By Steve Dunn
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years you can’t help but notice a resurgence in the popularity of charcuterie in these parts. It seems that any restaurant worth its salt is offering local charcuterie and cheese boards for the table to share at the start of a meal. At its most elemental, the art of charcuterie evolved as a means to preserve meat back in the day before folks could rely on dependable methods of refrigeration to do the trick. Cured and dried meats come in all shapes and sizes, from entire thighs of pigs made into prosciutto or jamón ibérico, to seasoned and cased meats such as salami. The simplest foray into the world of charcuterie is probably jerky, a staple of our wild west settlers, which is really nothing more than thinly sliced meat that is seasoned and then quickly dried before the meat can spoil.
Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of Jerky making driven by the farm to table, artisanal food, D-I-Y charcuterie waves washing over us all with interest in real, good food. This is the second recipe I’ve tried for making my own jerky, and by far the most successful. The first, which I made about a month back turned out horridly salty (and I’m a salt demon just so you know), but this one hits just the right balance of sweet – salty – and black pepper spicy.
It turns out that making your own jerky is really simple, requires no special equipment (like a dehydrator), is something that is easily adaptable to your own tastes, and in the end provides you with a great high-protein, low fat tasty snack food.
I’ve been a beef jerky FREAK since I was a kid growing up in Vermont where it was always a favorite snack during my hiking – camping – scouting days, and so I’m happy to have jumped aboard this tasty charcuterie wave and I encourage you all to join in the fun too. Dufort Farms of Rehoboth sells outstanding grass fed beef that would be an excellent choice for this super tasty jerky.
Cheers – Steve
Black Pepper Jerky
• 6 pounds sirloin steak tips
• 1/2 cup molasses
• 1/2 cup real maple syrup
• 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
• 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoon fine-medium ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons sriracha (or other hot sauce)
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
1 – Make the marinade: combine all ingredients (except the beef) in a medium sized bowl, whisking well to make sure the molasses and maple syrup are totally integrated. Set aside.
2 – Slice the steak no thicker than 1/4 inch thick, and into lengths that are manageable. Steaks are easier to slice if you pop them in the freezer for an hour or so. Marbling fat in the meat is fine, but be sure to cut away any large veins of the stuff as they are not too pleasant to chew on when enjoying your jerky.
3 – Whisk the marinade and pour a quarter of it into a square sided container such as a Pyrex casserole. Layer the meat evenly; pouring more marinade over as needed to coat all the pieces equally, pushing down each layer snugly.
4 – Cover, pressing plastic wrap directly on top of the meat and refrigerate for 24 hours.
5 – When ready to dehydrate the meat, layer the meat slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess marinade. If the strips are wet, they won’t dry evenly.
6 – Turn your oven to its lowest setting (if you have a very new oven you might even have a “dehydrate” setting) 125 – 175 ℉. Lay the meat out onto lightly oiled cooling racks, leaving a little space between each piece. Place a few sheets of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch any drippings, and place the baking racks directly on the oven racks, with no cookie sheet or anything to block the air and heat from circulating around the oven.
7 – Cook for between 6-8 hours. Every 2 hours rotate the racks top to bottom.
8 – When the jerky is done it should be shiny and almost black in color, the strips should be firm and bend but not break. Let the jerky rest at room temperature for a bit after it comes out of the oven. This gives any moisture left in the meat a chance to equalize with the drier outside surface. Store in an airtight container, like a ziploc bag or Tupperware.
Steve Dunn’s “Oui, Chef” blog chronicles his experience of spending time in the kitchen along with his kids. While he teaches them how to cook, he hopes to encourage other families to follow his example to prepare nourishing and creative meals at home as well. Follow Steve’s cooking exploits at www.ouichefnetwork.com.