Jerky was initially introduced by the South American (Peru) indigenous tribe called the Quechua (part of the ancient Inca Empire) in 1550. The merchandise (Ch’arki), was boned and defatted meat (deer, elk, or buffalo) cut into pieces and garnished with salt. This meat has been rolled up in the creature’s hide for 10-12 hours and then sun dried or smoked over flames.
In South America, the Native Americans ate sun-dried venison and buffalo called tassajo, which was created with strips of beef dipped in maize flour, sun and wind dried, then tightly rolled up into chunks.
Folklore has it that African tribesmen would put strips of venison under the saddles of the horses to tenderize and spice up the meat! Seasoning became a blend of vinegar, sugar, salt, coriander and other spices.
As the Spanish came, the name evolved into charqui. During sea exploration and colonization, the Spanish sailors carried the pacific islands with goats. What could not be eaten could then be cut into strips and hung in their boats to air dry. When the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Americas, they were amazed to observe the natives of North America drying meat also. Soon, the natives embraced the Spanish term, Charqui, just adding their emphasis; the word”jerky” first was.
North American Pioneers would dry meat by hanging it on the outside of the covered wagon sun drying (2-3 times ). Another method was to create a scaffold on a slow flame and smoke the strips. While the smoke and heat would finish the process in half a day, the smoking method required a stopover; it was not long before awareness for germs and disease became widespread and smoking became the standard.
Today jerky is made of thin strips of just about any meat or from chopped or ground and shaped meat.