Throughout the 1990’s, beef jerky was one of the go to snacks for NASA astronauts staying in orbit.
The Native American word “ch’arki” is the origin of the modern English word “jerky.” Charqui originally meant “to burn meat.”
Something similar to a modern beef jerky recipe was first noted in 1550 by the Quechua (people native to the western part of South America). Jerky was invented as a way to preserve meat that would otherwise only be available twice a year.
A similar food preparation known as pemmican was created by the Cree tribe of North America. This mixture would take fat mixed with protein of larger game animals as well as powdered berries. The mixture would be pounded into thin strips and then slowly dried over a fire.
Jerky was also known in Ancient Rome, where the most common meats were from donkey and horse. Roman jerky (now primarily pork and beef) is still considered a great pairing with local wines.
Jerky is just a preparation method, and it’s possible to make with any meat. Beef jerky has flourished in America due to the high quality and much beloved beef grown throughout the Americas.
Elsewhere in the world, quality jerky is made from a variety of lean meat creatures including yak, kangaroo, and alligator. Wild game is often particular lean and another good choice for jerky from venison, elk, buffalo, and boar.
“Cowboy jerky”– sometimes billed as beef jerky — is actually a separate product that is often a dried full flank steak infused with smoke flavoring.