A quest for jerky
I love jerky.Really, I do. Jerky has been my staple gas-station-snack since I ditched the eye-popping sweetness of Fun-Dip and moved on to more grown-up tastes many years ago. I’ve driven halfway across this great country of ours on several occasions, in all directions, at all times of both day and night, and one snack remains available everywhere I go, and that’s jerky.Over time I became a kind of jerky connoisseur, to the point of obsession. I love it so much that I once actually made a J.L.T. Jerky, lettuce and tomato and I loved that, too.If you’re like a lot of people you’re probably on the lookout for a healthy snack one that’s readily available at gas stations and convenience stores, but one that won’t fill you up with unhealthy, fattening food. And the good thing about jerky is that it is actually one of the healthier snacks that you can get at a gas station. It’s basically just a protein stick. Hear that you Atkins people? If you don’t have time to hit the treadmill you can just eat jerky (yeah, right.)And don’t worry if your jaw is wired shut or if you have no teeth, because you can always put in a jerky dip. Yes, there is jerky dip, and it’s possible to buy very finely shredded beef jerky that comes in a round plastic container meant to look like chewing tobacco. By some magic of modern science, this stuff totally dissolves in your mouth. It’s kind of fun if you’re in little league, but you really don’t get your money’s worth.A lot of places will carry Jack Link’s brand, Pemican, O’berto, etc., and that’s not bad stuff. It generally runs about six bucks a bag. It’s usually kind of juicy so you can eat a good gut-full before your jaw starts hurting. Some of these companies also sell strips that are a little thicker and tenderer than your typical jerky, but those tend to be a bit over-marinated. Not to say that they fall into the same class as the Slim Jim. Only twenty-five cents for the little guys, but the Rolaids that you buy down the road will make up for it. Don’t confuse Slim Jims and other “beef sticks” with jerky.Products like the aforementioned will do in a pinch, but they are weighed down with chemicals and preservatives. Turkey jerky has definitely gotten more popular in the last decade, but I don’t really understand eating turkey without gravy. I think gravy is why you have turkey. So until they start sending a little companion cup of gravy along with it or give it a gravy center, I’ll pass. Besides if I were driving, I wouldn’t want any tryptophan knocking me out.The last ten years or so have brought a jerky renaissance. This treat has begun to be taken seriously the challenge is finding jerky that hasn’t been soaked in potassium sorbate or any other preservative solution.Here’s a little trick for finding the best jerky: When I’m driving out on the outskirts of the middle of nowhere and I get off at an exit, I usually follow the trucks. Truck stops seem to attract the jerky eating kind and therefore usually will stock a decent selection. The ultimate jerky experience is when you get lucky and find something sold by the locals.Sadly, Eagle County has no such local provider. I have yet to find a single Jerky product that was made in this county. Sure, a lot of local hunters make jerky, but only for personal use. That’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t do the rest of us much good.There are, however; a few alternatives to the run-of-the-mill, mass-produced stuff. Here’s a few of my favorites: Wolcott Market sells a pretty good jerky. It has no ingredients listed so it is my understanding that, aside from the hot spices, it is just beef. It has a pretty good flavor and the hot stuff has a little kick to it. It’s pretty authentic, but it comes from Pacific Coast Beef Jerky out in Ventura, Calif. Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Co. sells a honey-glazed jerky that is made in Parker, Co. That’s kind of local, but not really. It’s a little different, but I don’t have any left so it must’ve been good. That was $8.50 for a 4 oz. bag Gourmet Foods of Vail has elk jerky. Hot and Teriyaki are available. It was good but a little gamey, which is cool with my tastes, but may not sit with yours. It comes from Grand Premium Elk Meats in Del Norte, Colo. and costs about $6 for two ounces. VT By Bill Davis
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