Friday, April 7, 2017

Free Range Friday ~ Culebra ~ Beef Jerky on the Fly

I've mentioned some great things about house/critter sitting before, and one of them is being given free range, so to speak, to eat, drink and be merry with the contents of the larder and fridge. There, in the back, was some beef jerky. Beef jerky is something I really like a lot (mea culpa, my vegetarian friends) and slowly it didn't take long until the half empty package was distressingly entirely empty. What to do?

Where my mind goes when thinking about 'what to do'
April 7 a few years back
This is Culebra. You don't run out to the store to replace and restock for certain items and this was going to be one of them. I tried. First it was explaining what beef jerky is, then being shown Slim Jim's (shudder). Then I thought, this is ridiculous, I'm just going to make my own beef jerky. So I did.

I used to have a dehydrator pre-houseboat life, but they are one of those large kitchen items that gets put up on high shelves to be used a few times a year. The houseboat doesn't have high shelves like that so it went to a good home with a lot of other kitchen items I found I could live without. Point being, there are a variety of ways to make beef jerky without a dehydrator; this page from The Kitchn gives a whole lot of them, including Alton Brown's use of box fans! Go to the comments to check out alternatives, beside the main article suggestion.

I ended up using a cooking method I've never tried before, a NuWave oven. I've seen them advertised but never have gotten to use one. If there was enough space and power on the boat, I'd be an instant convert; these things rock! However, I'm not selling them, if you're interested you'll have to check them out for yourself. 

First I had to look up a recipe giving instructions on making jerky in the NuWave. And there was one, complete with video! The guy is pretty dorky but I just needed to know some average ideas. One thing he did that I didn't do was vent the oven. After reading a bunch of other things, I decided not to do that. Probably a mistake, as the jerky is amazing tasting but drier by a smidgen than I would have preferred.

First I went to Milka's meat department, because they might not have a big bag of beef jerky, but they do have excellent meat. I bought the - well, I guess they'd be called minute steaks where I come from, but a lot better. Perfect for jerky because the fat content is about 0%.

I used a brush because in the past, soaking the meat in a marinade
makes it really wet, using the dehydrator it took longer than it might have.
With this method, it might have been okay.
I made up a marinade of whatever looked good that was here, and there is plenty that looked good: teriyaki sauce, a citrus-y sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a dash of something with some heat, a splash of olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and I think that's all. This is a fun thing to make because if you're happy with it, it's going to work. Some people use soy and ginger, some use smoked paprika and...well, you get the idea. Play with your food!

Because I knew this would take a long time and I'd started late in the day, I didn't marinade it as long as I could/should/would have. I'd say a minimum of a few hours, but used to do it overnight for even more awesome results. Do as I say, not as I do!

I used both layers of grills for this and didn't cut the meat into strips to avoid that
falling through thing. That worked! 
The package I bought had six rolled up 'steaks' of slightly varying sizes. That's plenty unless you have a really big dehydrator or a gigantic oven and plan on making a ton of this stuff (which is really a great idea, because it's time consuming and the more you make the better; it won't last long). 

At a temperature of 150 degrees F (no, I don't know what that is C, you'll have to do SOME work here!), cooking time was six hours. After 3 hours everything was flipped and switched, top to bottom. I think it was really only that last 15 or 20 minutes I could have done without, or maybe a temperature of 125 in this particular unit, but live and learn. 

Jerky is a personal thing. Some like chewy, some like brittle dry.
I like somewhere in-between and this is allllmost that. But I'm picky.
Bottom line, it turned out to be delicious. I re-filled the bag I'd emptied and still had enough to indulge my not quite sated yen. 

Even if you aren't a carnivore, dehydrating food is a great way to make something healthy and delicious for snacking on. Truthfully, the prep time is minimal (compared to making say, baklava) and the results give the double satisfaction of being made by your very own self and being good for you without shouting it out in that way healthy things sometimes do. 

On Culebra, necessity really is often the mother of invention. That worked.

Now, about those macadamia nuts...

Have a frolicsome Friday. Do something funny.

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