I've been making a lot of jerky recently without a dehydrator, and it's super easy. The basic concept with jerky is that you're taking a lean meat, cutting it into thin strips and then drying it out. You want a lean meat so that the fat doesn't go rancid on you. You can add flavoring, but that's mostly a taste thing.
So first step is to pick out the meat. Flank steak is the easiest thing to buy. Sheep jerky is amazing. I bet goat would be even better. As stated before the biggest thing is that you don't want any fat marbled into the cut. (Also cubed is a pain in the butt to slice) Then take a very sharp knife and cut against the grain to make the thinnest slices you can manage. Some people suggest freezing it slightly before hand to make this easier, but I prefer to do it with fresh meat.
If you want to marinate it now's the time. I marinated my last batch using this recipe (without the liquid smoke), but it had too much Worcestershire sauce in it for my tastes. If you marinade let it soak for a few hours, then pull it out, dry it off with a towel and continue from there. In the past I've just sprinkled soy sauce, salt, pepper, and a little hot pepper on the meat strips. It's a bit blander, but way easier.
Okay! Hard part over, now it's just time to hang it up in the backyard to dry. Any dry, warm day should do it. I kind of squish any thick pieces a little thinner as I'm hanging it up, but I don't know how much it matters.
I make sure to pick a sunny spot where the sun hits it full on for the initial part of the drying process. Later on it doesn't mater, but when the meat's wet the flies will be interested in it. Once a crust forms on the outside they can't get at it. I haven't hand any problems with flies ruining the jerky though - only with the neighbor's dog stealing a few pieces.
How long the jerky will have to dry depends on your preferences and your climate. Generally I dry it for two days in the sun (I have to take it in at night so the sprinklers don't get it wet), though this last time I put it up on the balcony after the first day and just left it for three days. I like mine dried to the point where it will snap if you bend it.
That's it! I tend to store mine tied up in a bandana, but a paper bag should also work fine. If your climate is particularly cold or humid this might not work as well, but it works wonders even in May in California.
- Beef in particular seems to get a slightly sour flavor partway through the aging process. If you let it age longer (at least a month or two) it appears to go away again, but this is probably why people flavor their jerky so much.
- These pictures are all of about a pound of flank steak. More are here