Beaver County, Family, Ingredients, Seasonal, Traditional

Deer jerky.

Almost sounds like a diary entry. Or an ode.

Some kind of deer-hunting season started yesterday. I read that somewhere.

For me, it means one thing: my in-laws’ deer jerky.

My father-in-law has heads on the the walls of his house in Beaver County. He wears camo. Drinks Busch.

I … don’t.

I’ve been crabbing in the Pacific. Good times there.

I sort of went fishing once — it involved sticks, twine, nails, worms, Malibu, a sad little glorified Koi pond of a stream and my birthday. Didn’t catch anything.

And guns? Didn’t grow up around them. Shot a BB gun a couple times when I was like 14 and .40-caliber Glocks a few times in citizen police academies. Oh, and an AR-15 once, also in a citizen police academy. But not really at anything. Not anything living.

Can’t say I’m opposed to hunting for food. I’m a carnivore, omnivore, whatever. As long as you use what you kill and treat the animal with respect, I’m good.

Now, normally I’m not much of a fan of jerky. There’s nasty truck-stop road-trip jerky, of course. And when I was in high school in Oregon a family friend made frightfully dry duck jerky after his hunting trips. The kind that can give you buck teeth just from tugging at it. Almost better to suck on it a while like a salty meat Sugar Daddy and hope it dissolves.

This is not that jerky.

I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law uses seasonings on it out of a box. But that simply doesn’t matter.

The deer is fresh. They marinate it well. And they cook it slow, slow, slow. Low temperature, and I’ve seen my mother-in-law use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door open just a little to keep air moving and the heat just right.

This jerky is meaty, firm. You bite into it rather than having to scrape it through your teeth. Deer meat is pretty lean to begin with which means it’ll toughen up with just a little inattention. There’s something about this jerky that almost melts. Like there’s butter in there somewhere. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s right there on my tongue. And yet there remains the strong pepper and salt flavors right up front.

And I’m not even that huge of a venison fan. I don’t mind the gaminess — I like it, actually — but it’s never been high on my list.

Which makes this so odd. It’s a type of meat I don’t adore in a form I generally find repellant.

And here we are.

I’ve always been more of a savory person than a sweet person. This is almost like candy for me. And it’s a rare treat. I get a share of the haul, when there is a haul, but I’d take more. One of my brothers-in-law and I would probably arm-wrestle over this stuff — or at least see who could build the more awesomer bedroom fort with jerky as the prize. (That’s right. More awesomer.)

No idea where they learned to make it. No idea where they get the drugs they so clearly use on me when I eat it. But I love it.

I’ve debated smuggling it out of my in-laws’ house in my pants. My wife doesn’t think that’s funny. But I promised to be honest here. So, there, I said it.