Friday, November 18, 2011

The gift that gives back?

Just a couple of days ago I posted a comment on Facebook stating that I was making jerky, which come to think of it will be done by the time you read this!  Well, I had a flood of comments from friends wanting me to bring them some.  Don't read into this the wrong way, a lot of those friends will be getting some jerky...but I thought this was a good opportunity to share what I use to make my jerky.  These are some more items that I received as gifts that I thought I would share with y'all to give you some more Christmas ideas.  I guess this is a good place to mention that I am NOT advertising for these products right now, or any of the others I have shared.  These are things that I really like to use that I feel are worth sharing.

There's a few things that are vital to good jerky, other than the meat of course!  You can make it without a smoker, but a smoker makes it oh so good!  And then there is the seasoning or marinade.  This will make or break the jerky. 

So first, the smoker.  You can spend hundreds of dollars on a smoker/cooker, which yes, I would recommend if you have the money.  But if you are looking for a deal that gets the job done and is very reliable, check out the "Little Chief" smoker.  I have had mine for about 5 years and I love it!  I have a lot of family members that own one as well.  The smoker is a perfect size for about 2 pounds of jerky meat (it comes with the wire jerky racks) and is also large enough to hold a ham or turkey.  I use my smoker as a dehydrator for my jerky as well.  I only smoke it for about 30 minutes, but I leave the jerky in for about 12-15 hours and it turns out great.  It also comes with a pan for the wood chips, and an insulating blanket that you can wrap around it to aid in holding heat.  The Little Chief can be found in Cal Ranch and Ace sporting goods sections, as well as through Cabela's and Sportsman's Warehouse.  A quick "google" also revealed a ton of other vendors.  I found it priced today from $95 to $130...$130 being the more common price.  There are also 2 other sizes in the series, the "Mini Chief" (around $99) and the "Big Chief" (around $149).  These are electric smokers, very simple, very easy to operate. 

Now you are wondering, where do I get the wood to put in the smoker?  You can find the "Smokehouse" brand wood chips at the same stores listed above for just a few fact, a 4-bag variety pack is only $20.  I have a wide variety myself, but for my jerky I enjoy a mix of mesquite, cherry, and apple.  I know they also carry the chips in hickory and alder.  They are also available as "chips" (more of a shredded texture) and "chunks" (larger pieces).

Now most importantly , how should you season your jerky?  Well, there are tons of recipes out there, and I have to say that I have seldom tasted bad jerky!  In fact, I'm sure I will share a few recipes on this blog in the future.  If you are looking for an easy answer that produces excellent jerky, then I suggest the "Hi Mountain Jerky Seasoning and Cure."  I have used this stuff for years and I love it!  Apart from seasoning, the packages also include a "cure" which better preserves the meat.  Each box comes with a the cure, seasoning, a shaker, and very easy to follow instructions.  This brand has many flavors to choose from, you can buy them individually or as variety packs.  Individual packs are around $5 to $10.  The variety pack is about $20.  These are also available at the stores mentioned above.  My favorites are the Bourbon BBQ, Mesquite, and Cajun.  When I take the BBQ or Cajun to work, it is amazing how fast the bag disappears!  You've got to try it!  I like jerky a little on the hot side, and to do that I simply sprinkle it with crushed red pepper flakes.  My wife got me the variety pack for Christmas a couple of years ago and I have really enjoyed it!

So there you go!  All those freezers full of elk and deer meat, or maybe even beef...what a better way to get it used up!  As mentioned before, stay tuned for a few more jerky recipes to come!

Gear up for the ice!

Ok, I know it's a little early to start talking ice fishing...I'm not loosing my mind, I am aware the ice isn't that thick yet!  Truth be told I have been talking ice fishing with friends and family since the season ended this spring!  Last year was the best ice fishing I have seen in all my years of ice fishing.  You have to admit, it's not that far away!  Today I would like to share a quick story of my best ice fishing experience, as well as share a couple more cheap gift ideas!

On January 16th, 2011 my grandpa Marvin, Marc McLemore, Garret Sawyer, and I arrived at Fish Lake for another day on the ice.  We were joined  shortly after arriving by Devin McLemore and Tyson Torgerson, who also had a couple of friends with them.  The day began as normal, we began fishing in the weed line, catching perch to use as bait.  Perch fishing was good that day, we caught a good amount quickly then moved out to about 30 feet of water to target splake and rainbows.  Fishing was fair early in the day as normal, then began to slow around late morning.  As the fishing slowed I remember telling my grandpa, "I'm going to move out deeper to see if I can catch something bigger.  I just want to try, even if it doesn't happen."

Tyson Torgerson pulls him into daylight as Devin Mclemore watches
I drilled a hole in about 45-50 feet of water, dropped my tube jig tipped with perch, and began jigging about 10 feet under the ice.  Nothing.  I let some more line out, now about 15 feet under.  Jackpot!  I quickly landed a fat rainbow, about 2 pounds...I even recovered my bait!  I let the line out to about the same depth and began to jig again.  Another hit!  I jigged slower to try to coax a better bite and he hit it.  I began to reel and it popped off!  Devin was standing about 30 feet away, and I recall looking at him saying, "that was a good fish Devin.  I'm not sure how big, but it was a lot better than what we have been catching."  I quickly baited back up and dropped to the same depth.  As soon as I pulled up softly to jig he hit again!  I had him this time!  The fish began to run, the reel singing as he stripped the line.  I imagine I must have been shouting, when I looked up the whole group had gathered around to see.  The fight lasted about 5 minutes, as I knew I had a lunker on 8 pound line and did not want it to break.  He flashed by the hole and I knew he was a beauty!  Tyson reached in and pulled him up.  Yeah, this time I'm sure I was shouting, as I now had the attention of everyone on the lake. 

Eskimo "barracuda" auger and ice rod/reel comb
both purchased at Sportsman's Warehouse
 And what a catch it was!  37 1/2 inches, 13 1/2 pounds!  The fish was longer than my fishing rod!  At the time I had no idea, but if I would have released the fish I would have shattered the Utah catch and release record by nearly 12 inches! 

I think a lot of people think ice fishing is really tough and expensive, when in fact it is quite the opposite!  Ice is the great equalizer!  If you don't have a boat to get to that deep water, now the ice allows you that access!  Now lets talk gear.  You can find a variety of ice rod/reel combos for as low as $15.  You will find them in about every sporting goods store around here, as well as online from Cabela's or Sportman's Warehouse, in the $15-$40 range.  Ice augers can also be found at the same locations from $30 to $60 for manual augers.  If it's a gas powered auger you are looking for, you will be talking $150 to $500.  If you look around you can also find them for rent here and there.  I know the Otter Creek Marina/Store rents augers for a reasonable price.  I have used a $35 hand auger for years and have had no complaints.  Yes, we may be only to ice fish for a few months out of the year, but I'm telling you that an ice rod/reel combo is a great gift that any guy or gal would appreciate.  Even if it's just a few outings, ice fishing is a blast!  Most of the time it's not as cold as you would think (just avoid the breezy days if you take kids!)  It's a great family outing, take the kids, the sleds, and a thermos of hot chocolate then enjoy the day!

Last year three of us went in together on an Eskimo gas powered auger, and I have to say it was a great investment.  This year I hope to add an Eskimo 4-person shelter and a Humminbird "little buddy" fish locator to my ice fishing arsenal.  I'm hoping the shelter will allow me to take the kids more often!

Good luck, and remember to send us some pictures of your fish this upcoming season!