A comment I left to a particular entry on another blog (which I absolutely love!) prompted someone to contact me about dehydrating ground beef and her email reminded me that I was going to post about it so here it is, my dehydrating ground beef post.
I get a big thrill when I catch ground beef on sale for a great price. Stocking up on it without busting my budget is a nice treat but finding freezer space for it can be a problem. I try to keep beef on one shelf, poultry on another, fish on yet another, vegetables in the bin, etc. but hitting the ground beef mother lode wreaks havoc with that system!
So, a few years ago I found a great way around that - I dehydrate a good deal of the ground beef I buy. Yes Virginia, you can dehydrate ground meats! Dehydrated ground meat works very well for soups, stews, spaghetti sauce and such but don't count on it for burgers or loaves. You might or might not be able to shape it. Once the meat is rehydrated, it doesn't like to stay together well.
Five pounds of dehydrated ground beef can be stored for about a year in a one quart bag or container. Talk about saving space and money!
A lot of people use a dehydrator but I only have two of them and it takes so long to do it that way so I use another method. I don't remember where I read this method but I've used it for at least five years and it works beautifully. The first time I used this method a small amount of the meat went rancid but that's the only time that's happened. The key is to follow the process to remove the grease and to cook the meat enough that it reaches the "rock" stage. By the way, there are several methods of dehydrating ground meat so if this one doesn't suit your fancy, there are others that might.
I generally dehydrate 5 lbs at a time but you can do it with any quantity. I think I did just 1 lb the first time to see if we'd like it. We did like it and I've dehydrated much larger quantities since.
So, here's how I do it:
Put lean ground beef (the leaner the better since the fat is what makes it go bad) in a skillet and fry it until its cooked well. Drain the grease off, put the meat in a colander and rinse it under very hot water, stirring it with a fork or spoon to get the grease out. Rinse well. Shake the water out of the colander then put the meat on a paper or cloth towel and blot it dry.
After blotting, put the meat back into the skillet, which has since been cleaned well, and cook for about five more minutes. Drain any grease, rinse it in hot water, shake well, and blot it again. Cook it one more time, again in a clean skillet, drain, rinse, shake, and blot dry. Usually by this time the meat looks like tiny rocks and is very hard. If it isn't at that point yet, put the meat on cookie sheets and put in a 150 degree oven, stirring now and then, until it gets to that rock stage, usually a few hours. Once it's got that tiny rock look to it, it's finished.
Some people like to put seasonings and dried onions or peppers in the meat and you can add those after the last cooking, draining, rinsing, and drying. You can also add a little flour during the dehydrating process so that when you rehydrate the meat, it has gravy with it. I just add seasonings as I use the meat but you might want to try adding them before storing the meat in glass jars or containers with tight fitting lids. The meat should be stored in a fairly cool and dark place. I just keep it in the pantry but you can store it in the freezer if you like.
To use, just put the ground meat in hot water and let it sit for an hour or two. Once its softened I just use it as I normally would for soups and stews and such.
You can also dehydrate poultry, fish and other meats and I'll post more about those in the future.
It might sound complicated to dehydrate ground beef but it really isn't. It's a little time consuming but many preparedness activities are. The peace of mind in having 50 lbs. of preserved meat is worth it...