Thursday, April 02, 2015

On Beef Jerky and a Minor Act of Rebellion

This week I made beef jerky.

It is Nighean Ruadh's fault mostly, she who suggested that I needed to get more protein into my diet.  "Try Beef Jerky"  she said.  "It will be good for snacks."  Fair enough, I thought.  Although I kind of already knew the answer, I went out to price beef jerky.  And was predictably horrified.

Beef is not cheap these days.  It flows down into all beef products.  Even at Costco, my "go-to" cheap place for many things, the cost was well above what I was willing to shell out for such a meager amount.

All right, I thought, so I'll make my own.

I trot myself off to the store and found the cheapest steak I could find:  2 packages (about 1 lb) for $5.00 - very thin cut, but that will do.  I got home and discovered the first problem with my plan: my jerky rub had gone missing, whether through burrowing into the pantry or simply by being disposed of due to age.

But I have books.  And if you have enough books, you can find guidance on how to do anything.

So I make up my own recipe: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 Worcestershire sauce, and Kosher salt.  Slice the beef and plop it into a Ziplock bag to marinate.  It was supposed to be overnight but I got started too late so it was only 4 hours.  Oh well, what can it hurt?

4 hours later I go to start the oven to dry the jerky.  Second problem with my plan arises:  the recipe says 140 F, my oven (gas) does not go below 170 F.  Again, not an insurmountable problem - it will just dry a bit faster, so I will need to pay a little more attention to the process.  Tin foil over cookie sheet and into the oven it goes. Flip once at about hour 1; by hour 2.5, I have jerky.

It is not great jerky.  If I got this in a store I would bitterly complain that I was cheated.  But let us put things in perspective:  for a total of $6.00 in ingredients and a little natural gas, I have manufactured something I needed and at least saved myself the cost of buying it in the store.

Buried in the midst of this experience are actually two minor acts of rebellion:

1)  The fact that I was willing to make it myself instead of paying for it.  In a world where having others do everything for you except your own specialty, any act of doing something different makes you a rebel.

2)  Winging it when I had no instructions.  Some, I know, would simply have given up - "I do not have what I need so I cannot do anything at all".  Others, confronted by the fact and perhaps not having access to the Internet at that moment, would surrender to "I cannot Google it".  And finally others, faced with a change in cooking temperature, would have thrown up their hands in defeat because it was not what they expected and, instead of taking the time to figure things out or having the experience to do so, would have considered the project as "cannot be completed."

I do not want to overstate my experience.  I made jerky, and not particularly good jerky (I will get better).  But at the same time, any acts of independent thought or action in a world that encourages dependency will be seen, in the eyes of some, as an undesirable trait - and an act of rebellion.


  1. I have never been a fan of jerky. In fact I think sometimes I am the only person on the planet that doesn't like things crispy or dried at all. I prefer chewy over crispy in everything. Anyway my son used to love it and begged for it all the time but as you said the cost is outrageous and has been long before this recent beef price increase.

    Rebellion is the way to beat the beast though. Make your own whenever possible.

  2. My jerky is pretty chewy, Preppy. The price when I am places that I want it is pretty appalling. It is a small victory, but perhaps small victories add up into big ones.

  3. Well it may not be the best jerky TB but I commend your rebellious nature and your keep at it till it's done nature....makes this old pirate glow inside.

    1. Thanks John. I am often slow but as long as I get there, it is all good.


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