couple of months. Once you are ready to consume the meat, you then rehydrate it by adding water.
Place the chicken.pork, or beef in warm or hot water, and the meat will absorb the right amount of water it needs to return to its original size before freeze-drying.
Freeze-dried meats retain their goodness and are an excellent preservation solution.
Canned foods, canned meats
The canning process is an efficient way of preserving fresh meat. It is done by loading food in jars or cans and heating the meat to a temperature high enough to kill all bacteria that causes food to go off.
During this process, the air is driven out, and a vacuum seal is formed. This vacuum stops any bacteria from reentering the can.
This process increases the shelf life of the food and preventions of contamination but is heavy to carry on a hiking trip, for example. These days you can buy a variety of pre cooked canned meat, canned chicken, canned vegetables and canned fish in cans from your local store.
Canning was first introduced after a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, responded to a call from the French government to find a way of preserving food for the French army. This discovery was back in 1909.
Canned meat has already been cooked, so it is quite safe to eat cold, straight out of the can if necessary, just add can opener.
Fermented meat sounds quite exotic. These fermented meats are found in many parts of the world as elements of the local diet. The concept of making seasoned and salted meat and then wrapping it in intestinal casings goes back as far as the Romans.
At the same time, the Gauls and Celts had perfected a method of salting and then drying the back legs of wild boars and pigs.
Over the years, this fermentation technique has been tried with all sorts of meat, including horses, beef, pork, poultry, deer, and ostrich.
Going back to the sausages, we find that Salami (Salame Brianza), Chorizo, and Saucisson are all from this line of fermented sausages. Some German sausages are also produced this way.
In Asia, they also developed methods of fermenting meat. All of these recipes and products stem from one need, and that is to preserve food.
Curing and brining
Another traditional meat preservation method is Curing, which is often combined with Brining. To cure meat, you rub in large quantities of salt, which dehydrates the meat and preserves it.
When combined with brining the beef is then dropped into a jar of a salt solution.
Summer Sausage is an all-embracing American term for several sausages that can be stored without refrigeration. The product is typically a combination of pork mixed with other meats.
They would generally be dried or cured with various recipes of curing salt and added products. They are usually fermented and thus have a low pH, which will slow down bacteria growth.
Home Dehydration Machine
There are always new ways of preserving foods becoming available without refrigeration, and the latest one is a twist on a traditional method.
A growing trend is to make dehydrated foods at home using a home dehydrator, which can be purchased from $60 to $160 on Amazon.
These machines will dry out and preserve foods at home. Make your beef and turkey jerky. Create your unique recipes for taking away on your backpacking trip.
As you can see from this article, there are many ways to preserve ANY MEAT using these traditional techniques. The same methods that our ancestors used to preserve food long before refrigeration and canning were thought of.
Longest lasting foods for camping
Now that you know how to lengthen meats used by date, if your interested we have a great article on what are the longest foods for survival, backpacking trips and car camping.
You’d be surprised as some of the long lasting ingredients like; fruit cups, powdered milk, maple syrup, soy sauce and dried beans.