Drying out

August 10, 2016

Jerky. Real, homemade jerky. I feel like Grizzly Adams.

Jerky. Real, homemade jerky. I feel like Grizzly Adams.

I am moderately entranced with my $19.99 dehydrator.

So far, in addition to the maiden voyage with cucumbers and bananas and cherries, I have made jerky. Tolerably good jerky, if I do say so myownself, particularly for the first time I’ve ever tried same.

I’ve never been a huge jerky lover, but I’ve been known to gnaw on it when there was plenty of something to drink nearby (that stuff is some kind of salty, y’all). And it’s a good snack when you’re between meals and need a protein hit.

So I set out the other day to make jerky. I grabbed two top sirloin steaks, about a half-pound apiece, from the freezer, and stuck them in the sink to thaw. When they were thawed, I sliced them into thin slices, sprinkled them down with a seasoning mix of powdered garlic, powdered onion, salt, pepper and cayenne. That went on a cookie sheet and into the fridge for a few hours while I did other stuff.

Jerky-in-training, with dry rub sprinkle.

Jerky-in-training, with dry rub sprinkle.

Among the other stuff was making the marinade. I went with one containing pineapple juice that billed itself as a “sweet-and-spicy” jerky. One cooks the marinade slightly to melt all the sugar and help everything combine, then cool the marinade completely in the fridge before combining it with the meat. But I was suffering from summer overload in the fridge, and had no room to refrigerate the marinade, so I figured I’d just let it cool completely on the back side of the stove, which was no longer in use.

Recipe for both the rub and the marinade, btw, are here.

Several hours later — marinade not chilled, true, but certainly quite cool to the touch, I moved the meat strips to a plastic container, poured the marinade over, popped a top on and found a spot for it in the fridge, where it reposed overnight. Well, about 24 hours, truth be told.

It was just a tad more than one shelf worth in the dehydrator, so I took enough off that shelf to just about divide it equally, and spread it between two shelves, figuring it would benefit from the increased air flow. The recipe said about five hours; at five, I didn’t think it was ready, so we went about eight. I’m seeing this as a trend in drying stuff; I guess a low-budget dehydrator isn’t going to give you premium performance, but who’s in a hurry to dry stuff, anyway?

Sampled it that evening, and judged it to be pretty doggoned good.  Spicy enough, but not too much; I went almost exactly by the recipe but for using cayenne powder instead of red pepper flakes, and I used about 1/4 teaspoon. It could be hotter, and some people would want hotter; I’m quite content with it. I also forgot to sprinkle it with the dry seasoning when I put it on the dehydrator, but I figure I made up for that by letting it sit with a heavy dost of the dry rub in the fridge.

I am now casting about for anyone I know who deer hunts, so I can offer to sharecrop some jerky if they provide the venison. I am also thinking I want to try some pork tenderloin, using a barbecue spice dry rub and then marinating in a vinegar-based barbecue sauce. It would also be quite interesting to try with chicken breast strips.

One note worth remembering; even with a good sharp knife, it’s hard to hold slices to the 1/8 inch thick the recipe calls for. The meat would slice a lot better if it were partially frozen, and I’ll do that next time.

If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em wanted to try this, you wouldn’t have to have a dehydrator. You could just put your meat strips on a rack over a cookie sheet, and stick it in the oven overnight on the “warm” setting. The acidity/salt content of the marinade kills off all the bacteria the heat level isn’t warm enough to sterilize out, so you won’t wind up killing yourself.  Give it a whirl!

 

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