Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cook's Kitchen: Beef Jerky

Well, I've got some beef in a marinade right now. I'm making some beef jerky in order to try out a new vacuum sealer we picked up at the store. I thought I'd take a few minutes to post about my beef jerky. Odd? Maybe, but I think you'll find that beef jerky is underrated and worthy of a little examination. "Why are you writing about beef jerky?" You may ask. Well here's why: Jerky is actually a very old food. The word "jerky" actually comes from "charqui" (Pronounced CHAR-KEE) which is a Quechua word used in the 1500's in South America. This from a few minutes of research on the web. Isn't the internet cool? :) Anyway, the idea of being able to keep meat for long periods without it spoiling is extremely useful. It is a great food for hikers. Beef is a powerful food for a person who will be packing heavy weight for long distances. Why? Beef is a powerhouse of Protein and Iron and the curing process packs it with Sodium. In a nutshell, Protein to repair the muscles, Iron for efficient oxygen intake, and sodium for balancing fluid and keeping the neurons a-firin'. That on top of the fact that it's a light food to carry. I'm not a nutritionist. One of my readers is though, and so I hope he doesn't shoot me down here for my amateur evaluation. :) So now you're saying, "Ok, Jon, I'm sold. How do I come by this 'jerky' of yours." Well, I'll tell you. You need a few things to make Jon C. Cook's Killer Beef Jerky. Here is my list. 1. A food dehydrator, lovingly provided by the Coopers for your wedding. (Any food dehydrator will work of course, but a nice one with heat and convection will get you there faster) 2. Real soy sauce. (Kikkoman is a good brand), Worcestershire Sauce and Liquid Smoke. Buy large containers if you plan to make more than one batch in order to lower your costs overall. 3. Good beef. I say good beef because there are definitely "beeves" that don't make good jerky. I use thin sliced (about 1/4 inch) eye of round steaks, cut across the grain. The cross cut is vital for my recipe. First of all it is much easier to eat. You won't yank your teeth out trying to tear a piece off. Secondly, the cross cut allows the marinade to really soak in and flavor your jerky in a short amount of time. I'd like to also note that ground beef pressed through a caulking gun and mixed with spices is not jerky. It's a dog treat. Here at the Jon C. Cook School of Jerky, we don't pre-chew our beef, and we certainly don't squirt it out of a caulking gun like Taco-Bell sour cream. :) That's it. That's all. Here's how it goes together. 1. Mix your marinade. Use a 1 to 1 ratio for the soy and Worcestershire. I use about 1.5 to 2.5 tablespoons of liquid smoke, but you can really be flexible with it. You can also experiment with other flavors added to this base marinade. Try anything that sounds interesting! I made a batch with a plum spread once that turned out pretty tasty. 2. Trim your beef. Make sure and remove as much fat as possible from the slices. The fat will not dry completely and can go bad much more quickly than the lean meat. The more you remove the better your jerky will keep. I just use kitchen shears. 3. Put your beef in the marinade and let it sit for at least 6 hours. The longer you leave it, the more flavorful the jerky will be. I usually prepare the marinade in the evening and the next morning it's ready. It's a good idea to agitate the beef at some point to make sure everything gets covered. Generally, 3 to 4 hours in, I just flip the top pieces that may be sticking out of the marinade at all. (Cover and refrigerate) 4. Once the marinade is finished, it's time to dry it out. Turn your dehydrator on and make sure to set it to the correct temperature for meat. All you have to do is put the beef on the trays and let it go. The actual time will depend on your dehydrator. Mine usually does the job in 12-15 hours. You can let it dry until it's crispy if you like. Consistency is largely a personal taste, but make sure it's dry enough that it'll keep. 5. Remove from the dehydrator, let it cool, and bag it up! If you're going to use it on a hike or something then you're good to go, but if you want to keep it longer than a week or three, vacuum seal it and refrigerate it to be on the safe side. Chances are that it will not last nearly as long as it'll actually keep. :) There you go! Now you can enjoy beef jerky for a snack, or as a trail food, the Jon C. Cook way! Enjoy!! -J


Eric said...

You are making me very hungry for jerky. I shall have to get some soon and we can have a jerky party.

Anonymous said...

Making Jon C. Cook's Killer Beef Jerky sounds like a lot of work. Could I just place an order?