September 8, 2012
Back in high school, a friend of mine, Jesse, used to tote homemade beef jerky on fishing trips to Lake Lanier.
His folks owned a gas station near the lake in Flowery Branch. The convenience store, Pop Stop, had its own deli inside. Among other culinary gadgets, they owned a food dehydrator.
As we'd sit on the red mud banks of Lanier, tying hooks and lures on 10-pound test line, Jesse gave everybody a twist-tied cellophane baggie with six strips of melt-your-face-off spicy homemade jerky.
The stuff was good. I mean, it was really, really good. It made the prospect of snaring catfish an afterthought as we chewed and watched the waters ripple.
It made the mass-distributed jerky you'd buy in the stores seem like beef-flavored rubber. It just didn't come anywhere close to the real deal.
It's been a long time since I've seen Jesse, spent a day fishing for catfish on Lake Lanier or tasted good homemade beef jerky. That is, until recently.
My wife, Joy, recently shared with me a recipe that doesn't require a food dehydrator. All you need is a regular, old oven and a good, lazy Sunday.
Making homemade beef jerky is way easier than you'd think. In fact, the actual active prep time won't take you any longer than 30 minutes or so. But you'll need a full day for the marinade to soak into the beef and the slow-cooking process.
To start off, you want to get the marinade going. That means about two bottles of amber beer (I used Fat Tire), two cups of soy sauce, a half cup of Worcestershire sauce and two tablespoons of cracked black peppercorns.
Now, admittedly, this was my first time ever having to crack open black peppercorns, and it was a little bit of a pain.
I used the side of a big kitchen knife and suffered massive wrist cramping. Surely, there's a better way.
Stir the cracked, black peppercorns in with the marinade. Be sure and use the biggest bowl you've got in the kitchen.
Next, for the beef. For this recipe, you want about two pounds of trimmed beef top round (London Broil) about one and a half inches thick.
First, dry it off real good with a paper towel.
Slice it in one fourth-inch slices, either with or against the grain.
Drop the slices of beef into the marinade bowl and stir them around with a big, wooden spoon, making sure to coat each slice well with the marinade.
Cover the bowl with some aluminum foil and set it in the fridge. Go do some house chores, because the beef strips need to marinate for six to eight hours.
When you come back to the kitchen six to eight hours later, preheat the oven to 200. Set a large wire rack on two or three baking sheets (This helps the jerky to drip and dry while it slow-cooks). Keep the jerky pieces about one quarter inch apart. Put your jerky in the oven.
By the time you get to this point, it's probably getting pretty late in the day, so go relax. Have yourself a beer and kick back in front of the television or lounge in the recliner with a good book.
The next thing you see should look something like this:
Now, if I learned one thing from fishing trips with Jesse, it's that when you've got good, homemade beef jerky, you share it.
Last week, I bagged strips of my homemade jerky in zip-locks and took the baggies to the newsroom, passing them out to fellow members of the press at The Post.
Sitting in my cubicle, tearing into the peppery, smoked strips and filing stories on deadline, I felt a little nostalgic. The newsroom is a far cry from the red, muddy banks of Lake Lanier, but the flavor took me right back.
Here's the recipe I used. Give it a try and tell me what you think.