Berries and mushrooms can be dried on a screen, loose knit cloth or any similar material that will allow the air to circulate underneath. This makes rolling or turning unnecessary. If kept in a dark, cool place, dried mushrooms will store for long periods without the need for refrigeration. However, because they are a fungi, you will still want to cook them before eating. In particular, Morels make first class flavor boosters in soup or stew. No matter whether they are fresh or dried huckleberries will turn a pancake or bread into something really special to eat.
When it comes to preserving food in the wild, jerky has the best reputation for longevity. Air-dried meat is the closest thing there is to an ideal survival food. The problem is, air drying won't kill bacteria so cooking is still recommended. Bacteria thrives in temperatures between 40F & 104F. This range is known as the "danger zone". Just remember that 140F doesn't kill bacteria, is just prevents them from multiplying. To kill bacteria you need reach 165F and above. Of course, there is the moisture factor to be considered. Bacteria needs moisture to grow but this can be difficult to accurately measure in the field. If all other conditions are ideal, commercially vacuum-packed beef jerky has a one or possibly two-year shelf life without freezing.
Comparatively, without the special brine's, dryers and oxygen free packaging used by commercial operators the home dried jerky numbers slip down to about two or three months when stored at room temperature. The numbers will be further reduced if natural preservatives like salt are unavailable. Still, that’s pretty good when you’re talking unrefrigerated meat.
Smoking helps seal the meats surface from coming in contact with oxygen in the air. This works especially well on fatty meats that tend to go rancid very quickly. However, without proper drying, smoking alone is not nearly adequate to preserve meat.
The time of year is a huge factor; in the heat of July you may only have a couple hours to prevent spoilage. On the other hand, sun drying will be relatively quick due to the high heat. In the cooler fall season, properly handled wild game routinely survives one or two days before reaching a walk in cooler. The prepared hunter will carry breathable game bags into the field, quickly skin and quarter the animal and keep the meat in a cool, dark place until it can be extracted. In the dead of winter meat can freeze solid before it can be processed and drying large quantities out of doors is nearly impossible.
The lesson here is that unless you’re feeding a small tribe anything larger than a small deer will probably go to waste before it can be processed or consumed in the field. Steadily processing small fish and game until a long-term supply can be established will prevent the survivalist from becoming overwhelmed. Factors that contribute to meat going rancid include; age, temperature, exposure to light, exposure to oxygen, humidity, moisture content, fat content, insufficient preservatives like salt, lack of cleanliness and cross contamination with intestinal fluids.
Meat drying racks, which are large and strong enough to process significant quantities of meat in the field, will take some time, materials and energy to build. If you’re considering this option it’s best to start the project long before the meat arrives in camp.
The second biggest challenge is keeping the flies away during the drying process. The two most common and effective means are the use of smoke and/or salt. Cut the meat into even ¼ inch thick strips, soak the strips in salt brine or directly apply salt if soaking isn't possible. Then, hang the strips on the rack and allow it to dry in the sun or near a fire. Moisture will be trapped in between the strips and the rack poles so rotation is needed to expose every surface to the air.
The meat should be consistently dry, flexible and rubbery when finished. It should not break apart when folded. Under drying will allow bacteria to form and premature spoilage will occur. Over drying will diminish the quality of the meats texture and flavor. Low heat and slow drying breaks down the tissue and renders out the fat.
Blocks of clean ice can be frozen in buckets during the winter. Also, ice blocks can be cut out of a lake or river using a saw. The clean blocks can be stored in an underground cellar and covered with cloth or plastic sheeting to prevent contamination. Sawdust is an excellent insulator that can be used to cover the ice blocks and preserve them for extended periods during the summer months. This underground ice cooler will provide refrigeration for as long as the ice will last. The more ice and insulation you have the longer it will last.
Also, a normal ice chest can be buried in the ground up to the lid in a shady location next to an ice-cold stream. It will keep small food items cool and rodents at bay.
As everyone knows or should know, DO NOT store food items inside any occupied shelter in bear country. A bear proof storage locker is essentially a tiny log cabin with an oversize floor on slick 8-10ft. wooden stilts. The stilts are set in away from the edges of the bottom platform to prevent a bear from climbing up on to the locker’s deck. With a removable wooden ladder, access is easy for you and impossible for bears.