Maura Alia Badji
Beef jerky. Could there be a more rugged American food than beef jerky?
For me, the words conjure up images of lonesome cowboys, flinty pioneers, and long-distance truckers. Hard workin' folk too busy to stop for anything as fancy as a meal. I managed to avoid consuming anything more than a dry over-salted bite or two on extended road-trips, until I received a sampler box of Gary West Smoked Meats World Famous Jerky.
Hand-crafted from expertly seasoned strips of steak, in five flavor varieties (Traditional--brown sugar & pepper, Teriyaki—soy & tamari , Cajun—spicy, not fiery, and Cracked Black Pepper—traditional recipe heavy on the cracked black pepper) this is the filet mignon of jerkies. Gary West Jerky is actually referred to on their website, www.garywest.com , as “smoked steak strips” (also available are more exotic varieties: smoked elk, and buffalo strips).
Based in Oregon, this family owned business prides itself on artisanal methods, top quality, full flavor and all natural ingredients. Inside top rounds of meat (beef, elk, buffalo) are cut into strips, tumbled with a spice rub, marinated in natural juices, then placed by hand onto large curing racks. These racks are then stacked and put into an oven, which cooks the jerky as hickory smoke circulates throughout the smokehouse. Finally the finished strips are cooled and packaged in vaccum sealed pouches.
These lean, tasty snacks are available in three different styles: Original Recipe, Certified Angus Beef and Silver Fork Natural. While all their beef is 100% natural, meaning no steroids, hormones or antibiotics and no gluten except for the Teriyaki flavor; Silver Fork Natural goes beyond those exacting standards – it contains no sodium nitrite in the curing process. Instead GWSM uses celery powder for a sweeter, nearly molasses flavor. While I been a life-long shunner of all things jerky, one taste of Silver Fork Natural steak strips turned me into a raving natural jerky evangelist.
Apparently my testimonials worked too well—within a day of receiving my sampler box, my extended family had decimated its contents. I can’t say I blame them. No corner-store nitrate-filled, sodium laden, dried beef stick can compare to the fork- tender, full-flavored Silver Fork Natural steak strips.
Silver Fork Naturals are named for the Silver Fork basin where the family who started Gary West Smoked Meats summered their cattle in the early 1900s. The Silver Fork variety symbolizes the simplicity of Gary West’s natural beef, buffalo and elk - all made without hormones, steroids, antibiotics or added nitrites.
Apparently I’m not the only GWSM jerky enthusiast; the company was awarded a Silver Medal by The New York Times for traditional steak strips, and has won rave reviews everywhere from Newsday to Outdoor Life to Good Morning America and The Food Network. In 2007 The New York Times included them in what they referred to as “A Jerky Renaissance”.
Gary West Smoked Meats also carries smoked ham (half & whole) and turkeys (whole bird and breast), Oregon gift baskets featuring local jams & candies, Gus’ Dog Jerky (for dogs, not made from them!), Jerky of The Month Club (AKA The Jerky Society!) and gift certificates.
Enjoy the catalog online at www.garywest.com or call 800- 833-1820 to order.
Poet, teacher, writer, home cook, and mother, Maura Alia Badji lives and works in the Seven Cities of Southeastern Virginia. She blogs at www.moxiebee.wordpress.com .