Jonathan’s jerky

Remember when my family went to Pennsylvania over New Year’s? Remember when my friend served me and my husband a bedtime snack of her homemade beef jerky? Remember how I dug the gallon jar of jerky out of the cupboard the next morning to show my children and how my older son clutched it to his bosom and wouldn’t let go? No? Well, here. This should jog your memory:

Between chewy mouthfuls of dried beef, my son declared that he would go home and make his own beef jerky. Get the recipe, Mom, he said. So I snapped a photo of the recipe.

A couple weeks ago, my son went to Costco with me so he could pick out a cut of beef.

“Wow, it’s expensive,” he said, leaning over the trough of frosty meat. He selected a seven-pound boneless cut for thirty-eight dollars: “Ouch.”

By the end of last week, my son had all the ingredients compiled. (It took two tries for the liquid smoke—the first time my husband came home with a liquid smoke marinade.) Saturday afternoon he mixed up the marinade and set the meat in a pan by the fire to thaw. That evening he spend a couple hours slicing the semi-frozen meat into thin slices. He divided the meat into sections—too-thin pieces, average-sized, and chunky-big—and smooshed in the marinade. 

“Shouldn’t it have brown sugar, too?” He asked.

“It called for white, so you should probably stick with that,” I said.

“But all the good meat sauces call for brown sugar,” he argued. When I turned around, he was already sprinkling brown sugar onto the meat.

The next morning, he got up early to lay the meat onto the dehydrator trays before church. I suggested we experiment with some black pepper-crusted jerky; I ground a bunch of pepper over a strip of slices, he flipped the meat, and I ground some more.

All the time my son was gearing up for his jerky, we couldn’t figure out where to put the dehydrator while the meat dried. My friend had warned us the smell was overpowering, so we knew we couldn’t leave the dehydrator in the back hall. If we moved it to the basement, the smell would rise straight through the floor. The attic seemed too tricky (and potentially still too smelly). We were afraid the animals would get the meat if we left it outside. The Sunday morning when he was to run the dehydrator, the outside temps were in the single digits. Would the dehydrator work properly in such low temps? And then I hit on a solution: the truck! We could back my husband’s truck up to the porch, stick the dehydrator in the back cab, and hook it up with an extension cord. I was such a genius.

Mid-afternoon the jerky was done. As my son peeled the pieces from the trays, we crowded round, stuffing the pieces of spicy dried meat in our mouths as fast as possible, fearing the moment his generosity would end. (It held out longer than I thought it would, sweet kid.)

Straight out of the dehydrator, the jerky was crunchy-crispy (by the next day it had turned chewy). It had a delightful kick from the chipotle pepper, and the black pepper version was an enormous hit—it was gone in minutes.

So now my son has a gallon of jerky in his bedroom. Actually. make that a half gallon.

The stuff is good. Wicked good.

Jonathan’s Jerky 
Adapted from Amber’s recipe.

Amber says you can use venison in place of the beef.

Amber’s recipe called for 5 tablespoons white sugar, but my son recommends using all brown sugar and slightly increasing the amount (his changes are reflected in the recipe below). Also, Amber used cayenne pepper and only ¼ teaspoon of it. We used a whole teaspoon of chipotle powder and found the heat pleasantly kicky. If you’re into scorched tastebuds, feel free to add more.

This is the dehydrator that we used. We love it to pieces.

5-6 pounds beef
1¼ cups Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup liquid smoke
7 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons sea salt
2½ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1¼ teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle powder

While the meat is still partially frozen, remove any extra fat and then slice the meat across the grain into three-sixteenth or quarter-inch slices.

Combine the remaining ingredients to make a marinade.

In a couple glass pans, layer the meat with the marinade. Using your hands, stir the two together so that all pieces of meat are coated with the marinade. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate for about 12 hours.

Lay the strips of meat on the dehydrator sheets. Place the dehydrator in a secure place away from the house and set the dehydrator to 150 degrees. Start checking the jerky after 6 hours. (Alternately, you can dry the jerky at lower temps, but it will take longer to dry.)

Store the jerky in a glass jar. This recipe yields about a gallon, though warning: it will disappear far too quickly.

For Pepper-Crusted Jerky: Lay the meat onto the trays. Grind lots of black pepper over each piece. Flip the pieces and grind over more pepper.

PS. To rid the dehydrator of the meaty smell—because you don’t want your dried nectarines and apples to taste of beef and smoke—scrub it to within an inch of its life. Rinse and repeat.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.16.15), in the last ten months, the quotidian (2.17.14), Monday blues, sweet, ginger lemon tea, chicken pot pie, snippets, coconut pudding, food I never told you about, food I never told you about, part two, odd ends, and tortilla pie.        


  • Second Sister

    You should also check out my big sis's recipe for their venison jerky if she's willing to share (!!??) 'cause it may cause another frenzied feeding at your place. I'm not much of a meat eater, but that stuff goes down very nicely, I must say.

  • Fiona

    Yum…now I am going to try this with chicken. We butchered some of our roosters and some are a bit lean for roasting so this should be worth a try. Thank you for this tale of inspired youth. A good choice of cut of beef is the base for good jerky.

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