Storing meat is one of the most challenging things to do in a survival situation.
Raw meat, which is a great source of protein and essential amino acids, can only last 2-4 days in a fridge. Unfortunately, when SHTF, electricity would be the first to go down. All our modern conveniences—including a working fridge—would be gone in a blink. All your raw meats and proteins will go bad, and you’ll have no choice but to throw them out.
Unless you know how to preserve meat and extend its shelf life.
The good news? There are many ways to do this. Here are 6 ways to preserve your meat for months on end, even without a refrigerator:
Dehydration is perhaps the oldest method of food preservation, dating back to ancient hunting-and-gathering civilizations. Centuries ago, the Native Americans would hunt for game like elk and deer.
They would clean the animal, process it, and slice the meat into thin pieces. Then, they’d leave the meat under the sun. Once the pieces would be dry and leathery, they’d wrap and stow them away in their packs, ready to eat whenever the need arose. If they survived like this for many generations, we can, too.
How to Preserve Meat Via Dehydration
Thanks to modern technology, you can prepare for disaster by preserving meat beforehand using dehydrators.
Dehydrators take the moisture away from the food, inhibiting the growth of germs that cause spoilage. Using them is pretty easy, too. Simply cut the meat into small strips, pop them in the dehydrator, and wait for the magic to happen. Once properly stored in airtight containers (you can use airtight jars or vacuum-sealed bags), these jerky-like goodies can keep your stomach full for weeks. If you don’t have a dehydrator, using your good ol’ oven works fine, too.
Curing is a meat preservation method that uses substances like salt, nitrates, nitrites, sugar, and even smoke. In this regard, you can consider other techniques like brining and smoking to be variants of curing, but we’ll talk about those in a few. For now, let’s talk about how to cure meat with salt, nitrates, and nitrites.
Salt, nitrates, and nitrites draw moisture out of the meat. You know what happens next: less moisture, fewer chances of spoilage. Unlike salt, however, nitrates and nitrites not only preserve meat; they also kill the bacteria that cause botulism. They’re responsible for that pink color usually found in cured meats.
For this reason, many butchers don’t like to salt meat and prefer using nitrates or nitrites. The two allow you to use less salt, which makes the meat softer without compromising its shelf life.
How to Preserve Meat Through Curing
The process of curing meat is pretty straightforward. Simply cut the meat into slabs and then rub some curing salts generously. You can also add substances like sugar or honey to balance the saltiness and encourage the growth of good lactobacillus bacteria. You can also add herbs and spices to your cure for better taste.
Once cured, the slabs are stored in jars and stowed away in a cool, dry place for about a month. Traditionally, people would hang the meat after the month was up, and leave it hanging for about six months. These days, you can simply wrap the slabs individually in plastic or moisture-proof containers. Store them properly in a cool, dry place, and they should last for several months.
As we mentioned above, brining is pretty similar to curing itself. It’s so similar that brining is often called wet-curing. They basically share the same concept, only the execution is slightly different. Instead of rubbing salt onto the meat, brining means submerging the meat in salt water. This preserves the meat and locks in other flavors in your brine mixture.
How to Preserve Meat Through Brining
To brine, prepare your meat and place it in sterilized jars. Make a salt mixture by adding a pound of salt and a half cup of sugar to three quarts of water, according to Bio Prepper. You can also add in herbs and spices. When the salt mixture is ready, you can pour it into the jars. Make sure to submerge the meat completely. Once that’s done, you can store your meat in your storage area. After 4 weeks, your brined meat should be ready. Just don’t forget to check your jars weekly.
You can consider smoking as a combination of curing and dehydration. The heat reduces moisture while the chemicals in the smoke also help preserve the meat and lend a distinct flavor to it. Before smoking, the meat is air-dried and is allowed to form a pellicle, a hard coating of proteins so that smoke adheres better to the meat, allowing better preservation and flavor.
How to Smoke Meat
There are two ways to smoke your meat: cold smoking and hot smoking. In hot smoking, the meat is exposed to constant temperatures that may range around 50-80 C, allowing the food to be cooked thoroughly without turning them into tough jerky.
Cold smoking is less common, probably because this method is not as effective as the former. First off, cold smoking does not cook the meat itself. Instead, the meat is cured first, then smoked at temperatures around 20-30 C. While it does lend that smoked flavor to the meat, it also leaves a bit of moisture, increasing the meat’s risk for spoilage. For this reason, cold-smoked meat is often cooked again before consumption.
Pressure canning is one of the most effective ways to preserve meat. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most intimidating methods, especially to new preppers. Most newbies think that learning how to can meat is very complicated, but the truth is, it’s quite simple.
How to Can Meat
The first step in pressure canning is preparing the meat. Make sure to cut them properly, trimming off the fat and any bones. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, there are two ways to prepare meat for canning, either through hot packs or raw packs.
Hot packs are done by precooking the meat by roasting or stewing. You don’t need to cook the meat all the way through; it just needs to be red and soft on the inside. Once done, it’s placed in sterilized jars. Broth, meat drippings, water, and a teaspoon of salt are then added to the mix.
A raw pack, on the other hand, simply means filling the jars with raw meat pieces and a couple of tablespoons of salt. Once prepared, the jars are then placed in a pressure canner and processed for about an hour and a half. The canner seals the freshness in the jar, allowing for longer shelf life.
Keeping Your Meat on the Hoof
Another, less obvious form of meat preservation is the tried-and-tested method of keeping it on the hoof. In other words, raising your own livestock. If you want fresh meat, or have limited ways to preserve your food, you might as well keep said meat alive until they are ready for consumption.
Livestock can provide you with fresh meat and other products like dairy, wool, and hide. If you do this right, raising livestock could mean a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for you and your family.
However, raising livestock is not for the faint-hearted.
This entails a lot more responsibility and resources. You have to consider what animals to raise, where to raise these animals, what to feed them, and how to take care of them, aside from the general upkeep. If you’ve got limited space, you can consider starting with ducks or chickens. These animals can be raised with relatively little space and can provide you with meat and eggs.
Learning how to preserve meat is essential for every prepper. It requires quite a few moving parts and can be intimidating for beginning and seasoned preppers alike. But the payoff is well worth the effort.
If you master these meat preservation techniques or take the extra step and keep them on the hoof, you can rest assured that you’ll provide your family with ample protein, which is essential for building muscles and general health. Practice these meat preservation methods at home and add this to your ever-growing set of survival skills.
Know how to preserve meat using other methods we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments below!