Beef Jerky—a “portable feast”

Beef jerky has been around probably as long as mankind’s ability to make fire. It’s a form of meat preservation that was popular among the ancient Incas and carried forward by South American native tribes to become a staple during war times and a snack “must have” in homes today.

The name jerky was first recorded in the 16th century. The Quechua Indians called it ch’arki, which means “to burn meat.”

It was basic grub to the soldiers of the Civil War where pork or beef was salted, boiled to extend its shelf life and dried flat to make it easy to carry.

From a blog on the Internet by Tori Avey, we learn:

The biggest culinary problem during the Civil War, for both the North and the South, was inexperience. Men of this time were accustomed to the women of the house, or female slaves, preparing the food. For a male army soldier, cooking was a completely foreign concept. Thrust into the bleak reality of war, soldiers were forced to adjust to a new way of life—and eating—on the battlefield.”

And to attest to that, we learn this, also from Avey’s blog:

union soldiers (350x348)We grab our plates and cups, and wait for no second invitation. We each get a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar in it. Milk and butter we buy, or go without. We settle down, generally in groups, and the meal is soon over… We save a piece of bread for the last, with which we wipe up everything, and then eat the dish rag. Dinner and breakfast are alike, only sometimes the meat and potatoes are cut up and cooked together, which makes a really delicious stew. Supper is the same, minus the meat and potatoes.”

– Lawrence VanAlstyne, Union Soldier, 128th New York Volunteer Infantry

Civil War cooks learned quickly that dehydrating food increased its nutritional density while decreasing its rate of spoilage. When done correctly, the result is a nutritious foodstuff with a stable shelf life that is almost impervious to rot, easily carried, a great form of rations during war and a delicious “in between” meal for consumers today.

From yet another blog——we learn: The Ancient Egyptians preserved meat and produce by leaving them out in the sun to dry. Early excavations of tombs have discovered dehydrated foods fully intact after centuries. In more recent times, North American records show the word “jerky” was already in use in 1612. Captain John Smith, when drawing his map of Virginia, wrote: “as drie as their jerkin beefe in the West Indies.”

North American natives mixed berries, fat and ground meat to make small cakes called “pemmican,” which helped the tribes get through the winters. Early settlers learned jerky preparations from their Indian neighbors.

Cowboys chawed on jerky in the movies, and also in real life in the 1820s. They’d slaughter bison, cattle, elk or deer, strip the meat and hang it out to dry.

During the Civil War, an estimated 2 million Union Soldiers ate jerky with relish.

DSC01575 (400x279) Today, GreenAcres carries all kinds of natural jerky, mostly from grass-fed cattle, bison and free-forage turkey.

Matt Murray, one of our owners and the store manager of GA-Bradley Fair, loves it and highly recommends reaching for a chew of jerky before reaching for something with sugar. “It’s the perfect snack for those of us who follow the Paleo lifestyle,” says Matt.

Aisle 5 in our Bradley Fair store is where you’ll find the jerky. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when choosing which flavor or chewing consistency you might like best. Matt will lead you right to his favorite brand–Mighty Bars in the bacon and apple flavor. I’m partial to Lucky Star Farms black angus jerky, but my son likes anything Epic. It just comes down to taste. All our jerkies are great tasting, all natural, non-GMO with no added sugar or preservatives.

You might want to start off with our newest line, Nick’s Sticks in beef and turkey flavors. A great way to ease into jerky tasting and on sale the rest of this month for $2.29 each. Available in all eight of our GreenAcres Markets.