Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spicy Sambal Beef Jerky

I am one lucky lady.  I have an amazing husband who takes very good care of our family.  He is a wonderful provider and awesome father.  Some would even go so far to say he is a saint to have to endure my endless chatter day in and day out.   It is true I have a habit of incessantly talking.  I talk.  A lot.   I talk about things.  Anything.  Everything.  Things I see.  Things I want. All sorts of things.  And when I get a wild hair up my...  I really won't stop.  Recently, I was on a dehydrator kick.  I did my research and gave hubby my best pitch.  I needed one, had to have one, all of a sudden, I couldn't live without one.  Our youngest son was about to start solid food, and I wanted to make sprouted grain cereals for him.  The only way to do this was to have a dehydrator.  I had been hinting about wanting one for a few years now.  It's my goal to provide nourishing, nutritious meals for my family and that means making things from scratch.  I knew if I had a dehydrator at my disposal I could create all kinds of goodies that otherwise only come from a box or a bag.  Dried fruit.  Fruit leather.  Dried herbs.  Raw crackers.  Turkey jerky.  Beef jerky.  Whoa, wait a minute, I think that last one struck a nerve. 

Homemade beef jerky?  I saw hubby's eyes light up.  I definitely had his attention now.  A little more research and product comparison and my new dehydrator was on it's way.  I could hardly wait.  I debated for hours deciding what would be first on the trays.  Fruit leather for Jayden?  Sprouted brown rice cereal for Dylan?  No, no it had to be beef jerky for daddy.  After all, without him (and my annoying persistence) none of this would be possible. 

As with many things I have attempted to create at home, homemade beef jerky seemed a little scary.  Being the research nut I am, I read everything there was to know about dehydrating meat.  And just like homemade baby food, I found out how simple it was. Dehydrating food has been around for centuries.  It was essential for the preservation of food that would otherwise spoil.  Nowadays, we have the luxury of refrigeration but back then dehydrating was all there was.  Luckily, I don't have to hang a side of beef out in the elements and wait weeks for it to dry, hoping it doesn't mold in the process.  A dehydrator can produce scrumptious, cowboy worthy jerky in as little as four hours. 

Don't have a dehydrator?  Not to worry, jerky can be made in the oven, and although the results won't mimic those of a dehydrator, you can still produce tasty jerky without one.

Jerky is a popular snack because it is low in fat and high in protein plus it keeps and travels well.  Making your own jerky is not only economical but allows you to control the ingredients and alter the flavors however you choose.  One of my main nutritional missions is to recreate store bought garbage and make it healthier and tastier.  Store bought jerky is filled with preservatives and junk like high fructose corn syrup.  Making it from scratch ensures you are feeding your family a wholesome, nutritious snack. 

Spicy Sambal Beef Jerky

2 lbs. lean beef  (flank, london broil , or round steak work best- I used flank in this recipe)
1/2 c soy sauce
2 T worcestershire sauce
1/4 c sambal sauce
1 T honey
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t dry mustard

Place meat in freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before marinating to make it easier to slice.  Prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients in a bowl. 

Once meat is ready, take out of freezer and trim off any fat or connective tissue.  Fat does not dry, and will turn rancid, which is why using lean cuts like flank steak yield the best results when making jerky. 

Now thinly slice meat across the grain.  There are mixed reviews when it comes to the best way to cut jerky.  Cutting with the grain produces a chewy jerky, so if you like to chew your jerky for the better part of an hour, by all means, cut with the grain.  For my liking, I cut across the grain.  This produces a more tender, crumbly jerky that is easier to chew.

Cut jerky into thin strips, about 1/4 inch.  Place sliced meat in ziploc bag along with marinade and smush together to ensure all the meat gets coated.  Place in fridge and marinate 4-24 hours, overnight usually works best for me.

When you are ready to dry your jerky, take it out of the bag and place on paper towels.  Blot up the excess marinade and try to get jerky as dry as possible, especially if using a dehydrator.  Lay strips on dehydrator trays, close to each other, but not touching.  Dehydrate according to manufacturer's instructions.  For my dehydrator, I cook at 160 for the first couple hours, to kill any bacteria, and then finish dehydrating at 140 for the duration of the cooking process.

Jerky is done when dry and pliable, but not brittle.  Obviously drying times will vary depending on how thick you cut your meat and whether you are using a dehydrator or an oven.  Typically, our jerky is done around the six hour mark.

For jerky made in the oven:

  Follow all steps above and place strips on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet covered in foil.  Turn oven on to it's lowest setting, usually 170 degrees and cook for 6-12 hours until jerky is dried.  It should bend, but not break.

Jerky will last for several months in an airtight container, but who are we kidding, it will never last that long!!

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