i ended up with 9 stacks of paper-toweled jerky. the thicker marinade clung to the strips stubbornly and i ended up using half a fresh roll of towels. this was also the most amount of beef i'd ever used (nearly 4 lbs), and i was concerned that there wouldn't be enough space on the racks to properly dry everything. i began laying out the jerky onto a single rack (AKA screen over a large square air filter); by the time i finished with 4 layers of jerky, the 20x20x1" rack was already near capacity. in the end the racks were super crowded, but i still managed to get all the pieces on.
the jerky-ladened filters were heavy enough that i had to use 2 hands to lift up them up and onto the box fan waiting on the floor. i used the same setup as the past few times, box fan running near the open door with another fan blowing the smell out. instead of medium power, i cranked the box fan to high. by then it was 9:30. let the dehydration begin!
the weather was too nice to stay indoors. i left the house around 1:00 to visit castle island in south boston. my last visit was 10 years ago, when i met julie to do a run (i didn't bring a camera, so there were no photos). i figured it'd be interesting to see the harbor from that vantage point, since i saw it from deer island just yesterday.
i ran into my neighbor franz, who was tying up some bands of scrap metal to the roof of his SUV. "you know that bike that's usually locked right next to yours?" he asked, "it got stolen." it was a blue bianchi and belonged to his upstairs neighbor deb. i had noticed that i haven't seen the bike in a few days. she used a simple cable lock, which the thief must've been able to cut with a bolt cutter. other than the brand, it wasn't a particularly noteworthy ride, not sure why anyone would want to steal it. it also brought close to home that there are thieves out there prowling the streets looking for bikes to steal.1 my own bike was locked right next to hers but the thief didn't take it. not good enough? but i'll take wounded pride over stolen bicycle any day. it's also because i use a better lock, a thick strand of cable wrapped between the wheels and then locked to the frame and signpost with a u-lock. my bike has an ugly amount of rust on the handlebars, which don't look very appealing (but a deterrent to theft). i feel bad for deb, but hopefully she can find some cheap ride on craig's list.
i thought about bicycling to castle island, but for the sake of time, motorcycling was the only way to go. besides, i've neglected my motorcycle for so long, i was due for a ride. i actually wasn't looking forward to it, dwelling on the dangers of high speeds, the hassle of parking, waiting for traffic lights. but after a few minutes on the motorcycle, all that was forgotten. the motorcycle empowers the rider with a tremendous sense of freedom. unencumbered by the chassis of a car, it feels like flying on the road. dangerous? of course, but that's why there are traffic laws to make it less so. there are more dangers on a bicycle (although most of them won't kill you). the motorcycle also has speeds which a bicycle can't match. why don't i ride more? i thought to myself as i made my way into south boston.
midway in cambridge i stopped to get some gas at the hess station. arriving in boston, i passed by haymarket, which was weird, because normally i'd be stopped and picking up some groceries. even if i could find parking, there was no way for me to carry anything back. i kept on going.
that no-man's-land between south station and the boston design center has gentrified since my last visit (four point channel? marine industrial park? not sure what to call it). this was the only time i yearned to be on a bicycle, since it'd be easier to stop and take photos (maybe next time). to get to castle island was pretty easy, a straight shot down summer street and take a left at the pink power plant.
castle island was crowded: a lot of seniors, a lot of children, a lot of joggers. the nearby parking lot was full, but there was still plenty of free curbside parking down the stretch of beachfront shoreline. the name hints that the place was an island at some point, before a large cargo dock was built that linked it to the mainland. castle island is dominated by the "castle" of fort independence, a pentagon-shaped fortress that's only opened to the public on certain special days and for guided tours. castle island sits next to pleasure bay, a circular body of water that you can walk all the way around. inner bay is a beach, while kids take boating classes in the protected waters. another notable feature: since logan airport sits directly north, planes are constantly flying overhead (just like at deer island).
i made my way to the fishing pier, where men camped out with their rods waiting for a bite. this was also the side of castle island closest to deer island. i was just there yesterday, i thought to myself as i looked across the water. "i like your t-shirt," i heard someone say to me. i turned around and saw a fat southeast asian boy. it took me a while to make the connection, until i realized i had on a cambodian t-shirt. turns out he and 2 other friends were cambodian. when i asked him if he ever goes back, he said no. i didn't quite get it until he told me he was actually born in the US, and never visited cambodia before. sitting next to them was an older asian man, also southeast asian looking, but turned out he's actually vietnamese. i had a lengthy chat with him. i thought maybe he was their chaperone, but they actually didn't know each other. hie was his name. he came to boston in 1982 age 20, supposedly to go to school but instead decided to work in the hotel industry. his last job was at the charles hotel in harvard square, but he got into a work-related accident and has been collecting disability checks for the past 3 years ($1400/month). so in his spare time (which is a lot) he comes out here fishing. the biggest one he ever caught here was a 48" cod. he just got back from a 6-month trip to south vietnam, where he's originally from. he was married once, and even has a college-aged son here in boston. he told me he couldn't read or write, but that wasn't entirely true, maybe not at a high school level, but probably just as much as my own parents. he has a girlfriend of several years but he doesn't want to live together because he enjoys his independence. i liked talking with him, he had a certain scrappy street smartness.
i couldn't make out any lighthouses from castle island, other than the long island head light hidden in the trees. i bought along a harbor islands map but the only ones i could make out were long island (restricted-access) and spectacle island.
i circled around pleasure bay as far as head island before turning back. i didn't want to be stuck in boston during rush hour and i still wanted to visit chinatown.
i left the same way i came in. at south station i took a left into chinatown, and my way to ming's market on the corner of east berkeley and washington, just across the turnpike. i passed by chinatown cafe and thought about getting some spicy porkchops but decided against it since i couldn't easily carry it back home. at ming's i bought some thai curry ingredients, including some lemon grass and eggplants, as well as a bag of longans ($5 for a 10 lbs bag). i emptied out my camera bag to carry the small stuff (slung the camera across my shoulder) while the bigger stuff i strapped to the back of the motorcycle with a bungie netting.
i returned down berkeley street, across back bay to storrow drive. arriving home, i ran into bruce who was on his way to the pie place looking for some savory meat pies for dinner.
i got a chance to further inspect the crate of curbage i found last night on the street corner across from my house. i knew there was a food processor, but the shiny silvery thing with the base i thought it might be one of those propane-burning cooking lantern. turns out that was just an old waring blender. as for the food processor, another cuisinart. it didn't even have any on/off buttons; it turned on when the 7-cup work bowl was secured into place. it only came with a chopping/mixing blade and a dough blade. the stainless steel blender had some surface rust that i cleaned off easily with some WD-40 and steel wool, making it look brand new. there was no way to secure the glass pitcher, it basically sat on the base held in place with 4 rubber prongs. even with the pitcher off, the spindle on the base still spun. nothing else seemed to be broken but i didn't try blending anything. i didn't need any of these appliances. instead of tossing them back out onto the street (where they might get damaged in the rain), i thought maybe i could donate them to the goodwill store in davis square.
for dinner i heated up a brick of stouffer frozen lasagna in the oven for an hour.
i finally stopped the fan by 10:00 after nearly 12 hours of dehydrating. maybe it was the dry summer weather, or the fan speed set on high, or a combination of both, but the jerky was dried to perfection, and didn't need to be baked in the oven. however i baked it at 180° for about an hour just to render off some of the dried fat and also as a safety precaution to kill any remaining microbes (though i don't think anything could've survived 12 hours of high speed drying).
i ended up with 3 jars of beef jerky. i couldn't really taste the additional honey, and i might've added too much sichuan pepper corns. the thicker worcestershire sauce didn't hurt the final result, just made the towel-drying phase a little longer. next time i really ought to try a different recipe, since i make the same sort of jerky all the time. but if a recipe works and people like it, why change?
1 a few years back a red scooter was stolen from the other end of the street. the owner secured it with heavy duty chain, which was impenetrable; so instead the thief cut the wheel in half and took the rest of the scooter.