Air dried meat, Lapland style

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Dehydrating the  salted meat is probably one of the oldest ways to store meat. Methods to achieve the best results in various climate conditions vary a lot. Italians prepare their prosciutto di parma by dehydrating the selected salted pork meat for over a year in carefully controlled conditions. The best Spanish hams “Jamon pata negra” may take up to three years of dehydration in carefully designed dehydrating cellars.
Above the arctic circle, everything is a bit easier. In the arctic spring, the locals just hang the meat under the eaves of their houses, wait for, depending on the weather, for two to five weeks, and the desired delicacy is ready to be served. Cold nights combined with barely above freezing temperature days and dry arctic spring air prepare the meat to perfection in no time.
Unfortunately, the Lapland style air dried meat is only available for those of us who live above the 66 degrees north (or similar kind of climate), or for 200€/kg (about 100$/pound) at your very, very specialized delicacy store.
However, if you happen to belong to about 99.9% of the unfortunate people of the world, who live south of the 66, you may still want to know how the savages of the north prepare their meat.
So, here it is; Take about 5 kg (10 pounds) of good quality meat. The real Laplanders use only reindeer meat, but meat from moose, elk, or deer works equally well. Today, most of the Lapland style air dried meat is made out of sirloin steak or equivalent, and it tastes damn good too.
Cut the meat to 2 to 3 cm slices (about an inch) along the fiber direction (opposite to the beef jerky directions). Then cover the bottom of a bucket or any other similar container with coarse sea salt (you will need about 3 kg (7 pounds)). Place a layer of meat on the salt. Cover the meat with another layer of salt, and repeat the process till all of the meat is buried in salt. Place the container into the fridge for 10 and a half hours. This may sound like nit picking, but from years of experience, I have found out that 10.5 hours is pretty much perfect time to salt the meat. You may try your own timing, but from my experience, 10 hours is a bit short time, and 11 or 12 hours makes the meat too salty.
Another way to salt the meat is to soak in in the 6 to 7 % salt water for a day or two, but I have never tried it in that way, and therefore I cannot give any suggestions about timing of the project.
After 10.5 hours, rinse the solid salt out, dry the meat with paper towels, and hang the meat strips outdoors under the eaves of your house.
In Lapland during the early spring, the bugs are nowhere near to bother you, and the birds do not care too much about salted meat. Therefore, most of the locals just stick small holes to the meat strips, and hang them in the open air from pieces of strings or wires. I, and some of the other people I know, are sissy enough to use a protective cage made out of chicken wire or equivalent to protect the meat from carnivorous tits and such.
Whatever method of salting, or hanging the meat you are using, the end result depends a lot on the weather. In the ideal conditions, the constant shift of the temperature from below to sligthly above freezing keeps the meat fresh while dehydrating it at the same time.
By following these instructions, in 2 to 5  weeks, the meat gets blackish brown color and firm texture, and the traditional Lapland delicacy should be ready to be served.
The right way to serve the meat is to use a very sharp knife, and cut the meat into paper thin chips against the fiber direction.
One thing to mention is that the final content of salt may be well above 10%, and therefore one should never think of it as survival food in any condition where the water supply is limited.
For the old time Laplanders the availability of water was never a problem, and as well as a source of protein in many kind of soups and stews, they used plain air dried meat as light weight snack in the wilderness. Most of the modern people  find the taste of soups or stews made with air dried meat a bit strange, but I haven’t yet met a person who does not love the plain meat as a snack.
Finally, a word of warning; Lapland style air dried meat is highly addictive. Once you start eating the meat chips, it is very difficult to stop, and pretty often, due to the serious salt over dose, the end result is a swollen face and stiff joints in the following morning.
Salted dried chunks of meat stay good in room temperature for days, and in the fridge for God knows how long, but if, for some strange reason, after a day or two, you still have some meat left, for the long time storage the freezer is the right place.

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