Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[INSERT RONCO FOOD DEHYDRATOR HERE]

It's a rest day in the daily serial television program Kelzie's Life, so naturally I wanted to see how much trouble I could get into.  Of course, the caveat being that it could only be trouble I could get into from the couch.

Turns out you can make home-made beef jerky from the couch.

I'm not sure when this turned into a cooking blog, but please bear with me.  (Re)considering the food I consume and eating clean(er)(ish) has been a theme in my recent thoughts and actions, so it does stand to reason that its influence in my daily life would eventually spill over to influence the on-line presentation of my daily life.

When I say clean(er)(ish), I don't mean vegetarian, vegan, or strictly dairy-, caffeine-, or gluten-free diets, although I probably qualify as any one of those on any one day, usually by accident.  I mean just being more aware of what is in the food I eat, making more conscious choices of this-not-that, and not breaking the bank trying to eat better versions of the foods I like.

I like beef jerky.  I do not like monosodium glutamate or sodium erythorbate.  Unless they taste like rainbows and unicorns.  I decided MDA wouldn't lead me astray in making "clean" beef jerky, even if I don't eat "primal" or "paleo" or "modern caveman" or whatever.

From my couch - there was a magic wand involved - I amassed these ingredients:


** 2 lbs. of grass-fed, lean beef, sliced 1/4" thick across the grain
** 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
** 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
** 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
** 3 gloves of garlic, crushed or minced
** 2.5 tsp. onion powder
** 2 tsp. chili powder
** up to 1 tsp. each of salt and black pepper

I wanted grass-fed beef with the least amount of marbling, as inexpensive as possible.  (I also asked for a pony, but my magic wand was all out.)  The meat counter was out of flank steak for the day, so I was "encouraged" towards a London broil that in the end had almost no marbling, but a huge streak of fat running right through parts of it.  Fat doesn't dehydrate, it melts and never evaporates, so ... Next time, I am going to tell the 300 lb. guy covered in tattoos and wielding a huge cleaver exactly which meat I want and he is going to LISTEN. 

It is here that I would encourage non-meat-eaters, as well as people who simply don't like gratuitous pictures of raw and cooking meat, to abandon this post.  I promise a certified organic vegan blog post in the future to make it up to you.




The Canvas

I opted for the hot marinade option, because I had a rest day, not a rest soak-over-night-and-cook-for-8-hours-the-following-day.  I voila-d the marinade together...

The Paint

Got it boiling, and added the meat, several strips at a time, for two minutes per batch.



Next time, assuming I have the time or think ahead, I will marinade overnight.  Despite only being in the hot marinade for 2 minutes, the beef cooked more than intended, which changed the consistency of the final product away from what our mouths would recognize as store-bought jerky.  Plus once the meat was even slightly cooked the marinade stayed on the outside, rather than truly soaking in, so the final product has more of a glaze than a marinade.  Still pretty freaking yummy though.

Ready! Set! Wait for a long time!

I don't actually own a Ronco dehydrator or similar appliance, so I used my oven - six hours on ~160-ish F - to dehydrate the marinated beef.  Luckily it was a slightly chilly day in Austin (for those in the Midwest, read: tropical) so having my oven heating for six hours meant I didn't have to put on a long-sleeve shirt.

Halfway through, I flipped the slices.  See what I mean about the glaze?

Already flipped on the left, not yet flipped on the right.

Tada!  Yummy, if not pretty.



I started with 1.88 lb (30.1 oz) of meat for $16.90 (plus tax), and ended up with 11.25 oz of jerky.  That's $1.50/oz of jerky, plus a few cents if you factor in the hit to my utility bill.  I certainly am not going to be putting commercial jerky enterprises out of business, but the jerky tastes all the sweeter...er, smokier...knowing that I made it myself and there are no "-ates" in it.

In the end, it really wasn't that much trouble.  The biggest pains were staring down a surly meat vendor and knowing I couldn't go anywhere for 6-8 hours to escape the noise of the floor of the apartment above me being refinished.

Because this jerky has no preservatives - which was kinda the whole point - I have to vacuum-pack (another appliance I do not own) or wrap it very well to store in the freezer.  However, I seriously doubt it will last long enough to need freezing.  Which is okay because I already have a bead on genuine Texas-hunting-license killed venison for the next batch.

Ok, so maybe I do eat a little bit like a modern caveman.

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