Hungry people in zombie shows have been doing it all wrong. I’m often shaking my fist at these fictional characters and yelling at the TV, wondering why Carl from The Walking Dead is so excited about acquiring a stinking can of chocolate pudding. He probably almost had his arm chewed off just to get it, not to mention that those food runs they’re constantly making are dangerous and produce nothing but boring processed foods. They probably should have just been making jerky all along.
I’m not sure how they spent their time pre-zombie apocalypse, but if they were smart, they could get ahead of the game by churning out sweet and salty, perfectly-preserved meats. Now that AMC’s spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, will take us back to the beginning, I’d love to chat with the new characters and discuss how they could better prepare for walkers with long-lasting snacks for the terror that is to come. I’m sure they don’t realize that jerky is surprisingly easy to make, lasts longer than most foods and is now made in more eclectic ways than ever.
Intrigued? Here’s what I’d tell them.
What they really need is Pamela Braun’s Jerky Everything: Foolproof and Flavorful Recipes for Beef, Pork, Poultry, Game, Fish, Fruit, and Even Vegetables (The Countryman Press, August 3). Many of these recipes are extremely simple and low maintenance (basic ingredients include salt, pepper, garlic, honey and onion power), so ransack the closest kitchen for some spices and ask the “Daryl” of your group to put his bow to good use for some quick venison or turkey jerky. Exhausted and not up for the hunt? Forage at your leisure. There is mushroom jerky, cheesy cauliflower jerky, blueberry fruit leather and tart cherry almond fruit leather recipes galore. You don’t need a dehydrator or an oven. Consult the book for more details, they’ve got you covered!
And since I’m living in the real world and don’t need to be paranoid (I don’t think?), my jerky-making is purely for pleasure’s sake. I know that I’ll be hunkering down on my couch in front of Fear the Walking Dead with a fresh batch of my French-inspired Jerky Au Poivre (peppercorns and steak are a match made in heaven) and a Bloody Mary, complete with a meat straw, which are two of my favorite jerky recipes that you can munch on during zombie time. For more, just pick up the book.
Bloody Mary Straws
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together, except the meat. Arrange the slices of ham in a single layer on a cutting board. Sprinkle the dry mixture evenly over the ham. Roll each ham slice as tightly as you can into a cylinder (with the seasonings on the inside or outside—your choice). Arrange the straws in a single layer on the dryer sheet and dry as directed on pages 16–19.
Jerky Au Poivre
½ cup soy sauce
1½ tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 drops liquid hickory smoke
1 ½ pounds eye of round, cut into strips
In a 1-gallon resealable plastic freezer bag, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients, except the meat, and allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes. Add the meat strips to the marinade and mix them around so they get completely coated with the marinade. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal, and place it in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours. During the marinating time, remove the bag from the refrigerator and work the meat around so the marinade is fully incorporated into it. Remove the strips from the marinade and arrange in a single layer in your choice of dryer. Dry as directed on pages 16–19.