Fun with meat
Local duo market home-style jerky with wicked humor
“People knew the Jerky Kid for months before the Jerky Gurls even existed,” explained Anna House, half of the duo known as The Jerky Gurls, who sell quality home-style beef jerky (or “boutique meat,” as they like to call it) by delivery or from their headquarters at The Tackle Box.
It all began, she continued, when her son, Zachariah, was upset over the cancellation of a field trip to San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences. In an effort to raise funds, the then-Citrus School sixth-grader begged his mom to make 1,000 of his favorite treats—“cowboy cookies”—to aid fundraising efforts.
House managed a dozen, and things were looking pretty grim when longtime friend (House calls her an unofficially adopted sister) Marcellene Joiner suggested they sell jerky. She fired up a dehydrator, dusted off an old family teriyaki recipe and—with the younger House’s exceptional salesmanship—they managed to raise $800 toward the effort.
But it didn’t stop when the students finally made it to San Francisco. The women kept getting requests for jerky, and budding capitalist Zachariah kept expanding operations. It got to the point where House and Joiner realized they had to legitimize their venture.
The women became licensed meat-processing inspectors through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA, baby!” Joiner emphasizes with a cheer and a little bounce when the words are mentioned), and rented kitchen space, first at Cabana Café at In Motion Fitness and now at The Tackle Box.
With an—ahem—decidedly different marketing strategy than what their G-rated foundation might’ve suggested, the Jerky Gurls were born. Their pink website is rife with double-entendres, from their main logo—“Your Mouth Needs Our Meat!”—on down to merchandising (one T-shirt proudly proclaims “We Jerk It For You … So You Don’t Have To!”).
“It’s a little kitschy and a little risqué, but we think it’s funny,” Joiner said. “We just love to have a good time and make people laugh, and at least a solid 95 percent of the people we meet get it.”
It was hard not to get it while sitting with the Gurls and sampling their jerky at The Tackle Box. The conversation was light, entertaining and peppered with movie references (The Big Lebowski figured most prominently). The one thing they’re dead serious about, however, is the quality of product.
The jerky is made from lean, hand-sliced cuts of premium meat, jerked and seasoned with their own special mixes of all-natural flavors and spices. No MSG, nitrates or preservatives are added. They make fresh batches anticipating their regular orders at the beginning of each week, with more made daily to satisfy further requests. Any jerky around too long for them to feel comfortable selling is donated to the Jesus Center or other local organizations.
“One of the things we learned getting licensed is that all of the big-brand jerky you buy is a minimum of six months old, because of the manufacturing and packaging process,” House said. “That grossed us out.”
The women said they don’t bulk up their dehydrator or take any other shortcuts, babysitting each individual slice through the entire process. “We could probably work less if we weren’t so big on living up to our own standards,” House said.
To date, the Jerky Gurls offer four regular flavors, based on family recipes and their own experimentation. The Outrageously Original (this reporter’s favorite) is a succulent mix of garlic, peppers and other spices. The Tempting Teriyaki is the first flavor they made back in the Jerky Kid days, and the day we met they were also testing a spicy teriyaki.
Bringing the heat is the Spit Fire, a blazing blend of five peppers—habanero, jalapeño, siracha, red and black. The sticky-to-the-touch Sweet Summer Heat has become what Joiner described as their signature flavor, likening the taste to barbecued ribs with a kick of spice. Every piece was tender, fresh and delicious.
As for future plans, the hard-jerkin, hard-jokin’ duo would like to get a bigger dehydrator and more customers, whom they refer to as “friends we haven’t met yet.”
“We’ve met so many people and have such a good time,” House said.
“It’s like a party on wheels,” Joiner added.