Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Cat

Black Cat's proper title is Opium Death-Blossom. Here, she creates a pleasing artistic arrangement with an oriental rug.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Return of The Best Beef Jerky. EVER.

     Meadow Farms Smokehouse is a small shop on the north side of Bishop, California, on Route 395 as you are heading north out of town. Many people who make the trek from Southern California to ski at Mammoth Mountain know and love this place, and for us, when travelling in the Owens Valley, it is a stop which must be made at all costs. They produce some of the best bacon, ham and beef jerky in the world.  Fortunately they also have a web site, and through the miracle of the internet, you can punch a few buttons and have meats from hundreds of miles away delivered to your doorstep. Their Cowboy Jerky is the best beef jerky ever; the Holy Grail of smoked meat. A few years ago, they had to stop selling it. We were shocked and saddened,  and the world was a little poorer because of it.

Nom, Nom, Nom.
     Meadow Farms makes a wide range of cured and flavored traditional jerkies, including buffalo and elk; all these are superb, but the Cowboy Jerky is altogether different. This is not the thin, stringy, sweet or spicy shards of brittle meat that most people think of as jerky. Meadow Farms Cowboy Jerky is small, thick slices of deeply smoked steak; dense little hockey pucks of meat that must be whittled at with a sharp, stout knife, or gnawed with strong teeth and gums. When opened, this stuff will fill a room with its strong smoky aroma; the unusual wood they use is Mountain Mahogany, a small tree / shrub native to the local rocky mountain slopes at high altitudes (4000 - 9000 ft.). No spices, sugar or soy are used; only beef and smoke. The resulting jerky is the essence of pure meat and intense smoke; nothing else is necessary. It is the perfect expression of smoked beef. If you can resist the urge to eat it all at once, you could live for days off of a pound of this stuff, along with a bag of dried fruit and some nuts while hiking or camping.

     I was told by people at the store a couple of years ago that they stopped making it because the F.D.A. regulations had been revised , and due to the amount of smoking time it would now take, the resulting jerky would be too dry, as hard as a rock, and nearly impossible to eat. I was browsing their website recently to order some bacon (which is also also amazing, but that's another story), and was surprised to see it available again, so I ordered a pound, hoping that this was not just a case of a dead link. The package arrived, and I was pleased to find the old, familiar vacuum-packed lumpy bags of smoky bricks of beef that I had not seen for at least two years. I called the store to inquire, and was told that they had spent some time adjusting their smoking process to comply with the F.D.A. requirements, (something involving the application of steam and slicing things slightly thinner), but they were now back in production, and the world is a now a slightly better place, once again.