While most of us think of beef jerky as that dry tasteless packet you pick up at the gas station while on a trip, nothing could be further from the truth. Believe it or not, this is a food that was considered almost a gourmet product before the mass production food companies got their hands on it. In fact, if you go back far enough in time you can see that a food that looks much like the handmade beef jerky we see today was enjoyed back in the days of the Incan Empire.
But that particular type of beef jerky was not simply a case of hydrating the meat from a cow and sticking it in a package. We can have tasty and nutritious beef jerky today; it is just a matter of deciding what we want to put into it. Here are three ingredients I have used to make jerky that many of those hikers and campers at the local gas station would probably not recognize, but would love.
Make It from Bison
I guess you could say that this is one way to take a page from the cookbooks of our Native Americans. We know that for centuries the tribes along the plains had been making pemmican, which is a version that uses dried deer or bison and adds in berries to make it almost a sweet treat. This was a staple of many native diets and was quickly adapted by pioneers as well.
Today it is possible to special order bison that makes a tasty jerky, sweeter because bison is often fattier than most beef. Some friends have added a hot sauce to the recipe that gives the jerky a bit of a kick. But starting with bison will give it a flavor all its own, and one that I know you will come to love.
Cowboy Jerky Uses Black Pepper
In Africa, this type of beef jerky has been popular for a long time. We were surprised to find out that using black pepper as the primary spice in a jerky is also a common element when it was made in the Wild West for cowboys who liked to have it handy when they were out on the range for days at a time.
The black pepper gives the jerky a texture as well as a peppery taste that goes a long way to making it a tasty treat with a nice cold beer. I have even heard that this type of jerky pairs up with whiskey nicely, so you just might want to try this and tuck your favorite Jack Daniels into that hiking bag as well. Nice when sitting around a fire after a day of hiking, sipping a bit of Jack and taking a chew on some nice peppery jerky.
Give It an Asian Twist
For many who love to make their own jerky, experimenting with marinades at the start is part of the magic. One combination that has begun to show up amongst some of my more creative friends is what we tend to call the Chinese Takeout Version.
This means marinating it first in soy sauce, sesame, garlic and ginger to really spice it up. Some like to add a bit of brown sugar to the mix to make it really sweet and actually creates a glaze for that extra touch. But no matter what you try, making your own beef jerky has got to be the most fun most guys can have in a kitchen.