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WhiskyDad Makes Whisky Jerky

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So my wife bought a dehydrator. “What’s a dehydrator?” I asked. “It heats up and dries out food,” she said. “Like an oven?” I replied. “Yeah, but it doesn’t get as hot.” I pondered her response for a moment, “So, like a shit oven?”

Every appliance has a silver lining

I’m used to my wife buying things that are supposed to make our lives healthier, but I didn’t really appreciate the ‘shit oven’ until I asked if it could make jerky!

Jerky, is meat cut into thin strips, often marinated, and then dried to prevent spoilage. It is super tasty and fairly good for you since it is a great source of protein without much of anything else. The shop bought variety is also very expensive considering what it is and how much you get in a packet.

I already had the dehydrator (you can also use a smoker) so I figured I would give making my own jerky a go and since I’m a WhiskyDad, I planned to marinate it in whisky.

Sriracha & Starward Bacon Jerky

First up would be bacon jerky. Why bacon? Because bacon, of course. I settled on making a spicy bacon jerky with a light and sweet, non-peated whisky. The spiciness would come from Sriracha sauce, store bought since I didn’t have the time or energy to make my own. I have only recently discovered Sriracha sauce (found in the Asian food section of your local supermarket) but this sauce made from Jalapeños, sugar or honey and garlic is freakin’ delicious. Where has this sauce been all my life? It is not what I would call a hot sauce, it's spicy, but it is a near perfect mix of spice, savoury and sweetness.

The whisky of choice would be Starward Wine Cask single malt Australian whisky.

Sounds expensive, but it really isn’t. Difficult to find outside of Australia but it’s one of the best value local whiskies commonly available. I often recommend it as a gateway whisky for anyone new to whisky or new to drinking whisky neat. It’s light and quite sweet so I thought it would pair with the bacon nicely.

I bought some smoked streaky bacon from Costco and prepared the following marinade in a ceramic dish:

90ml of Starward Wine Cask single malt whisky
90ml or 6 x Tablespoons of Sriracha sauce
2 x Tablespoons of Manuka honey (any honey would do or substitute perhaps half as much brown sugar)
3 x Cloves of fresh crushed garlic

I mixed all the ingredients in the dish and added 500g of bacon. Next, I sprinkled salt and pepper over the top, covered the dish with plastic cling wrap and put it in the fridge.

The bacon needs to marinate for three days, being turned in the marinade half way through with some more salt and pepper added.

After three days, I removed the bacon from the marinade and placed it on a chopping board. I sliced the bacon in half and then the widest part in half again so that all the pieces were roughly the same size. Next, I placed the cut pieces on some paper towel and gently removed some of the excess marinate with more paper towel. I didn’t want to remove it all but I also didn’t want it dripping with liquid when I put it in the dehydrator.

Finally, I laid the pieces of bacon onto the dehydrators removable trays making sure the pieces were not touching each other and gave them a last sprinkle of salt and pepper.

I set the dehydrator to 70˚C and the timer to five hours.

Half way though I rotated the shelves and after five hours I removed the jerky and laid it on pieces of paper towel. I placed alternating layers of paper towel, a single layer of jerky, then more paper towel onto a dinner plate. This removed a lot of oil from the surface of the jerky since bacon is much fattier than the meat you would generally use for jerky. Once the jerky had cooled to room temperature, I removed it from the paper towel and placed it in a plastic zip-lock bag for storage in the fridge. Jerky can last for a while, but I wouldn’t keep bacon jerky for as long as you would leaner beef jerky for instance – But let’s face it, bacon jerky is going to be eaten pretty quickly.

So how did it taste?

It tasted awesome! The texture was quite good. You want the jerky to kind of bend and tear. If it snaps, it’s cooked too much. If it bends without tearing or is floppy, it isn’t cooked enough. The Sriracha Starward Bacon Jerky had a savoury whisky flavour at first with a sweetness coming out as you chewed. Lastly, there was a spicy finish that was just the right amount of spice and not too hot; pretty much damn perfect for a first attempt, if you ask me.

It actually reminded me of tasting a whisky (although a bacon flavoured whisky) since the flavour developed as you ate it rather than hit you all at once. 

Peat Monster Beef Jerky

Next up, I decided to make a more traditional beef jerky. I chose a corned beef silverside, also purchased from Costco. Roughly shaped like a loaf of bread, this cut of meat was already quite lean and having already been cured in a salt brine it would dry quite well in the dehydrator. All I had to do to prepare the meat was to remove the thin layer of fat from one side and cut out a couple of fatty parts before cutting it into roughly one inch thick steaks. You need to cut across the grain for this step. The steaks were about the size and thickness of café-style slices of bread. Next, I placed each steak in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer.

This time the marinade would be soy sauce and smokey whisky based. I chose Compass Box Peat Monster as the whisky. The marinade was a mix of the following:

½ Cup of soy sauce
60ml or 4 x Tablespoons of Peat Monster whisky
2 x Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 x Teaspoon of garlic powder
1 x Teaspoon of smoky paprika powder
1 x Teaspoon of chilli powder
½ x Teaspoon of ginger powder
½ x Teaspoon of cayenne powder
1 x Tablespoon of Manuka honey

Once partially frozen, I removed the steaks I wanted to use and sliced them (with the grain this time) into 3mm thick strips. This made approximately 600g of beef strips that I then placed into a bowl of the marinade, covered it with plastic and put it in the fridge for three days.

I followed the same dehydrating process for the beef as I did for the bacon; five hours at 70˚C

So how did it taste?

The beef turned out great, as good as any packaged jerky you can buy and much cheaper to make yourself. It had a great chewy texture that almost melts in your mouth and while it didn’t have the same evolving flavour like the bacon jerky did, it delivered a nicely balanced savoury hit from first bite to last chew. The whisky flavour was quite subtle so you could probably use more if you wished. I have plenty of meat left over in the freezer so I may experiment with different whiskies for future batches but my first attempt was a hit.

So do yourself a favour and buy a ‘shit oven’ to make yourself some tasty whisky marinated jerky. It is super easy to do and the results were surprisingly amazing.

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