This big-tasting jerky gets its inspiration (and kick) from a staple of many deer camps: Scotch whisky. The peaty, malty flavors of Scotch make a potent addition to a traditional marinade of soy (for salt) and brown sugar and maple syrup (for sweet). We like to dry this jerky in a smoker, to add some woodsmoke tang, but drying it in a low oven—or a dehydrator, if you’re so equipped—works just as nicely, especially if you dash in the optional liquid smoke. As with all jerky, stop drying it when it feels almost-but-not-quite done; it’ll firm up as it cools.
About 2 lb. venison roast
3⁄4 cup Scotch whisky
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
1. Trim any fat, silverskin, and bones from the roast. Wrap the meat in freezer paper or foil and put it in the freezer for about an hour, until it’s firm but not frozen. This makes for much easier slicing.
2. In the meantime, make the marinade by combining the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisking to dissolve the sugar. (If you’re smoking the jerky, leave out the liquid smoke.)
3. Carve the roast into very thin slices, aiming for about 1⁄8 inch thick. The only thing that really matters is making them uniform, so they’ll all dry at the same rate. Cut with the grain for jerky with some traditional cowboy chew, or against the grain for a softer bite. (Or to please everyone, do some of both.) Add the venison strips to the marinade as you slice.
4. Stir the meat to ensure that it’s coated on all sides by the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for as long as you can, up to 48 hours—the longer, the better. Every now and then, give the meat a stir.
5. Lightly oil the racks you’ll be using to dry the meat—the wire racks of your smoker or oven—and place them over some foil to collect the drippings. Transfer the venison slices to the racks, leaving space between them, and let them drip-dry for about 30 minutes.
6. To smoke, set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 160 degrees. Add wood according to the instructions, and once it’s smoking, transfer the meat to the smoker. Smoking time will vary, based upon the thickness of the slices, but figure on 31⁄2 to 4 hours. Remove the jerky when it’s dried but still flexible—you want it to tear, not snap—and immediately transfer it to a heavy-duty zip-seal bag. (The steam will soften the meat.)
7. To use the oven, preheat it to its lowest setting (170 degrees is the sweet spot). Line the bottom with foil to catch any drippings. Transfer the wire rack to the oven. Wad up some aluminum foil to prop the oven door open a bit; this allows for air circulation and helps reduce the heat further to a low drying temp. Expect about 3 to 4 hours’ drying time (thicker slices will stretch that time further), but start checking the jerky after 2 hours. Remove the jerky when it’s dried but still flexible and transfer it at once to a heavy-duty zip-seal bag.
8. Refrigerate the jerky in an airtight container. It’s best eaten within a couple of weeks.