Today is National Jerky Day!
It's one of those items that grocers hang from hooks in every aisle of their stores. They put it there because you think to yourself, "Oooh, that looks good. I must have it right now." It's a trick to get you to buy it on impulse, and it's a reason I should never go grocery shopping when I'm hungry. Because I love me some beef jerky.
What could be better than a salty, chewy piece of dried meat? It's the gestalt of beef jerky that works, where the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Few things have as much strong flavor as a good piece of jerky. You can even tell yourself it's good for you because it's a great source of protein; just ignore the the total grams of sodium listed on the back.
The origin of jerky can be traced back to the 1800's when Spanish explorers encountered the Quechua tribe in South America. The Quechuans added salt to strips of deer, buffalo, and elk, then heated the meat for an extended period of time over a low flame. They called the process ch'arki, or charqui. (No doubt this is where our term charbroiled comes from.) The Spanish discovered that this meat would last an exceptionally long time without spoiling which made it the perfect food for long sea voyages. They introduced the product to North America where it became a staple for cowboys and pioneers.
Today you can get jerky made from all kinds of meat including alligator which they make right here in Louisiana. But the favorite is still beef jerky, and what started out as plain-old salted beef comes in just about every flavor imaginable from Teriyaki to Pineapple Habanero.
There are three great merchants that specialize in jerky in Louisiana, including one in Bossier City.
Garden and Gun magazine ranks Bourgeois Beef Jerky #1 in their "100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die". The business began way back in 1891 in Schriever, and moved to Thibodaux after World War Two. Their proprietary Cajun jerky is not completely dried out, so it must be refrigerated after opening. It sure must be good, though; they sell 1,000 pounds of it a week!
This New Orleans original was established in 2005 in the historic French Market when it was rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They specialize in serving alligator on a stick, but quickly found there was a huge market for alligator that could be taken home, wherever their patrons live. So, they created alligator jerky and alligator meat sticks produced from farm-grown Louisiana gators. You can order online at cajunjerkyandmeats.com.
You can find this establishment all over the country, and in numerous places in Louisiana, but the closest can be found on the Boardwalk in Bossier City right next to Bass Pro Shop. If you're looking for exotic jerky, this is the place to find it. They offer over 200 different kinds of jerky including ostrich, kangaroo, pheasant, and venison along with the classic beef.
So, give into that urge to sink your teeth into a thick slab of salty, chewy goodness. National Jerky Day only comes around once a year, and you know you want some!