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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beef Jerky, The Noblest Savage.

Beef jerky is one of my most favored food items. It doesn't remind me of the American frontier as much as it does of childhood family roadtrips and stops at long gone places like Stuckey's or Howard Johnson's.
My salesman dad got transfered frequently when I was a kid and that meant annual trips to the Alpha Quadrant, Chicago. We always lived far away in like, Atlanta, Miami or Boston and the drive would be an all day affair punctuated by stops at blue (Stuckey's) or orange (Hojo's) rooftops along I-65.

The little cigarette smoking monkeys or cardboard tomahawks, made by "Cherokee Indians In The Smokey Mountains" sold in both establishments never seemed to make the parental cut. This obviously, lead to the absolute necessity of one day possessing an excellent, Swedish Granfors Bruks 'hawk of my own as seen in the background. Dad, however, loved his jerky and we always ended up with a bag.

This particular beef comes from Bud's Custom Meats in Riverside Iowa. I have tasted many a dried, cured hunk of flesh and this is the absolute best I've ever laid teeth to. Bud's is an honest old fashioned meat locker. They'll dress your hog,  skin your buck, and even butcher your elk. Their thinly sliced, perfectly seasoned, smoked jerky is absolutely sublime. Bud will ship it right to your house for a reasonable fee if you call at (319) 648-3999

There you have it, my own little tale of the great American frontier... circa 1974.

If you want to make your own you can follow this recipe:

3 lbs of lean beef or venison (top round makes a pretty good jerky)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instacure No. 1 (or sodium nitrate)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce

You need to carefully remove as much fat from the meat as possible. Fat goes rancid more quickly so, get rid of the fat!
Put the meat in your freezer for about an hour. This facilitates slicing.
Slice the meat as uniformly as possible into 1/4" thick pieces. You can probably have your butcher do this for you.
Now mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly and rub the meat, coating it well.
Let the meat cure in the rub for around 12 - 24 hours, turning every few hours.
You can then apply smoke if you have a smoker like a Big Green Egg for about 6 hours at low heat, as close to 150 degrees as you can get. I like hickory or mesquite for beef.
(Look for detailed entries on smoking and the Big Green Egg in future posts.)
If you don't have a means to smoke your jerky, you can dry the meat on racks in the oven, pilot light lit and door cracked to promote air circulation for about the 6 hours.
The jerky will air dry in about 3-4 days.
You jerky will be dried enough when it cracks but does not break. Properly fixed jerky should be almost leathery.
Or you can just call Bud's in Riverside!

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