The best dang homemade jerky for vegetarians
Jerky! As a vegetarian I have never actually consumed it. But quite frankly I always thought it was something that hikers gnawed on to sustain themselves. And based on what I see in stores it still is that. But Jerky Everything by Pamela Braun has turned it into an art form. As she points out, that fancy-schmancy thing you hear people talk about called charcuterie is just elevated jerky.
Apparently you can actually jerky anything. People have been doing it for ages. It was an invention born from necessity. Before we had refrigerators, drying meat was the way to go if you wanted to preserve it. It is done in a multitude of cultures—there are even Egyptian hieroglyphics about dried meat.
There is an unbelievable wealth of recipes in this book. The first chapter is for your beef jerkies. They are far from classic, though. There is everything from Teriyaki Jerky to Spicy Chocolate Jerky. Chapters for pork and lamb, game, poultry and fish follow. I am not sure how hard it would be to get your hands on alligator meat, or yak, for that matter. But if you can, they too can be turned into jerky. When Braun named the book Jerky Everything she wasn’t joking. The last chapter is for jerky for your pets. So if you are tired of purchasing chew toys this book is for you.
Now all this was interesting to me as I have general interest in culinary history, but I was glad there was a vegetarian chapter so that I could get in on the jerky-ing. There are recipes for tofu jerky, coconut jerky, and even some snacks I had not really thought of as jerky. The Tart Cherry Almond Fruit Leather is still a fruit roll-up in my mind but if Braun says it is jerky, so be it.
As for what recipe to share, I chose the Cheesy Cauliflower Jerky. Cauliflower is SOOOOO cool right now. It is the bees knees. The cool shit. It is on every friggin’ restaurant menu. I used to never see it anywhere and now people are doing everything from making “buffalo chicken” bites with it to pizza crust (can’t get on board with that one-try as it might cauliflower is not bread). And now jerky. Has it jumped the shark? Make this. You be the judge.
I warn you in advance that you should make a double-batch of this stuff. It makes it insanely easy to eat an entire head of cauliflower in a sitting. I ate this dipped in this Sriracha Mayo, and I recommend you do the the same. Of course, a squeeze of straight of Sriracha is never a bad thing either. Just saying.
Cheesy Cauliflower Jerky adapted from Jerky Everything by Pamela Braun
- 1/4 cu beer (I had some Stella on hand)
- 3 Tbsp. Cheddar cheese powder (you can find this in the snack aisle with seasonings for popcorn)
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce (I had the chipotle flavor)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. liquid hickory smoke (since I used chipotle Tabasco which is already a bit smoky I left this out)
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into small, equally sized florets
If you have a dehydrator, you can use that, but I only had my oven. Braun recommends using the convection setting on your oven if possible. It is supposed to be heated to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. My oven didn’t go quite that low so I knew my jerky would probably cook a bit faster than usual. In a 1-gallon plastic freezer bag mix everything but the cauliflower and let sit for ten minutes. Add the florets and mix until they are well-coated. Take the florets out of the marinade spread in one layer on either racks placed on a baking sheet (for the oven) or in your dehydrator. Dry at 135 degrees (or as low as your oven can go) for 4-6 hours. It is done when you can take a piece and bend it. It may start to break a bit but if it straight-up snaps in two you have dried it too long. Once cooled, Braun recommends storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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(Photo reprinted with permission from Jerky Everything by Pamela Braun)