It made news in Kenya: Rogue traders are knowingly poisoning meat for profit at the expense of consumers.
Dried meat has been in play for way longer than we can imagine. The past generation lived on dried and smoked meat and they did just fine. Then science and technology came and life changed completely. We started preserving meat by refrigeration and when this could not satisfy the needs of rogue businesses, they resulted to use sodium nitrate to “preserve” meat as it halts microbial growth.
But how right were our forefathers? Here’s how to dry meat for preservation and to improve the taste.
The key is moisture
The process usually begins with salt. Coating a piece of meat with salt will draw out moisture from within the tissue to the surface where it then evaporates. Salt also makes the tissues inhabitable to bacterial as it draws water from them leaving behind harmless microbes only.
This process may not be effective to large pieces of meat as it takes longer to draw water out to the surface and evaporation cannot draw out water fast enough to keep the meat safe. You will need to cure the meat by soaking it in salt concentration. Once the concentrate has seeped into the meat, turn up the heat to allow evaporation to take place.
You can do this by hanging the meat over a fire. Be careful not to use excess heat drawing out water too quickly may dry out the surface of the meat.
These days, the evaporation process takes place in carefully controlled chambers and can be stretched out for a surprisingly long time
What are the benefits?
Compared to unprocessed meat, dried meat is tougher and has a more powerful flavour. It is a more nutritious, low-calorie product with low cholesterol and fat and high in protein and energy.
In the past, however, home cooks had a decidedly low-tech approach: Let it hang in your three stone kitchen as long as you can bear for the stinking.
Dried meat has a longer shelf of up to 48 months!