Number 61: Hot and Spicy Beef Jerky from Marin Sun Farms
Some varieties of beef jerky are tooth-crackingly hard, stringy and tough, even after vigorous mastication. You have to suck on the pieces as if they were savory lozenges, and then try to work them down. We imagine cowboys sitting around a desolate campsite, gnawing desperately, hats wiggling and floppy mustaches heaving with every chew. Other sorts are relatively tender, though heavily processed. You find them more frequently in the aisles of gas station mini marts and convenience stores. They won't give you a stiff jaw, but their mealy texture can be off-putting. We're jerky aficionados. We judged a competition last fall. We go back home to Louisville from time to time, head out drinking, and hunt for the elusive traveling jerky-man known to frequent that city's dive bars and pubs.
For a few months now, we've been getting our Bay Area fix at the Prather Ranch Meat Company's Ferry Building outpost. Prather Ranch does a solid, sweet, highly chewable version ($8 for three ounces) close in spirit to those we usually end up munching on road trips. On Saturday, however, stumbling through the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, we reacquainted ourselves with a jerky produced by Marin Suns Farms that -- exempting our hometown favorite, of course -- pretty much demolished any we'd tasted before. Our verdict in that competition way back when championed the company's regular jerky (Marin Sun makes four varieties: pepper and garlic, smoked black pepper, hot and spicy, and sweet original, all cut from top and bottom rounds, brine-cured for 48 hours, and dried for five). But on Saturday, after vaporizing over an ounce-and-a-half (our sack cost $3.85), we had to go with the hot stuff. Boasting low, beefy notes and a throat-tickling sear induced by copious dried red pepper flakes, these meaty sheets (prime example of the first camp described above) were like a soothing adult pacifier for the hour we spent slurping them down -- well worth the burning lip we ended up nursing all day, and the entire salt flat's worth of sodium we ingested.
Marin Sun Farms at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market The Embarcadero, Sat., 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Hungry for more? The dishes in our countdown thus far are linked below:
No. 92: Cracked Half Dungeness from Swan Oyster Depot
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