For some reason known only to Harper’s Other Dad, the arrival of autumn turns a young (ahem) man’s fancy to beef jerky. A couple of years ago he discovered a website and podcast called The Art of Manliness. I’m not a fan of the podcast but the site is interesting. Where else can one find discussions of the ‘lessons in manliness found in The Hobbit’, ‘how to pick out aviator sunglasses’, or ‘how to shave with a straight razor’. All I knew about straight razors before reading that article was that “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” kept one in his shoe. In November of 2012 they posted an article called “How to Make the Best Beef Jerky in the World“. Harper’s Other Dad likes the stuff and I have more time to make than he does so……
I’m somewhat challenged in this jerky-making endeavor because we don’t own a dehydrator. Hah! What care I for modern conveniences and specialized equipment! This is Arizona, a land of rugged independence. It’s cowboy country. I’ll make it the way the early
white European invaders settlers did. So I got in my covered Honda Accord and set out on the arduous and perilous quest for beef. After fighting my way past hostile Indian casinos and through the ravages of expressway interchanges clogged with predatory snow birds, I survived to capture a 5-pound brisket at Costco. That’s when the real work begins.
I sliced the raw meat as thinly as one can with what passes for a sharp knife in Casa de Harper’s kitchen. For those who have not experienced cutting a 5-pound slab of bloody, raw meat into thin strips, be warned. It is not quite as much fun as it sounds like it would be. I made the marinade of spices and many liquids, all of them brown, and then steeped the meat in it for 24 hours; in the refrigerator, of course, as we are pioneers.
After the marinating period had passed, and continuing in the spirit of frontier manliness, I preheated the oven for 175*F and let the strips of meat dry in it for 5-6 hours. The recipe calls for a 160*F oven but the only setting below 175*F on my oven is “Off”. What can I saw? Life can be tough for pioneers on the wild west side of 45th Street and we have to make do. At the end of the process, all the moisture, and the bacteria therein, has fled the meat strips and they are ready to
gnaw on enjoy.
After that there is only one step remaining. Harkening back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, while whistling “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling“, I start the self-cleaning cycle on the oven…just like Laura Engels Wilder must have done.
I’m still not entirely sure I understand the connection between making beef jerky and manliness. Maybe it’s like a phobia or a fetish; one can empathize but if you don’t feel it, you don’t really get it.