Posts Tagged With: pemmican

National Jerky Day

Don’t be a jackass today…but you can be a jerk. June 12 is National Jerky Day!

unnamedJerky 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!

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Categories: Meat | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

327/365: National Eat a Cranberry Day*

You may have “red” about today’s holiday in the news. November 23 is National Eat a Cranberry Day!

And also National Espresso Day. But we’ve celebrated several coffee holidays this year, while not yet paying homage to a fruit that I’m particularly fond of. Plus, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, these little red guys are going to take a starring role. In my mind, you can’t have turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and green bean casserole without also including cranberries. We may be a few days early, but today we are honoring the cranberry! (And despite the official name of the holiday, we’re eating more than one).

Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America (the others being blueberries and Concord grapes). Native Americans used them as a food source (in particular, pemmican – a combination of crushed cranberries, dried venison, and melted fat), fabric dye for rugs and blankets, and medicine to treat arrow wounds. Pilgrims originally named the fruit “craneberry” because the pink flowers that bloomed in the spring resembled the head and bill of a sandhill crane. They found them not only delicious, but a helpful bartering tool with the local tribes. Sailors took cranberries with them on ocean voyages to prevent scurvy, and began shipping them to Europe for sale. Captain Henry Hall was the first to cultivate cranberries in 1816, and by 1871, the first association of cranberry growers was formed. Today, 40,000 acres of cranberries are harvested every year.

Cranberries don’t actually grow in water, though they need very specific growing conditions to thrive: acidic peat soil, fresh water, sand, and a growing season that lasts from April to November, plus a dormancy period that allows the fruit to chill and mature. They actually grow on vines that survive indefinitely; some in Massachusetts are 150 years old and still producing fruit!

To celebrate, we bought a bag of almonds that contained dried cranberries. It’s a good thing today is Eat A Cranberry Day, because there were a whopping two in the bag. Oh, well – that’s one apiece, all we needed anyway!

National Eat a Cranberry Day

Categories: Fruit | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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