Jerky is the best snack to enjoy anytime, anywhere, and never with remorse. It doubles up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Above all, every thin slice of this cured meat carries a long history rich in amusing facts. For example, did you know that its name does not originate from English?
If you are just as surprised as we were when we found out, you will enjoy the fun facts about jerky below!
What is Jerky?
Jerky is the first item on almost every grocery list. That’s the short answer, at least.
The long answer goes something like this:
Jerky is a dried, cured meat available in short, thin strips. Also, it comes in various flavors, which result from different curing processes, such as:
- Dry rubbed
Regardless of the curing process, jerky can last without refrigeration for months. As a result, it is the ideal storage food and the perfect snack to munch on while traveling, working, or walking the dog.
Traditional jerky contains very little or no fat. It is difficult to bite on, but it has a powerful flavor. The modern kind has a higher amount of fat, which makes it easier to chew on. However, both varieties provide a strong protein kick and a subsequent energy boost.
Now, let’s discover what’s so fun about jerky!
1. Jerky Is Not an English Term
At first glance, jerky sounds like an old Anglo-Saxon name that made its way across centuries to land on a cured meat in the deli aisle. However, the name itself is as far from the English language as oranges are from the South Pole.
Jerky is a corruption of the term “ch’arki,” which originates from the Quechua people in South America. These indigenous tribes of the Peruvian Andes use it to refer to a type of dried, salted meat that they still prepare today using ancient recipes.
More than four centuries ago, the European colonizers arrived in the region that is modern-day Peru and discovered ch’arki. They soon realized that this cured meat can last on long transoceanic trips without spoiling. So, they quickly adopted it as a staple food for their journeys and introduced it to the Old World. From there on, the “newfound” jerky rose to the global popularity that it enjoys today.
2. Jerky is one of the Oldest Cured Meats
While the Quechua people take great pride in their ch’arki recipe for curing meat, people all over the world have been preserving meat in similar ways for millennia.
Curing meat is a problem as old as hunting. Even in the Stone Age, people realized that raw meat rots fast and can kill those who eat it. So, various ways of meat preservation have evolved in almost every region on the planet.
Ancient Egyptians cured and salted meat from various animals. Also, they consumed it excessively and made it available for most social classes, except the slaves.
Native Americans would dry buffalo meat and then preserve it in skin bags to make it last for weeks and even months.
The nomadic steppe people of Central Asia used to dry meat and then keep it in leather bags attached to the horse saddles. This way, they could have a highly nutritious meal handy wherever they roamed.
3. Jerky is Not Necessarily Made from Beef
Nowadays, most of the jerky you find on the market is made from beef. However, if you search hard and long enough, you will find jerky made from the meat of many other animals.
We already mentioned the buffalo jerky that the Native Americans used to make. If you want to know how it would taste, you can find a modern version of it nowadays, too. And, you may find it available almost everywhere in North America today.
Other types of jerky made from pork, deer, lamb, and turkey are also on the market. However, the rarest and most unusual ones are made from salmon and kangaroo.
Regardless of the animal that it comes from, jerky is the result of dehydrating a lot of raw flesh. As a result, it is generally more expensive than most cured meats.
4. Animals Make Jerky Too
Humans have an innate knack for jerky. However, we are not the only ones sharing this passion. Several other animals have also similar techniques of curing fresh food for longer storage.
One of them is the red squirrel, who hangs moist fungi to dry between tree branches. As the water evaporates, the mushrooms become similar to dehydrated snacks. Consequently, the squirrels have something to munch on throughout the cold season.
Another example of animals making jerky is that of red fire ants. These ferocious insects save parts of their meals and hang them to dry. This way, they have some nutritious backup for when their usual food resources are scarce.
5. Astronauts Love Jerky
You may be the biggest jerky lover on Earth. But, are you the biggest jerky aficionado in the Universe?
Well, maybe yes! But, you still have to face stiff competition from the astronauts who are now orbiting the planet.
There is a lot of research and preparation that goes into choosing the food of astronauts. For instance, their meals have to be highly nutritious and easy to eat. Also, they should require very little or no preparation. Finally, these snacks should not cause indigestion or stomach aches.
It is clear to see why jerky is among the basic ingredients in the astronauts’ lunch boxes. Jerky takes very little space and space explorers can easily chew on it while floating in a zero-gravity environment.
These fun facts about jerky might have made your mouth water. If so, you should indulge yourself in some salted, cured meats on June 12th, which is the National Jerky Day within the United States.
That’s right! We love jerky so much that we dedicated an entire day to it. Nevertheless, if you are craving some tasty jerky now, you shouldn't have to wait until summer. Order yours today!