Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Jerky: Inventions by Women A-Z

Native Americans relied on a specially prepared meat source called jerky, long before the arrival of European settlers. Made from mostly buffalo, deer, and elk meat, dried in long thin strips, jerky was an excellent protein source over the long winter months when game was scarce. 

Traditionally, Native American women would gather the tribe's food growing in the wild, process and cook the food, tend the campsite, make the clothing, and raise the children. Men would do the hunting and fishing, tend the horses, make the tools and weapons, and defend the tribe in war. Roles overlapped of course as needed, but given their assumed roles, Native American women were very likely the inventors of jerky.

According to some sources, jerky can be traced back to an ancient South American tribe, the Incas, who were known to dry llama meat. In fact, the word jerky comes from the Spanish word charqui, which means dried, salted meat. Food drying itself in North America dates back 12,000 years, and earlier elsewhere in the world, to 12,000 B.C. in the Middle East. Regardless of where jerky originated, we can safely say it was an invented food passed down by native tribes for thousands of years. Essentially, it was a native version of "fast food."



In North America, jerky was traditionally prepared without salt, and simply dried over a hot smoldering fire for a day. Salt was added later to accommodate the tastes of the white settlers, who often traded for jerky. Fur trappers came to depend on this handy meat source that traveled well and was satisfying to eat. Another explanation suggests that some sources of salt (discovered in the 1800s) changed the gray color of dried meat to the color red, which had more eye appeal.



An interesting note regarding jerky and pemmican, which was also made by Native Americans and is sometimes referred to as the same, and just as popular with the white pioneers, there is a difference. I found two recipes online for those who might be interested:



Jerky
Ingredients: fresh meat cut into thin strips 1" wide, 5-6" long 
(lean beef, deer, elk, or rabbit)
Weave strips onto green sticks or skewers. Build a low-burning campfire and slowly dry strips over the fire. As an alternative, place strips on wire racks and dry in oven heated to 140 degrees F (leave oven door slightly ajar). To speed drying process, lightly sprinkle strips with salt. Marinating the strips overnight in soy or Worcestershire sauce adds great flavor to the finished jerky. Once dried, cool strips completely and store in cool place in airtight container.

Pemmican
Take 1 pound finely ground jerky. Add 4 tablespoons finely ground or powdered dried fruit, berries or herbs (such as sage, cherries or blueberries). Add sugar to taste if a sweet pemmican is desired. Mix in just enough lard (such as Crisco) to hold the dried ingredients together. Blend mixture thoroughly and mold into a solid block shape. Store in cool place in airtight container. Slice to eat.





Source:
http://imnh.isu.edu/digitalatlas/teach/lsnplns/jerkylp.htm;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerky
http://www.indians.org/articles/buffalo-jerky.html;
http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/food_pres_hist.html
http://www.hicountry.com/from-the-field/history-of-jerky/; http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/kids/facts-new.html
Handbook of North American Indians: Plateau, Deward E. Walker, Jr., Smithsonian Institution, 1998.

Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl

41 comments:

  1. I have to admit to never having been able to make myself like jerky, but without hermetically sealed packaging and refrigerators, it must have been a life saver.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. Hi Natasha. I could take it or leave it. Tastes like hard bacon to me. But back in the 1800s, without refrigeration, a different matter!.

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  2. A meal I have never heard of before, your description of it does you justice, though I don't think I would be ablr to eat it. Another outstanding post which is out of the ordinary.
    Enjoy your week-end.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Hello Yvonne. It does seem it would be good fare for serious hikers. But the kind I see in the stores is advertized as hot and spicy....seems like heartburn to me!

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  3. I'm trying to imagine jerky and dried fruit mixed together - something like an energy bar??
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

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    1. This is the version I might be interested in too :) Thanks, Wendy.

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  4. Jerky still weirds me out. There is a jerky "outlet" not far from where I live. It's one of the most American things I have ever seen...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. I think jerky is a 'guy thing here'....but don't quote me on that. I don't eat jerky. Thanks for commenting!

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  5. I have only ever eaten jerky when I was in the US - but I loved it. :) And I imagine home prepared jerky would be much better than what I bought at a gas station!

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    1. Oh, that's interesting Trisha. You're the first of the commenters to like it. Funny you mention gas stations. That's where I see jerky the most :) Thanks!

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  6. Men should be thanking women everywhere for this one. I know they love their jerky. :P

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    1. Ha-ha. Probably so....Thanks, Chrys for commenting!

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  7. Hi Sharon - we had biltong in South Africa - a life saver for those early trekkers .. and I imagine similarly occurred in the States ... I could never get to grips with it either .. I love salami etc .. but not biltong or jerky .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Biltong? I keep learning new words....Thanks for visiting, Hilary.

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  8. I like Jerky but rarely think to buy any.

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    1. Hi Dixie! I never think to buy it. Pemmican sounds interesting though....

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  9. Replies
    1. Oh, someone who loves it.......I see I need to try this someday :) All the best, Sarah

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  10. Oh I have tried it.... and I can leave it:) It makes sense that the Indian women invented this and good for them to get some recognition. So many love beef jerky

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    1. Ha-ha. I like that you always get to the point. Thanks, Birgit!

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  11. Interesting post on jerky, something our daughters seems to enjoy!

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    1. Wow....that's good evidence it's still popular. Appreciate your visit, Mary.

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  12. I don't really like the store bought stuff. Never made any and probably won't. I don't know if it is really fast food though since it has to be smoked and all first before it's ready. Not a fast practice!

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    1. Well....that is true isn't it. Windy days must have been terribly smokey too. But once it's made, it had to be convenient to grab in a hurry. Thanks, Kristin!

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  13. Fascinating! I've never tried the store kind...I think it would give me a whopper of a migraine. Wow, what a process!

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    1. Hi Donna! Oh...and you don't want a migraine. I think we can live without, right?

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  14. I never knew the difference between Jerky and Pemmican. I've always seen them side by side at the store and wondered. Now I know that I'd probably LOVE Pemmican (bring on the lard & berries!), but jerky would be less fattening (boo!).

    You can find me here:
    ClarabelleRant

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    1. Hi Clarabelle and many thanks for following! To be honest, I haven't paid much attention to the store racks but I'm going to look next time I'm in the store.

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  15. Biltong is BIG here in South Africa Sharon (Hilary mentioned it above). Visitors from US and UK and elsewhere love it. Interesting about jerky and its origins. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Susan. Yes, I just learned that and had never heard of the word before. I'm behind on my blog hopping at present but you'll see me later today :) Gardening has my name on it right now. Always appreciate your visits.

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  16. This is an AMAZING theme. And I had no idea women invented jerky!

    Good luck with the 2015 A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy
    http://pensuasion.blogspot.com

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    1. It's been an eye opener for me too. Thanks, SL!

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  17. I've never had jerky before but you're the second person I've seen today who used it as the topic of their J post. :-) I'm really going to have to try it now!

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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    1. Hi Cait. Really.....that's interesting. I guess more people like jerky than I realized. Thanks for stopping by.

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  18. Jerky...yuck! LOL I realize that it's necessary sometimes...but still, yuck :)
    TheCyborgMom

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    1. Not my favorite either but good to know if meat becomes limited in supply. Thanks for commenting

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  19. I used to make jerky from our own beef in a food Dehydrator and it was delicious, bit I can't stand store bought jerky. Too tough, and not enough flavor.

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  20. Hi Cathy! I've never like it, but would love to taste a homemade version. Thanks!

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  21. I think jerky or some variant of it, or something like it, must exist all over the world. I recently ate a Thai version of it. Not a massive fan, I must say.

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  22. That had to be different. I noticed meat, especially beef had a different taste in that region. Thanks, David.

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  23. I love it. Jerky of all things. That's great.

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