Don’t be a jackass today…but you can be a jerk. June 12 is National Jerky Day!
Jerky is meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, salted, and dried in order to preserve it. The word “jerky” comes from the Quechua tribe of South America, who referred to llama and alpaca meat that was cut into slices, pounded thin, and rubbed with salt as ch’arki (“to burn meat”). They didn’t actually burn the meat, but did smoke it over a fire or let it dry in the sun. Native Americans were doing the same thing with buffalo, elk, and deer, sometimes adding berries and other dried fruits. They called it pemmican, and packed it into rawhide pouches for easy transport across the plains. This method of preservation meant there was always a convenient, high-protein food source available on those rare occasions when the local McDonald’s was closed. Pioneers and cowboys adopted jerky as a staple to go along with their beans and coffee. Over time, various spices were added to enhance the flavor, and jerky became a popular snack worldwide. It can be prepared with a variety of meats; beef is the most popular, but other common ones include pork, lamb, turkey, venison, elk, salmon, buffalo, and ostrich. Kangaroo, caribou, alligator, emu, and camel are not unheard of. In the winter of 1846-47, the Donner Party is rumored to have perfected a recipe using “the other white meat.” And I’m not referring to pork.
Jerky is a surprisingly healthy snack. It’s high in protein, low in fat and carbohydrates, and contains relatively few calories. I almost always have a package on hand, either in my desk at work, in the car during long drives, or in my backpack while hiking. This was an easy (and tasty) holiday to celebrate! I’m fond of the various Jack Link flavors. Speaking of Jack Link, they created a 1,600 pound replica of Mount Rushmore made from beef jerky in order to commemorate today’s food holiday. Check it out here.
Today, I partook in the Carne Seca, which features “fiery jalapeno and chili peppers.” ‘Cause I like it spicy!