Banish thoughts of unidentifiable, eerily uniform convenience-store snacks; Gerald Jerky is jerky of a different stripe indeed.
"It has some chew and texture and tastes like meat," says Rachel Graville, the woman behind the jerky. "It's not ground and stuck in a casing."
The two available flavors, Peppered and Sweet N Spicy, manage to balance assertive spices and a lingering heat without masking the flavor of the beef itself, something that was important to Graville. Before starting the business, she apprenticed at La Frieda Meats as a way of "learning more about beef and trimming." She adds that "it's important to trim beef really well for jerky," since fat dries differently than muscle.
She starts with beef round—"top, bottom, or eye of"—and slices it by hand "thicker than you would think"; mixes up simple but inventive marinades using common kitchen ingredients like beer, soy sauce, lime juice, and Manhattan Special coffee soda; then uses a dehydrator that is "a commercial size, but a consumer brand" to dry the meat. While she happily sells the resulting jerky (named after her father, Gerald) exclusively at her restaurant, Brooklyn Heights breakfast and lunch spot Iris Cafe, she also encourages people to try their hand at making it themselves.
To that end, she offers up recipes, instructions, and advice on her blog for anyone interested in food dehydration. "Other food projects take way more effort and equipment," she says, making dehydration an easy way to preserve a glut of seasonal produce or experiment with other foods—like jerky.
Fans of dried meat may want to head to The Bell House on January 23, where Graville will be introducing a new flavor of Gerald Jerky (Teriyaki!) and acting as one of the judges for the latest cooking competition from the Takedown folks, the cheekily titled World's Biggest Jerk-Of. Visit the event's website for more details or information about entering your own jerky in the contest.
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