September has rolled in and at our house for the last six years that’s meant one thing–volleyball.
It started with Sweet Miss trying out in 7th grade and winding up Varsity captain her senior year. Somewhere along the way, Baby Girl caught the bug and has been playing volleyball for the last three years. She’s co-captain of the JV squad, and we’re looking forward to seeing some great hits from the outside at the season opener tomorrow night.
Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with jerky time. No, I didn’t get confused. This is not time to be a jerk and yell at refs and line judges; it’s time to make beef jerky.
We live in a small, rural community at the far edge of the most densely populated county in the state. There are some gigantic high schools around here. While my niece’s graduation was held at the Tacoma Dome, Sweet Miss’ graduation was at a local church and took about an hour. We’re just not that big. In order to compete against other schools our size, the teams travel a long ways–think Whidbey Island. That means, sometimes Baby Girl will head to school at 7 am and not get back from an away game until 10:45 pm.
Have you tried to scrounge dinner from a high school concessions stand recently? Sometimes nachos with fake cheese is the best you can do. Having a quick, portable source of protein makes my life easy.
At one of the annual 5th of July parties where the Mr’s family gathers at our house, his Aunt Linda mentioned a recent gift of a meat slicer for making jerky. I was intrigued. My girls love beef jerky, but it disappears so quickly and costs an arm and a leg. She gave me her tried and true recipe, and I’ve been making it every since.
First you buy some beef–roast, steak, it doesn’t really matter. Aunt Linda recommends London broil or round steak. I usually buy something cheap on sale. This backfired this time around. I bought steaks for BBQ and roast for jerky, and then went back-to-school shopping with Baby Girl. We came home to some very tasty but tough and chewy BBQ “steaks”. The next day, I went to slice up my beef for jerky and it was gone, but my steaks where still there. The Mr had pulled the old switcheroo.
We had fajitas later that week, and I put the jerky on hold until I made another trip to the store. A lot of times, I put the meat in the freezer for an hour or so to make it easier to slice thinly. I don’t have Aunt Linda’s fancy meat slicer. I also don’t have the greatest memory. More often than not, I leave the meat in the freezer too long and have to let it thaw slightly before slicing. Perhaps a timer would help.
OK, let’s get back to directions. Buy meat and slice it thin.
The tough part is over. Now you just mix up the marinade in a large container and add the meat. I usually mix up the marinade first and then when my cutting board gets full, ease it into the container and keep going. Anyways, here’s the marinade that makes it all worthwhile.
Aunt Linda’s Beef Jerky
1/2 gallon soy sauce
4 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons liquid smoke
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
I found that this made more than I could use at one time, so here’s the scaled back version that works for about 3-4 pounds of sliced beef.
2 cups soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
This marinade combines sweet, salty, and smoky with a pop of heat. Add in red meat, and you’ve got a winner.
Marinade overnight or a day or two–I told you I forget about things some times. I like to try to put the meat in the dehydrator when there’s enough time to have it completed before bed. I’ve left jerky to dehydrate overnight, and it ends up a lot crispier than we like. I’d say six hours is the usual length for drying. This time around, it was a holiday weekend, so it may have spent a few days in the fridge.
There’s nothing like working with cold meat to freeze up your hands, so I put the marinated meat in a colander in the sink to drain off some of the icy cold liquid. It also makes clean up at the end a lot easier.
I like to lay the slices out in the dehydrator with a bit of room between each–that way they don’t stick to each other when they’re done.
I kept running out of room and had to mess with a bunch of meat slices, so I bought a few extra trays on Amazon last year. Our dehydrator is ancient, but it works great. Another way to help with clean up, I put the plastic sheet for fruit roll-ups on the bottom tray and then start with jerky on tray two. That keeps the dehydrator from being covered in baked on marinade when I’m finished.
Now you just leave it for 5-6 hours.
Take a look at it now and then. Don’t be afraid to do a little taste testing along the way. For meat, my dehydrator recommends setting the heat to 145-degrees F. The lowest my oven goes is 170-degrees, but I imagine you could try making jerky in the oven at that temp–just always keep an eye on it. If it’s too squishy, it’s not safe, but you don’t want it to shred like cardboard either.
I was at Target yesterday and saw 3 ounces of jerky selling for $3.99. I had all the marinade ingredients on hand and paid about $8 for my two round steaks. After a great deal of taste testing, I wound up with 1 pound 3 ounces of jerky from just under 3 pounds of steak. That works out to 42¢ rather than $1.33 per ounce. Granted, the marinade ingredients do cost money, but I sincerely doubt I spent $18 and change on soy sauce and brown sugar. I also like the fact that I know what’s going into me and my families food–no fake meat, no weirdness.
Now man doesn’t live by jerky alone–even starving volleyball players–so I spent yesterday on a mini cooking fest making 5 quarts of freezer mac & cheese. I know you can buy little microwave cups and have it in seconds, but what kind of chemicals are you putting into your body?
I’ve been making 30 Day Gourmet’s Macaroni and Cheese for years, and it’s one of Baby Girl’s favorites. I figure she can have a serving when she gets off of school at 2 pm and needs to back by 4:45 for those home games. With cheese, milk, cream cheese, and pasta it’s a simple combo and I can pronounce all the ingredients.
With back to school busyness, I’m going to be filling up the freezer with more of those quick dinners. Sweet Miss is headed to Lake Chelan with a friend’s family and taking piroshkies, maybe we’ll have a few extras for us.
I got in the habit of making freezer meals when the Mr was coaching two soccer teams at the same time. He needed an assistant coach, and I stepped in. Being on the go four nights a week made getting dinner on the table quite tricky. The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet was a lifesaver.
Here is Baby Girl on her first day back to school.
Do you have a go to snack for your kids or young athletes? How about a frozen meal you try to keep on hand?
I just added this to Five Days…5 Ways Friday Free for All. Abby is so sweet and I love her blog. Check it out here for more great ideas.