To go along with this week's Playlist of Tall Tales, we have reposted this awesome beefy jerky recipe that was created to go along with The Fort Keeper story.
In this week’s By Thistle By Thimble story, "The Fort Keeper" is the only enlisted man left at an abandoned and obsolete fort. He has his daily routine, and he serves it loyally, without fail. Until he discovers a boy. The boy is technically an intruder and should be apprehended or at least chased away, but the Fort Keeper feels pity for him. Over the next few weeks he leaves the boy food and clothing without ever actually meeting him. But on the day he introduces himself, everything changes. From officers at desolate forts to explorers to cowboys on the trail, beef jerky has long been a staple for people who need protein on the go, or in situations where harder to cook snacks might be impractical for speedy, secret eats.
While drying your own jerky has its pitfalls, they’re relatively easy to avoid with just a few common sense precautions.
For starters, I highly recommend reading “Making Jerky at Home” from the University of Oregon Extension. It’s much more thorough than its USDA counterpart, and lays out several methods of safe jerky making.
Some other tips include:
• While you can play with the spices you use to flavor your meat, try to keep the salt in the recipe you chose at least close to the same. Some recipes don’t bother, but I always toss in a bit of curing salt as well, for extra insurance.
• Make sure you’re heating your jerky to the right temperature. Get an oven thermometer to check that your oven or dehydrator is really as warm as the dial says.
• Heat treat your jerky to 275 degrees for 10 minutes when it’s finished, and then let it sit in an airtight container for 2-4 days to allow any remaining moisture to redistribute. This will help even out any overly dry or moist spots. If condensation forms on the container during that time, you’ll also know that your jerky needs to go back in the oven for more drying time.
• Lastly―and this is just a good rule for life, really―don’t eat moldy food. If, after storing it for a bit, your jerky smells “off” or is growing critters, toss it out. Here’s a simple jerky recipe to get you started. It’s a salty/sweet combination, but if you want a bit more of a kick add some red pepper flake or increase the amount of adobo sauce. Slip a baggie in your little boy or girl’s pocket the next time they need a secret snack for an adventure.
Homemade Beef Jerky
2 pounds round steak or similar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon “pink” or curing salt
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
⅛ cup water
Put the meat in the freezer for 2-4 hours before your start; it will make it easier to slice. Once the meat is about half frozen, use a sharp knife to slice it into strips that are about ⅛ inch thick. It’s more important that the meat slices are of similar thickness to each other than it is that they’re all of perfect thickness.
Once the meat is sliced, place it in a plastic baggie and add the remaining ingredients. Remember, you can play with the spices, but keep the salt at least close to the same. Seal the baggie, place it in a large bowl (in case of leakage), and pop the whole thing in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, spread the meat out evenly on dehydrator trays or on racks in your 150 degree oven. Dry until the meat will crack, but not break when you bend it. That should take approximately 6 hours in a dehydrator and may take double that time in an oven. Either way, finish the jerky by heating it for 10 minutes in a pre-heated, 275 degree oven. Allow the jerky to cool, pat off any oil that has collected, and place in an airtight container for 2-4 days for conditioning. Give the container a shake once a day―this will help distribute any moisture left more evenly―and if you notice condensation forming on the container put the jerky back in the dehydrator or oven to dry more.
Store the jerky in a cool, dark, dry place. It will last a few weeks at room temperature, a few months in the fridge, and for up to a year frozen.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.