I LOVE JERKY. When I was a kid, I ate it all the time. Then I went vegetarian for nine long, passionate, dedicated years. I never craved meat when I was a vegetarian - I wasn't tempted by bacon, cared less about cheeseburgers, and never had late night, drunken escapades with pepperoni pizza, like many of my fair-weather vegetarian peers. But I missed one thing, and one thing alone: JERKY. When I was still a teenager living at home, sometimes I'd make my own jerky with my parent's food dehydrator - I don't remember what we used, it was probably some kind of tofu and TVP-based puree. Those were the days before food blogging had taken over the internet, when you had to use real books made of paper to find recipes and had to rely mostly on your own ingenuity to come up with crazy substitutes. The world of the internet has done amazing things for those us living with dietary restrictions; what a wealth of knowledge we can share in an instant!
Anyway, I can still remember the weird crispy-chewy texture and totally unappetizing brown color of my soy "jerky" - but it tasted good and totally worked on camping and canoe trips. Then I went off to college and had a food co-op in my town, and was thrilled to find so many vegetarian jerky alternatives - Primal Strips, anyone? God, I lived on fake jerky in college. Hell, I lived on fake meat products. My college caf had all sorts of vegetarian and vegan friendly stuff - veggie burgers, soy and rice milk, fake deli meats, fake "sausage", fake "chicken", vegan "cheese", beans and tofu chunks on the salad bar. It was a vegetarian hippie kid's dream!
Yeah, I went to a private college. I'm still paying the government each month for that vegan cheese that didn't melt and those "sausage" crumbles.
These days I wouldn't touch half of those meat substitutes with a 10 foot poll. ost of them are so wildly processed and full of weird soy and corn by-products and strange binders and vegetable gums that NO ONE should probably them. That ain't real food, man. No wonder I'm allergic to soy, I think I ate it at every meal for nine years. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Basic point: I LOVED Primal Strips and all those things, because they were such a good replacement for jerky.
Then I started eating meat again and got back on the jerky bandwagon big time. The farmer's market in downtown Minneapolis has this amazing turkey jerky, thick slices of turkey breast that have been marinated in soy sauce and brown sugar. Yum. And if you are willing to pay the price, you can get some really high quality, pre-packaged jerkies, made from beef, bison, and turkey. But sadly, when I started having my major digestive troubles last year and figured out Candida was causing my problems, I stopped eating jerky all together, since most commercially produced jerkies, even the good ones, are was usually treated with sugar. Man, have I have missed jerky.
Then, the other day, I realized something marvelous. I have my parent's food dehydrator and jerky making accessories! I can make my own jerky!
So, I threw a batch together using some organic ground turkey from the co-op. I'm picky about meat, and whenever possible, try to eat locally produced, organic poultry and red meats. Organic meats are non-irradiated, come from animals that are antibiotic and hormone free, have been free-range or pastured, and have not been fed GMO feed or feed that contains animal byproducts or has been treated with pesticides/herbicides/etc. Try to find a local farmer at your local farmer's market or grocer; often times small family farms, even if they aren't
organic, give their animals access to pasture, do not use hormones or
antibiotics, and use high quality feed or allow grass-feeding. If you can't find local products, and are shopping at a market, at least try to find free-range, non antibiotic and hormone meats. Bottom line: if you are going to eat meat, make it good. Even though it will cost more per pound, ultimately, you are better off eating smaller amounts of high quality meat than lots of low-quality meat.
Anyway, I threw my turkey in a bowl with a bunch of herbs and seasonings and mixed it up. I mentioned jerky-making accessories earlier - my parents have this cool jerky gun thing. It is kind like a cookie press, but for ground meat. It comes with different attachments for making different jerky shapes - strips, sticks, etc. See the fine photo example I found online? This thing is cool. So, I packed it full of my ground turkey mixture, pulled the trigger, and - voila! - perfect jerky strips. Awesome. So I threw the trays on the dryer, turned the bad boy on, and let it work its magic.
My kitchen smelled like cooking turkey while it dried and dried and dried some more. And the jerky turned out great! Oh, it is so good, I am so happy, and now I have a high-protein, gluten-free, all natural on-the-go snack. Plus, making your own jerky, even from more expensive, high quality meat, is much more affordable than purchasing an equally high quality, pre-packaged jerky. I got about 20 strips (around 4 oz) of jerky out of my 1 pound, $4 package of turkey. FActor in maybe $.50 for seasonings, and that's $4.50 for about 4 oz of high quality jerky. A 4-oz package of similarly high-quality jerky can cost $6, sometimes as much as $8. So, that's a deal! Plus, you can tailor the seasonings, marinades, and meats to fit your desires and requirements, an important thing for us sensitive folks. I am going to try it with the ground bison I have in the freezer, and may try drying slices of the venison roast I still have from the big family deer hunt in Northern Wisconsin last fall. That deer was about as free-range an animal as you an get. Hell, I'm going to make jerky out of
. My food dehydrator cookbook even has dried fish jerky recipes - I've gotta try that.
I fell back on my old favorite herbes de provence for this first batch, but feel free to try any variety of seasonings and herbs. Try adding lemon zest and pepper, or ginger, tamari, and garlic. Add cumin, chili powder, cilantro, and lime juice, or italian seasonings and minced sundried tomato or tomato powder. Get creative! Go wild!
HERBED GROUND TURKEY JERKY (gluten free, low fat)
yield: approx 20 strips of jerky
1 lb ground turkey
a few big pinches of herbes de provence
about 1 T tamari (azuki, or regular soy) or some sea salt, or a little of both
fresh cracked pepper
about 1 T dried chopped garlic
about 1 T dried onion
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
- Lightly oil dehydrator trays.
- If you have a jerky gun, select your tip attachment, assemble, and pack it full of the turkey mixture. Squeeze jerky onto dehydrator leather trays.
- If you don't have a jerky gun, you can hand form your jerky. You have a few options. either form and pat them by hand right on the leather tray, choosing to completely cover the sheet and score into wedges, or forming into strips or rounds. Or, place small balls or strips on a sheet of wax paper, press flat, place another sheet of wax paper over the top, and roll with a rolling pin until about 1/8 inch thick, and transfer to leather tray.
- Dehydrate strips at 145* for 18-24 hours until crisp,, turn over if necessary to dry evenly. If oil rises out of the turkey, pat off with paper towel.
- Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, or freeze for longer storage.