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Cuisine: Embrace the Jerk(y)

Jun 12 2014

by Anna Ferguson Hall

I went for years avoiding meat. It wasn’t for any particular health reason, or for animal rights. I just was more or less apathetic to the idea of meat. Maybe it was because I was on my own in college, and buying meat meant spending more time in the kitchen I didn’t know how to use, and spending more money in the grocery store. I preferred spending my money on clothes and shoes, and the occasional text book, not on chicken and beef, so I steered clear of those sections of the store.

It wasn’t until a few years back, when I was mid-way into by 20s, when I opened the meat floodgates. I was on a trip with my parents to Napa Valley. (Agreed that, no, this is not really the first place you’d think of as the ideal family getaway, but it really was pretty great. Kind of like a grown up version of Disney, but with great supplies of wine and horseback rides instead of hot dogs and spinning Tea Cups. But I digress.)

We were driving between wineries, heading to a farmer’s market, but somehow we ended up far, far from where we needed to be. Suddenly, I was starving. Like, give-me-food-now hungry. Had I known the term “hangry” back then, I would have used it, furiously. As I was about to let me hungry get the best of me and simply go off the stomach-growl rails, I was saved. Out of now where, this farmer’s stand appears. But instead of selling foods and veggies, the guy was hocking beef jerky. All-natural, fresh-of-the-ranch beef jerky. And buffalo jerky. And turkey jerky. Upon my demands from the back seat of the rental car, we pulled over, and I spent a pretty penny on a large and lasting supply of the dried goods.

Without hesitation, my non-meat days where over. I dug into my new finds, sampling all types of teriyaki, spicy and extra spicy variations of the stuff. And it was good. Really good. To this day, I have tried to find the roadside guy online, hoping one day he’ll pop up on a jerky search the way he did on the road side in Napa. I haven’t had any luck finding my original jerky dealer, but in the mean time, I have found a few great companies are differing sizes, that create and sell jerky online.

An added bonus: Today is National Beef Jerky Day! That’s right- June 12 is now designated as a day to rejoice in that salty, savory low-cal snack. Now in its third year, National Jerky Day is sponsored by the sponsored by the Wisconsin Beef Council, but should be celebrated countywide. It is certainly being honored in my Georgia-based office today. (Nibble, type; nibble, type.)

Here, in honor of the national holiday and to share my love for the snacki-goodness, are the best I’ve sampled recently, in no particular order:

Perky Jerky: An all natural, ultra tender jerky made in both beef and turkey options, this product is a blend of all natural ingredients, including Guarana. The varieties of beef and turkey flavors (from original and spicy & sweet, to teriyaki and hot & bothered) are vibrant and sweet with a kick, plus it’s low-fat, low-cal, protein-packed with no added MSG, no preservatives and no nitrites. Yum. O.

Kings Country Jerky: Made with 100 percent grass fed beef, this snack comes from cows that were pasture raised, with no antibiotics or added hormones. Wholesome snacking goodness, in a classically simple brown-bag package. Pure, simple beef with pure simple marketing. This beef-only blend comes in cracked pepper, Korean BBQ, and Sichuan ginger.

Bayou Blend Jerky: A Louisiana- based meat shop, offering the traditional spices of the Creole cuisine; there’s plenty of heat to go around in these varieties. This beef variety is available in Melange original, File Gumbo, and Luziana Bonfire. If you need a protein-filled pick me up (and swift, hot kick to the rear) these bad boy blends will get ya going.

Chef Craig’s Jerky: Speaking of spicy, enter this variety. Here you’ll find three flavors- original, black Thai, and teriyaki- that don’t skimp on the heat. Individually packaged for perfect-portion sized servings, this skull-and-crossbones jerky will leave you sweating for more.

Now, with this jerky-laced info in hand, y’all get out and get to sampling. These four brands promise to make the most of this snacktastic national beef holiday! Enjoy!

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