Drying is the oldest form of food preservation, and meat is the oldest form of dried food, beginning in the Cro-Magnon era around 40,000 years ago. 
The sun and wind were the first methods used to dry meat. Native Americans hung buffalo meat strips over campfires to dry, and tepees were one of the first smokehouses. The dried meat was then packed into skin bags known as parfleches for storage. It’s estimated that an ancient Inca tribe, the Quechua made cha’arki (jerky) around 500 years ago in South America. Dried meat kept longer, was lightweight and easy to carry, nutritious and ready to eat. 
With the arrival of European settlers in the early 1800s, Native Americans passed on the jerky skills, which continued into North America. Traders and explorers travelled and made different types of jerky with other game – goose and turkey for example. 
Image Source: http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/1377 
During the American Industrial Revolution (18201870), jerky became mass produced for consumption. Sugar replaced some of the high salt content in several types of jerky, creating new varieties. The addition of chilli and pepper prevented many bugs attacking the jerky, which is why many jerky recipes include lots of chilli! 
Millions of people worldwide now enjoy eating jerky. Dehydrators and ovens now dry the salted, seasoned meat strips, but the method is still the same – and tastes delicious with a cold beer on the side!

Share on: