If your grandma looked at the list of ingredients in most jerky today, she surely wouldn’t recognize it as edible. It’s a shame that one of the first human-made food products has become so highly processed it wouldn’t pass Michael Pollan‘s test for real food. I know my solution for everything now seems to be to make my own but seriously, why not? You can pick up a package of jerky anywhere but most of it’s loaded with preservatives and chemicals galore and whether there’s any real meat involved is questionable. Make your own and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.
Jerky is one of my perfect foods — a slightly salty savory snack. It’s high in protein, nutrient-dense and easy to carry anywhere. The Native Americans knew what they were doing when they cut meat into long strips and either strung it up to dry in the sun or hung it over poles to smoke by their campfire. It’s hard to imagine that there wasn’t any jerky passed around at the first Thanksgiving since it was such an important food for survival throughout the winter.
When making your own jerky, start with organic, grass-fed meat or wild game. For my first batch I used stir-fry beef from Skagit River Ranch. It’s already cut into very thin slices and they pride themselves on raising the highest quality of meat available. You’ll want to use a cut that’s very lean because the fat won’t dry properly and may spoil. I cut the larger pieces into small strips — across the grain or with. There isn’t much fat on this beef but I cut off the tiny bits, just to be careful. My next batch was even more traditional — venison steaks brought back from Lopez Island by Krista and Chris. I’ll admit to being squeamish when I saw the photos of the butchering session but the rich taste is definitely worth it. It’s very lean and easiest to cut thinly when it’s still a little frozen.
Beef or Venison Jerky
2 lbs high quality meat, sliced into thin strips and fat removed
4T tamari sauce
5T apple cider (the original recipe called for plum nectar)
1t finely ground sea salt
1 big knob minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a ceramic bowl. Add meat slices and marinate several hours or overnight.
Place in single layer, not touching, and dehydrate at 150 degrees for 4-5 hours. If you’d like to dry it at 125 degrees to preserve even more of the natural enzymes and Omega 3’s, it will take about 8 hours.
I used the fabulous food dehydrator I just found at Goodwill but your oven will do at it’s lowest temperature setting.
I know you may not be able to think of anything but Thanksgiving right now but how about a quick batch of turkey jerky?
Thanks to Evelyn Lim for introducing me to homemade beef jerky and for inspiring me with her recipes and knowledge.