Me get back to roots with cooking

Eating little beyond meat and fish, non-cereal plants and spices can tax the ingenuity of the mighty homo sapiens, even in this age of supermarkets.

My culinary education in just the past few days has included:

Making jerky for the first time ever. I borrowed a friend’s dehydrator (thanks, Pat) and bought two cheap steaks   — a cross rib “simmering steak” and an outside round “marinating steak.” By remarkable coincidence each cost $4.24 each for 389 grams (that’s 13.7 ounces).

After trimming them into jerky-like strips as per instructions in Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet, I prepared a rub like so:

• 2 tbsp. ea. crushed mustard seed, crushed peppercorns, Spanish paprika
• 2 tsp. ea. cayenne pepper, turmeric, chili flakes

The beef took about six hours of drying before it transformed into jerky. I set the dehydrator up in my computer room as my fiancée had feared the process would fill our small townhouse with meat-stink. In actual fact it was the aroma of pepper that took over my little work-den.

The jerky is surprisingly good for a first attempt, easily the equal of some store brands and without the salt. I’m quite proud of myself.

In case you’re wondering why jerky is caveman-like, I’m assuming real paleolithic people figured out that they could dry meat out if kept above a fire on some sort of rack. Correct me if I’m wrong.

• Later I made my own blueberry sauce. I had a large surplus of berries, which threatened to rot on me if I didn’t do something with them.. I made the sauce by just heating up a bunch of blueberries with water and adding a small touch of honey to sweeten it a little. Easy. Should make a good glaze for salmon.

Again, I’m assuming our clever hunter-gatherer ancestors had ways of keeping their food surpluses from going to waste. (I suppose I could have made a gift of blueberries and beef to my neighbours, but they would have found that a little odd.)

•  Finally, another first: I blew $3.80 on a small package of Ontario-grown Jerusalem artichokes —  I believe roots are good cave-food based on my recent habit of skimming of academic anthropology papers for clues about what early man ate.

I slathered turnips and the Jerusalem artichokes with a judicious spoonful of lard (using animal fat being the practice of some paleos), then sprinkled them with thyme and pepper and roasted at 400 Farenheit for about an hour.

The result was much tastier than potatoes, and went well with the turkey balls — that is, turkey meatballs — I had with it. I’ll be adding Jerusalem artichokes to my regular diet now, especially as they’re apparently the specialty of farms not far from Toronto.

All in all, I feel like I’m back in university learning to cook all over again. Even while I’m quite busy with the rest of my life, it’s fun. Luckily cooking is what I do to relax.

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4 Responses to “Me get back to roots with cooking”

  1. You should look up the specific carbohydrate diet. What you’re doing isn’t so revolutionary. And the books/recipes might help you out.

  2. Re jerky: They used the sun to dry their meat. Native Americans were big on this. They then pounded the jerky with rocks to turn it into powder and mixed it with rendered suet (which would have been done over the fire). Properly made this pemmican has been found to last 100 years. Proper making means you have to have absolutely no moisture. I’ve made it. I’ve kept some sitting around at room temperature for a year with no problem. Rendering suet is a time consuming mess. Canadians can buy pemmican from http://canawa.com/

    In African the traditional dried meat is called Biltong.

  3. Adam –

    Sounds like you are right on track. Another form of cooking you might explore for a great Paleo/Primal meal is with the use of a crock pot or slow cooker. Toss some meat in, add veggies, some broth, turn to low and by the time you get home from work, the food is ready to go and extremely juicy.

    I find when I cook, like you, that its very relaxing. Great time to turn on some music, unwind, focus on the food and maybe sip some wine.

    Congrats on the Jerky. If being a journalist should ever go south, you might have found a new calling?

  4. I could definitely feel your passion for cooking in your words. I love the challenge aspect of cooking, too, and exploring the science. Sometimes I realize how much I’ve learned about how a certain ingredient is going to react to certain cooking methods or with other ingredients, and it fuels me to explore more.

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