We have road-tripped a lot over the past four years. Traveling back and forth from our little mountain farm to the bigger dairy farm in West Virginia we were dividing our time between while my husband worked on a contract, frequent trips to New England for work, and family visits in Colorado, Montana, California, and Florida have kept us feeling a bit like nomads. Road-tripping when, to where, and for the length of time we choose is the ultimate work-from-home perk!
But being the frugal wannabe homesteader that I am, when we aren’t staying with family or in work provided hotel rooms, the majority of our hotel stays come with unhealthy, carb-loaded free breakfasts, and an in-room microwave, coffee maker, and fridge (not hard to find at all, these days). When we are on the road, the majority of our meals are eaten in our vehicle from grocery store purchases and homemade non-perishables. When we aren’t at a hotel that includes breakfast, I pack a few dozen breakfast scones, cookies, and biscotti that I make, which are loaded with healthy grains, seeds, nuts, and fresh and dried fruit, along with the double chocolate biscotti and almond biscotti that we always keep on hand for coffee sipping and dipping, a jar of instant coffee and powdered non-dairy creamer, and boxes of the herbal teas we drink every day. Lunches and dinners mostly come from grocery store supplies, with special splurge dinners out at restaurants here and there, or fabulous diner breakfasts on occasion, because the best thing about traveling is certainly finding great food!
One thing I always try to make before a road trip, winter storm, hurricane, or camping trip is homemade beef jerky, in the same manner my dad taught me to make it when I was a kid. It’s a cinch to make and the flavor beats any and all of the sweet soy sauce saturated, expensive versions for sale in supermarkets and convenient stores. I have used every cut of beef there is from London broil to chuck, top round, bottom round, sirloin…and the results are always the same. I end up with a wonderful batch of peppery preserved beef that helps us keep the traveling carbs a bit balanced with a handy supply of protein and gives us something other than canned meats to eat if the power goes out in a storm.
I have made it in an electric oven set on the lowest setting. For mine, that is “low” and 170 degrees fahrenheit. On a gas range with a continuously burning pilot light in the oven, I don’t even need to turn it on. The heated dry air is enough to turn raw beef into jerky overnight. Gas ovens with igniters work the same as an electric, working great on the lowest setting to dry the meat. And, of course, sometimes I use a dehydrator to make beef jerky. I have used all four methods to obtain the same results in the same amount of time.
Homemade Peppered Beef Jerky
2 to 3 pounds beef, just about any cut
Any blend of dried spices or pre-made steak seasoning with a high salt and coarse pepper content, such as Montreal Steak Seasoning
I mix together a salt and spice blend, when choosing to make my own, using garlic powder, coarse pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, or kosher salt, dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and anything else that sounds good at the time. Sometimes I use an organic version of Montreal that is just called “Canadian Steak Seasoning”. What I never use is anything with monsodium glutamate, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sugar, or soy sauce. I despise sweet beef jerky and don’t feel I have ever needed any preservative other than salt and dry, warm air to make beef jerky.*
I slice the beef as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. I vary the length and width, but to safely thoroughly dry the meat as quickly as possible, I get it as thin as possible, after squaring off the ends.
Then I liberally coat all sides of every piece of sliced beef.
I lay it all on baking cooling racks, trying to keep the pieces from touching too much so that air can circulate around them. But the pieces begin drying and shrinking pretty quickly, so I don’t worry too much about how spaced out they are.
My oven is set on “low” or to 170 before I place the racks of beef on separate shelves with plenty of space between them. No matter what drying method I use, I dry the meat overnight, 8 hours, or until the beef is completely dry and crackly.
Then I cool it completely before storing in airtight containers.
When we aren’t eating it, I keep the packaging sealed tightly.
*This method and recipe does not come with any guarantee that pathogens of any kind will be eliminated in the making of beef jerky. E-coli can be present on the surface of any and all portions of beef and the only sure method of destroying it is by cooking it at high temperatures. Ground meat should never be used to make jerky. This method is not recommended for any other type of meat than beef. Prepare and consume beef dried using this recipe and method at your own risk. Edible Tapestry is not responsible for any illness that might occur via the method used here by a reader of this blog. I am simply sharing the method I have always used to make beef jerky, which always results in thoroughly dried beef strips in the same manner that meat has been dried for thousands of years.
Yield depends on the size of beef cut used.