Jerking Buffalo Meat

“To ‘jerk’ buffalo meat, the camp constructed a large rectangle of boughs or wooden strips, like a huge picture frame, and laid poles thickly across it. Then they elevated the sketchy affair on four legs and built a smudge beneath it. Small sections of meat pulled from the carcass were hung over the poles to cure in the smoke. The white man soon improved on the original Indian procedure to the extent of cutting his meat into thin slices, sometimes small, sometimes the size of shingles, but the name ‘jerky’ was always used. A day or two cured it sufficiently to keep indefinitely. The resulting tidbits varied somewhat as to edible qualities, but were always tough and had an unappetizing tendency to retain sections of hairy hide.

Jerky could also be dried by hanging on ropes outside the wagon covers for several days. When it had become hard it was packed, alkali dirt and all, in bags. This, to their sad surprise, many of the women were glad to eat before they reached the Sierras. Large chunks of buffalo meat also kept a surprising length of time—some said weeks—protected by a hard crust formed by the dry air.”