Domesticity Nouveau

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Teriyaki Jerky and Marinade

Beef jerky has always been one of my favorite snack foods, but trying to find a sugar-free version to buy left me empty handed, hungry, and on the verge of tears. 

Teriyaki has always been one of my husband’s favorite sauces and flavorings, but trying to find it sugar-free left him with an empty bento bowl, hungry, and maybe a little ticked off at my attempts to get us healthy by eliminating sugar from our diets.

While sugar and honey are commonly used to provide the sweet factor in teriyaki, I went with stevia extract powder.  A lot of people do not care for stevia, and I understand.  In large quantities it can have a licorice-type back note which is really unflattering to desserts (licorice cheesecake – YUCK!) but in savory dishes and used moderately, that back note disappears or blends in perfectly.  Different brands have different expressions of the aftertaste and you may find that you prefer one over another. 

Since my household has been sugar-free for the better part of a year, our palettes have changed.  Things I never found to be sweet in the past are almost candy-sweet now, i.e. roasted carrots or cauliflower.  If you are just embarking on the sugar-free path, you may find that your experience of sweet will change, too. 

I came up with the recipe to make beef jerky, but when I found myself with more beef strips than would fit in the dehydrator it quickly became apparent that it is also a fabulous recipe for stir-fry marinade!

Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Teriyaki Jerky and Marinade

Ingredients
4-5# lean beef, sliced 1/8 inch strips
1/4 tsp stevia extract powder
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
12 cloves garlic
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 cup tamari
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher flake salt
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Instructions
Slice beef and place in zip top bag.  Place all other ingredients in food processor and run until onion and garlic are liquefied.  Pour marinade over beef strips and place in fridge overnight.  Drain marinade from meat and lay strips, without touching, onto dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate 8-16 hours until leathery, but not brittle.  Store in the fridge or freezer.

It’s time to play questions!

Can I just use this as a marinade?
If you aren’t up for making jerky, this makes a fantastic marinade for a teriyaki stir-fry.  You can easily cut the recipe in half and use it for any chicken, beef, or pork of your choosing.  Because there is no sugar, the sauce will be thinner and less like the sticky glaze that is characteristic of commercial teriyaki, but the flavor will satisfy a craving while keeping you sugar-free.


What type of beef do you use?
Any lean cut of beef will work.  My local market often has petite sirloin on sale so that is what I commonly use.  I freeze (or thaw if pulling from the freezer) until the meat is halfway frozen, not completely solid, but not squishy to make slicing easier.  Trim off as much of the fat as you can, it doesn’t dehydrate like the meat and can become rancid in storage.  You want to cut with the grain of the meat to get that chewy, stringy jerky texture.  As best you can, make all your slices even in thickness so they dehydrate at the same rate.  If some are thin and some are thick you run the risk of over drying some pieces to brittle cardboard and under drying the others.

Do I have to use stevia?
Of course not.  Feel free to use whatever sweetener you desire to the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar.  Different sweeteners will impart different flavors to your marinade.  Start with less and taste the marinade before it comes in contact with the meat; adjust as necessary, but remember the sweet will concentrate a bit during dehydration.

Can I use garlic and/or onion powder?
Yes, but you might need to add a bit of water, like 1/4 cup to make up for the liquid that the fresh onion contributes.  2 Tbsp garlic powder and 3-4 Tbsp onion powder should translate to the same flavor that the fresh offers.  Every manufacturer's potency of garlic and onion powder differs, so you might need to play with it a bit; keeping in mind that like sweet, you can always add, you can’t take it back out.

What is tamari?
Tamari is a fermented soy product that is almost identical in flavor to soy sauce, without having wheat as an ingredient.  Make sure you read your labels, as I have crossed paths with some tamari that contains wheat.

What kind of dehydrator do you use?
I use a 12 year old Magic Chef dehydrator.  Yeah, it is kind of ghetto and cheap, but it works GREAT!  There are a variety of models on the market that range from reasonably priced to needing to take out a second mortgage on your house.  Each and every one will operate slightly different, and when combined with the humidity of your house and thickness of your beef slices, the time needed to create your meat leather is going to vary widely.  I rotate my trays part way through the process, but I don’t think it is necessary; I just can’t help but fuss.  You can also dehydrate in your oven at 150 degrees for 8-16 hours.  Place your strips of beef across wire racks on cookie sheets and then into the oven.

How do I know when it is done?
If it is floppy, it is not done.  If it cracks like a corn chip, it is overdone.  Inevitably some of your slices will be thinner or thicker than others, so you might need to pull some of the thinner slices before the thicker slices are done.  You are shooting for flexible and leathery strips.  After it all sits for a day or so in a zip top bag, the moisture tends to even out and some of the strips that maybe got a little too dry will steal some moisture from the others and improve in texture.  If after resting for a day, any of the jerky seems underdone, place back in the dehydrator and continue to dry.  With experience and practice you’ll get to know your dehydrator/oven and how long it takes to get the perfect leathery jerky.

How do I store the jerky?
Although jerky should be just fine in a closed container on the counter, I prefer to keep mine in the fridge and freezer just to add an extra ounce of prevention.  Remember that this is a JERF food product and since it isn’t full of all the chemicals and preservatives that grocery market jerky has, it is subject to eventual spoilage.  The sodium in the tamari and salt greatly help with preventing nasty bacteria, but be smart about your food: if it smells bad or gets slimy or moldy, pitch it to the curb.  Jerky seldom sticks around very long in our house, a couple of weeks at the most, so I can’t tell you precisely how long you can expect it to last, but I suspect you will gobble it all up before you even have to question if it is still good!

Happy Dehydrating!

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