Swedish Jerky - Torkat Kött

Traditional, dried caribou meat is a delicacy from Sweden that is simple to make yet tastes absolutely amazing.  While I don't have access to caribou you can get very close to the original with whitetail venison.  

The finished result will showcase the meat in all its natural flavors only enhanced by salt and if you so choose, by smoke. 

Here you can read the traditional as well as my modern take on this world-class jerky. 

The traditional way. 

Traditionally the Sami people, that live in the Northern region of Sweden,  will salt, and later dry the meat in the cold and windy April climate. As the meat dries the water content will evaporate while all the minerals and natural flavors will remain.  Thicker pieces are commonly stretched out with wood sticks to speed up the process. 

The caribou is slaughtered in late September. The meat that is set aside for drying will first be salted, layered, and packed in barrels. Caribou fat is laid on top to protect it from damaging air and the barrels will be sealed shut. My understanding is that the meat is only lightly salted. After cleaning, skinning, and removing the caribou head and the shanks, the slaughter-ready caribou will weigh around 45 kg (100 lbs) and typically it only requires 0.8kg of salt. The barrel-packed meat will rest for several months until the harsh winter temperature yields to the cool April spring weather.  

The meat will now hang one by one with free nature airflow to dry it. The colder and the windier it is, the better. The cold wind will help create a pellicle,  a hard surface, that protects the meat from flies and bacterial degradation. If rain is frequent, the meat is moved to a hut (kåta). The meat is finished drying when it feels right to the touch. This typically takes a few weeks. 

Traditionally, dried meat is used not only as a snack but also as meat when cooking. When used for cooking, the dried meat is rehydrated and then slow-cooked until soft. 

Dean Biggins (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) - US FWS, DIVISION OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, WO3772-023

This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain

TasteOfTheWood's Torkade Kött

The traditional way would use an estimated 1.8% salt, the percentage is calculated with the weight of the bones. 

With the removal of bones, I have found that 2% is just not enough and 2.5% salt content is too heavy on the salt side. 

2.25% is my preference and I think it gives a result that is very close in salt content to the original. 

My preferred cut for dried meat is the top round.  Any other muscle cut would probably also work well, such as a backstrap or bottom round.  A trimmed, butterflied heart would work well for this also  if you go for the smoked version of torkat kött.

Here in Montana I typically use whitetail for torkat kött. I have also had good success with mule deer and elk. I like both the smoked version and the non-smoked version of this kind of jerky. If you don't know which one to try first, I recommend starting with the cold-smoked one. 



The finished result will be very dark, almost black on the surface.  My aging/drying chamber is inoculated with penicillium nalgiovense which will give the drying meat, even this smoked cut,  a nice white coating. 


If you don't have a cold smoker, then MacGyver one yourself for a dollar or two [video]. Take a leftover box, drill some holes, add a hole for the chimney and hang the meat over alder sawdust or an A-MAZE-N pellet smoker.  

A beautiful smoke ring can be seen.

From start to finish, this smoked dried meat took almost 2 months. Another few months of maturing in a vacuum-packed bag will continue to improve its flavors.