Art of the Hands

Time to Tinker

Tag: cooking


With the approach of spring and the reappearance of nice weather, I have started to have a hankering for hiking again. In that spirit, I have decided to do a project with a hiking theme today. I hope you enjoy!

You may or may not know this but I have celiac disease which means that I cannot eat gluten at all. Gluten, for those who don’t know, is a protein inside wheat and is often used as a bonding agent in many cooking recipes and as such, there is a lot of foods that I cant buy store bought, I have to make them. In the last few years, there has been an increase in store-bought foods that actually taste good and don’t cost a fortune, but there are still some foods that this still isn’t the case, and jerky is one of those foods. Most store-bought jerkies either have gluten in them directly or are produced in an environment where gluten is used, making it untrustworthy as to if it is actually gluten free. Because of that, I have decided to try to make my own.

I got the idea for this from a church-run camping trip I went on last year called treck. While you are at treck, you are divided into groups called families and you have adult volunteers leading the family who you call Ma and Pa. While on treck you pull handcarts with all your stuff for four or five days so you can experience to journey that the Mormon Pioneers experienced as the crossed the plains in their journey to the Utah Valley. My Ma and Pa were also eating a gluten-free diet and they brought with them this homemade jerky that was amazingly salty and delicious. They make it by cooking some thin cuts of steak then salting it and letting it dry in the salt. The result is a very salty and chewy jerky perfect for activities where you will be needing to replace the salt you are sweating. steak is expensive but I wanted to see if I could replicate the treat using hamburger meat. Why hamburger? It is what I had on hand, you could probably do just fine with chicken or possibly fish if you wanted.

I started by squishing some hamburger meat as this as I could between my hands and then cooking them in a frying pan.

once I was done, as you can see they swelled a little bit so it might be a good idea to squeeze as much of the fat out of the meat as you can before adding the salt. The salt will remove the fat anyway so you might as well reduce the mess by getting rid of it early. Once the meat is degreased, all you need to do is throw it in a bag with some salt and suck out the air. using larger salt pieces would probably work better but I used normal table salt and that seemed to work just fine so it is up to you.

Once you have let your meat cure for about a week, then all you need to do is wash the salt off in the sink and let the meat dry and you should be good. Don’t worry about removing the flavor, it has already soaked into the meat so thoroughly removing the salt on the surface of the meat will not hurt the flavor at all. If you are using a dense meat like steak or chicken then you might be better to just brush off the excess but the hamburger was so absorbent that you will defiantly want to remove as much salt as possible.

Fair warning, you will want to thoroughly remove as much salt as you can. This jerky can be a bit of an acquired taste because of the amount of salt in the meat. Unless your body is experiencing a salt deficiency,  your body will actually react and recoil at the amount of salt in this meat. You may find it disgusting or inedible. However, if you are in a position where you need a lot of salt fast then this meat is heaven sent. I have seen it revitalize people who were feeling faint because of the lack of salt in their system and I know from experience that the more salt deprived you are the more your body accepts the salt increase and so you stop finding the salt so unappealing and you get to start tasting the meat.  After a week I was totally hooked on this meat and have wanted to make it ever since. Steak is a better meat to do this with because it absorbs less salt, is chewier so it takes longer to eat, and has fat reserves to help you replenish your energy, however, hamburger meat will still work, you just sacrifice the chewiness and some of the fat for a lower price. as a bonus, I was able to make quite a bit of jerky with just one pound of meat so this is a cheap and easy was to make a delicious hiking snack for your summertime adventurers.

One last note, I tried flavoring my meat and it didn’t really work. Just stick to salt, it works way better. I hope you found this post interesting, good luck prepping for your summertime adventurers and I will see you for the next one. Untill then, Happy Tinkering!

Unusual Candles

From a young age, I was one of those boys who grew up loving to run outside playing the dirt and get generally filthy. As I Grew Older that’s developed into an enjoyment of learning about how to survive in the wilderness on your own. One of the things that I have seen often in books was the concept of using the cooking grease to make a candle that you can use to light up your the past I’ve been skeptical of the idea because of two facts:

  1. Meat has a lot of bacteria in it and so it I always thought that the candle would mold in a matter of days making it a fairly impractical idea.
  2. There would be so many impurities in the grease that I figured it would either not burn cleanly or it would pop like a campfire throwing hot liquid everywhere.

I finally got around to putting the project to the test the other day and the results surprised me.

Just for fun, I decided to make two candles, one from sausage flavored meat and the other from taco flavored meat. I did this partly because that is what I happened to be cooking at the time and partly because I was curious if the flavoring of the meat would result in a scented candle. Because this is a survival-themed project, I decided to cut strips out of an old shirt to use as a wick. I’ve experimented with the concept in the past and so I know that pretty much any clothing will do a fairly good job of acting as a wick. The burn characteristics are slightly different as the cloth will probably wider meaning more fuel for the fire and thereby more heat and light but at the cost of burn time.

Since almost everyone has or knows someone with an old shirt that needs to be retired, this can work as a perfect substitute wick for a survival or DIY candle. The only downside is that I won’t have the little metal stands that usually come with store-bought wicks so it will be impossible to stand them up in the middle of the grease. You could make your own stand with some copper wire if you want to but I was lazy and I didn’t think it was necessary for this test.

Because I was nervous about the bacteria growing and making the candles disgusting, I decided to put the glass containers I was planning to use in boiling water so they would be sterilized, hopefully, so they would not be the culprit of any bacteria growth. One that step was done, it was time to get cooking, literally.

Once I collected the grease and set the wick, I let them sit in the fridge for a while to harden before testing.

The candles ended burn remarkably well. The grease seemed to burn as slow or possibly slower than traditional wax and had almost no smoke of any kind. The sausage flavored candle had no discernable scent but if you paid attention you could smell the taco flavoring. The light that they gave off was nothing to scoff at either. Having experimented with using shirts as a wick in wax candles in the past, it is my opinion that the grease candles outperformed their wax competitors in both burn duration and was easily their equals in light output and smoke quality. The only downside is that you have to store the grease candles in the fridge but if you froze them I would not be surprised if they had an unlimited shelf life.

This project thoroughly surprised me with both how easy it was to do and how well the final product worked. I would defiantly recommend trying this yourself. These types of ideas are what inspires me to keep tinkering because the creativity required to use grease for a candle is truly inspiring. Thanks for joining me and happy tinkering!