Friday, January 29, 2010
My father used to be an avid hunter. Every fall he and his hunting buddies would don their vibrant orange vests and head off to the hills in hopes of bringing home a deer. On a good year (in my opinion), they would come home empty-handed. On a bad year (in my opinion), there would be a bloody carcass on the back porch to horrify me and my friends as the men skinned and butchered the deer.
I understand that it wasn't the thrill of the hunt that lured my father to the mountains every year. It was economic necessity. The single salary of a teacher doesn't stretch far for a family of 5 and having meat for a year laid up in the freezer was a godsend. It's just that I hated venison. I didn't like the taste or the texture and having for every meal made me like it even less. Venison steak, venison stew, venison sausage, venison kababs......you get my drift.
The deer glut in my youth perhaps contributed to my current aversion to red meat. It's nothing moral for me, I just don't really care for it. I am a proud poultritarian. Almost all the meat I cook with is either chicken or turkey, with the occasional piggy product thrown in for flavor.
My daughter loves beef jerky and asked if we could make some. Since I don't buy beef, I made my own version. Chicken jerky. Turkey jerky works really well, too. It's way cheaper than what's in the store (always a boon for tough economic times) and since I don't have to go hunt my own chickens, I consider it a win-win.
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1-1/2 cups soy sauce
1/4 lb (1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp) brown sugar
Chicken or Turkey breasts, very thinly sliced
Mix the first three ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the thinly sliced meat and let stand for at least 10 minutes. Drain and place the strips in a food dehydrator. Dry at 240 degrees for at least 4 hours, until the meat is dry to touch, but still pliable. Thinner slices will dry faster than thicker ones, so check it and remove pieces as they are done so they don't become brittle.
Note: to make it easier to achieve thin slices, partially freeze the chicken breasts.