National Jerky Day – June 12th

National Jerky Day is a celebration that pays homage to this popular dried meat snack enjoyed by people around the world. From its rich history to the variety of flavors and types available today, jerky holds a special place in culinary traditions.

Jerky is a super nutritious meat that’s been dried out to make it lightweight. After the drying process, a pound of meat or poultry will only weigh about four ounces. The great thing about jerky is that it can last for months without needing to be refrigerated because most of the moisture has been removed during drying. Adding salt to the meat before drying also helps to keep bacteria away.

The word “jerky” actually comes from the Spanish word charqui, which originated from the Quechua word ch’arki, meaning to burn the meat.

You can find traditional jerky in all sorts of places across the US, like convenience stores, gas stations, supermarkets, and variety shops. They offer it in individual servings or larger packages, and you can choose from a bunch of different flavors and spices to add some extra heat.

This article delves into the origins of National Jerky Day, explores the different types of jerky, delves into its health benefits, provides insights on making homemade jerky, and highlights its significance globally. Join us on a journey to discover the delicious world of jerky on National Jerky Day and beyond.

1. The History of National Jerky Day

Origins of National Jerky Day

National Jerky Day is a celebration dedicated to the delicious, chewy snack that has become a favorite among meat lovers everywhere. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and the Wisconsin Beef Council founded National Jerky Day in 2012. 

Significance of Jerky in Various Cultures

Jerky isn’t just a popular snack in the United States; it has a long history in various cultures around the world. From pemmican in Native American tribes to biltong in South Africa, dried and cured meat has been a staple food for centuries. Jerky has been prized for its portability, long shelf life, and protein-packed goodness, making it a favorite choice for travelers, hikers, and anyone craving a flavorful and satisfying snack.

2. Popular Types of Jerky

Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is perhaps the most iconic and widely consumed type of jerky. Made from marinated strips of beef that are dried and cured, beef jerky is known for its savory flavor and chewy texture.

Turkey Jerky

For those looking for a leaner option, turkey jerky is a delicious alternative to beef jerky. Made from turkey meat that is seasoned and dried, turkey jerky offers a lighter but still flavorful snacking experience.

Wild Game Jerky

Wild game jerky opens up a world of unique flavors, from venison to elk to bison. Made from various types of game meat, this jerky is a favorite among adventurous eaters looking to spice up their snacking routine.

3. Health Benefits of Jerky

Protein Content in Jerky

Jerky is a protein powerhouse, making it a satisfying and filling snack option. Packed with lean protein, jerky can help keep you full and energized throughout the day.

Low Fat and Low Carb Snack Option

If you’re watching your fat and carb intake, jerky can be a guilt-free snack choice. With minimal fat and carbs, jerky is a convenient and tasty way to curb hunger cravings without derailing your diet.

4. How to Make Homemade Jerky

Making homemade jerky is a fun and rewarding process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making delicious jerky at home.

Ingredients:

  • Meat: Beef, turkey, or venison are popular choices. Choose lean cuts like flank steak, sirloin, or eye of round.
  • Marinade Ingredients: These can vary based on taste, but a basic marinade might include:
    • Soy sauce
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Brown sugar
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Black pepper
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Liquid smoke (optional for smoky flavor)

Equipment:

  • Sharp knife or meat slicer
  • Large ziplock bags or a large container for marinating
  • Dehydrator or oven
  • Baking sheets and wire racks (if using oven)
  • Paper towels

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Meat:

  • Trim Fat: Trim as much fat as possible from the meat. Fat does not dry out and can spoil.
  • Partially Freeze the Meat: Place the meat in the freezer for 1-2 hours. This makes it easier to slice.
  • Slice the Meat: Slice the meat into thin strips, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut against the grain for a tender texture or with the grain for a chewier texture.

2. Make the Marinade:

  • Combine your chosen marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust quantities to taste, typically 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and a few drops of liquid smoke.

3. Marinate the Meat:

  • Place the meat strips in the marinade, ensuring they are fully submerged.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight for the best flavor.

4. Dry the Meat:

  • Using a Dehydrator:
    1. Place the marinated meat strips on the dehydrator trays in a single layer, ensuring they do not overlap.
    2. Set the dehydrator to 160°F (71°C) and dry for 4-8 hours. Check the meat periodically. The jerky is done when it bends and cracks but does not break.
  • Using an Oven:
    1. Preheat your oven to 175°F (80°C) or the lowest setting.
    2. Place wire racks over baking sheets and arrange the meat strips on the racks.
    3. Put the baking sheets in the oven. Keep the oven door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape.
    4. Dry the meat for 4-8 hours. Again, the jerky is done when it bends and cracks but does not break.

5. Cool and Store:

  • Let the jerky cool completely before storing it.
  • Store jerky in airtight containers or ziplock bags. It can be kept at room temperature for a week or two, refrigerated for up to a month, or frozen for several months.

Tips:

  • Experiment with Flavors: Adjust the marinade to your taste preferences. Add honey for sweetness, or extra hot sauce for spiciness.
  • Test for Doneness: Jerky should be dry but not brittle. It should bend and slightly crack but not snap.
  • Safety Tip: If you’re concerned about food safety, you can precook the meat strips in a 275°F (135°C) oven for about 10 minutes before marinating. This helps to ensure any bacteria are killed.

Enjoy your homemade jerky!

5. Jerky Around the World

Biltong from South Africa

Biltong, a popular form of jerky from South Africa, is a flavorful treat made from strips of seasoned, air-dried meat. With its origins dating back to the 17th century, biltong is typically marinated in a mix of vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices before being air-dried to perfection. The result is a savory snack that is enjoyed by many around the globe.

Kangaroo Jerky from Australia

In Australia, kangaroo jerky is a unique and lean twist on this beloved snack. Known for its sustainability and health benefits, kangaroo meat is a popular choice for jerky due to its low-fat content and high protein levels. Flavored with various seasonings, kangaroo jerky offers a taste of the Outback in a convenient and flavorful package.

6. Sustainable Practices in Jerky Production

Use of Locally Sourced Meats

One of the key aspects of sustainable jerky production is the use of locally sourced meats. By working with nearby farms and suppliers, jerky makers can minimize their carbon footprint and support local communities. This practice not only reduces transportation emissions but also ensures fresher and higher quality ingredients for the jerky.

Reducing Food Waste in Jerky Production

Another important aspect of sustainable jerky production is the reduction of food waste. Jerky production often involves utilizing cuts of meat that may otherwise go to waste, such as lean trimmings or less commonly used parts. By creatively repurposing these cuts into delicious jerky snacks, producers can help minimize food waste while offering consumers a tasty and sustainable treat.

7. Jerky as a Convenient Snack Option

Portability and Long Shelf Life

One of the reasons jerky remains a popular snack choice is its portability and long shelf life. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or simply on the go, jerky makes for an easy and convenient snack option that doesn’t require refrigeration. Its durability and longevity make it an ideal choice for those looking for a tasty treat that can withstand various adventures and activities.

Healthy Alternative to Processed Snacks

In a world filled with processed snacks high in sugar and artificial ingredients, jerky stands out as a healthier alternative. Packed with protein and typically low in fat, jerky offers a satisfying snack option that can help keep hunger at bay between meals. With minimal additives and a focus on natural ingredients, jerky provides a guilt-free snacking experience for those looking to make better food choices.

8. Celebrating National Jerky Day

Events and Activities on National Jerky Day

On National Jerky Day, jerky lovers everywhere come together to celebrate this beloved snack. From jerky-tasting events to cooking demonstrations featuring jerky-inspired dishes, there are plenty of ways to join in the festivities. Whether you’re a longtime jerky fan or new to the world of dried meat treats, National Jerky Day offers a perfect opportunity to indulge in all things jerky.

Promoting Jerky Appreciation and Consumption

Beyond just a day of celebration, National Jerky Day serves as a platform to promote jerky appreciation and consumption throughout the year. From sharing favorite jerky recipes to highlighting the sustainability and health benefits of this snack, National Jerky Day inspires people to explore the world of jerky and discover all the delicious possibilities it has to offer. So grab a pack of your favorite jerky and join in the fun on National Jerky Day!

Conclusion

National Jerky Day is a time to continue to savor the flavors and appreciate the cultural significance of this beloved snack. Whether enjoyed for its convenience, health benefits, or simply for its delicious taste, jerky remains a timeless treat that brings people together.

Let’s carry the spirit of National Jerky Day forward by exploring new jerky flavors, supporting sustainable jerky producers, and sharing the joy of this savory snack with others. Cheers to National Jerky Day and the enduring legacy of jerky in our lives!

Image by vecstock on Freepik

Frequently Asked Questions about National Jerky Day

1. What is the history behind National Jerky Day?

2. How can I celebrate National Jerky Day?

3. Is jerky a healthy snack option?

4. Are there any sustainable jerky brands to support on National Jerky Day?

Urza Omar
  • Urza Omar
  • The writer has a proven track as a mentor, motivational trainer, blogger, and social activist. She is the founder of mindclassic.com a blog intended for avid readers.

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