We like to snack on Beef Jerky, especially when on a hike or a backpacking trip. The problem is that the stuff you find in stores is very expensive ($20/lb and up) and not always that good, or good for you. Time to head into the kitchen to make our own homemade Jerky.
I don't have one single recipe for making jerky, it's more like making leftover casserole where a little bit of everything gets tossed in until it tastes good or you're out of ingredients. But there are some basics recipe components we should cover first. Also, be sure to read these safety precautions before you start.
One of the most important ingredients is salt. This is an essential part of preserving the meat as well as a key to the flavor. Too much, though, and your jerky will be really hard to eat. Some recipes replace the salt with soy sauce or tamari since both have the salt you need and added flavor. Personally I don't use very much soy sauce in jerky.
You'll need a hunk of meat. If you or a buddy have some wild game left over from hunting season, then more power to ya. Otherwise wait for it to go on sale at the local supermarket like the rest of us huntless gatherers. Get a roast, something without much fat. Fat on the edges is fine, you can cut that off, but marbled throughout the meat isn't good. All fat does is ooze grease and eventually turn rancid, neither of which makes for a tasty jerky.
I think it's fair to say that the toughest part of making jerky is cutting the meat. I usually put the roast in the freezer for a few hours to get it stiffened up, but that only helps a little. We have a small electric meat slicer which improves the situation. You'll want to cut the meat into quarter inch thick slices or thinner. Length is pretty much determined by the cut of meat you have and your talent in cutting it in one contiguous slice.
Making a good jerky sauce is right up there with making your own barbeque sauce or marinade. A lot of it depends on what you like and/or have available. Here's what I typically toss into the mix:
I've also been known to throw in some papaya, pickle or caper juice, dijon mustard...you get the idea. Don't forget my Grandma's rule of thumb when cooking: "If it calls for salt add a little sugar, if it calls for sugar add a little salt."
Wasabi powder? Wasabi powder is my secret cooking weapon. Sure wasabi is a vital sinus clearing part of eating sushi, but the powder also adds that little extra to marinades, soups, and jerky.
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