next i moved the action to the actual DIY box fan dehydrator. i had two layers to work with. last night i already figured out that i could approximately accommodate 6 paper tower layers of beef, so i'd actually have room to spare since i only had 5 layers (4 layers really, since the 5th layer is mostly small leftovers). i began building up the strips of meat onto the screen layer above the filter. i got to almost 3 paper towel worth of marinated jerky before moving onto the 2nd box fan layer.
by then my roommate was already up, getting ready to go to work, briefly inspecting my jerky making project. once i had all the meat transferred onto the box fan, it was time for the drying. i didn't want to stink up the house so i set up 4 empty pickle jars (as support) and put the box fan setup on top of that. i have an outdoor outlet so i didn't have to run any extension cords. as soon as i turned on the fan i could smell the marinade, the strong scent of soy sauce combined with worcestershire sauce. it didn't smell very delicious but i was hoping to be surprised.
periodically throughout the morning i'd go and check on the status of my jerky. what i was most worried about was attracting animals that might be drawn to the smell, like neighborhood cats. another danger was the approach of a large tropical storm, projected to bring strong winds and torrential rain today and tomorrow. a check on the weather showed that the rain might hold off until later tonight, but i could see the wind picking up, and i didn't want it to blow away my filters along with my unfinished jerky. i put some spoons on the corners just to keep the filters down.
in the early afternoon i noticed a fly parked on the filter. obviously drawn to the smell, i didn't think much of it since the meat were securely sandwiched inside and insects couldn't get to it. i went outside anyway to shoo the fly away. the topmost filter had bits of leaves and twigs blown onto it from the wind. that's when i noticed something peculiar. it looked like a little smudge of what appeared to be pollen grains. that they would stick to the cardboard frame of the filter like that was most unusual. that's when i realized they were actually fly eggs. after the initial revulsion, i picked off the eggs with a stick.
they don't teach you this in jerky school, but one of the reasons you don't dehydrate jerky outdoors is it tends to attract animals big and small. maybe in late autumn i could dehydrate on my deck without any problems, but not when there's still bugs outside. the one saving grace was even under ideal conditions, fly eggs wouldn't hatch until about a day later. my jerky would be long done by then. the blowing fan would also dry the eggs (as well as my jerky), killing everything in the process.
so it goes without saying that i was forced to relocate back inside the house. i set up the box fan dehydrator as close to the screen door as possible, then ran another fan blowing out to the door to keep out the jerky smell.
throughout the day i kept an eye on the jerky. in the late afternoon i tried a small piece. very tender, spicy, and tastes pretty much the way it smells, but not as bad as i thought. it definitely has a smokey flavor courtesy of the teaspoon of liquid smoke. it still needed some more hours to completely dry.
the rain never did arrive but the winds continued to pick up as the tree branches sighed loudly outside. it seemed to be lost cause trying to blow the smell outwards since the winds kept blowing it all back inside.
i finally decided to pull the plug on the jerky machine close to 11:00, after about 14 hours' worth of dehydration action. i couldn't really tell how dry it was supposed to be, but there was still a bit of glisten on some of the jerky pieces. my roommate tried a piece earlier and said it was good. i bottled the jerky into empty pickle jars, a layer per jar (a total of 2 jars). i'm already searching for my next jerky recipe.
so was it worth it, after all that work? the jerky was okay, but not so good that i'd want to make my own jerky from now on. the more i eat though, the more that homemade jerky begins to grow on me. i love how spicy it is, you'd never find this level of hotness in a store bought jerky. i'm hoping a different recipe will improve the flavor and make me a convert for life.
one thing i could never do was wrap the filters to the box fan with bungee cords and prop up the fan to a window to ventilate outwards. maybe if i layered the meat inside the accordion folds of the filters that'd be possible, but using the screen technique, the jerky would all fall out if i pushed the fan vertical. the only way i can do it is laying flat horizontally, but since i can't do it outside (because of the bugs), jerky making means stinking up the house. it's okay if you like the smell of cured meats, but it's not for me. but with my double fan setup, after i was done, there was zero residual odor.
pau came home before 8:00, just so he could catch the latest episode of the big bang theory (CBS). normally during that timeslot i'd be watching my favorite comedy community (NBC) but for the sake of roommate solidarity i watch big bang. i heated up can of campbell soup for dinner and ate directly from the small pot. afterwards, pau went to the kitchen to make dinner. i heard him whistling, then later he was pumping soul music from his laptop. while watching a documentary on columbus, i asked him if people back in spain celebrate his birthday as a holiday (no they don't). i always knew columbus as an italian who discovered the new world for spain, but pau said back at home they consider columbus a spaniard of catalan heritage (based on the fact that colom is a catalan surname).
it's true: the more homemade jerky i eat, the better it gets! it has a very complex flavor. the saltiness comes from the soy and worcestershire sauce, but the worcestershire also adds a level of savoriness. i might want to cut back on the worcestershire, or try a better brand (french's is 99¢ a bottle, while the more name brand lea & perrins with sells close to $4 a bottle). there's also that smokey flavor. i already mentioned it's spicy, a combination of vietnamese chili garlic sauce and crushed hot peppers. probably the chili garlic sauce did more to spice things up, but the pepper flakes stick to the jerky and bring a burst of additional hotness when eaten. i could probably add even more fresh ground pepper next time, which also contributes to the spice quotient. 2 things i couldn't taste though: the garlic powder nor any of the honey sweetness. maybe i'll add more honey next time and instead of old garlic powder, i might try some finely chopped fresh garlic. final verdict: a success!