In a church kitchen in Longmeadow, a local revolution in beef jerky is under way.
The jerky of my childhood was usually bought on a whim at a “Quickie Mart” on a long road trip, or found at camping supply shops and stashed in a backpack. It was also likely made from beef of indeterminate origin.
The two families behind King Cow Jerky might not go so far as to call their product “artisanal” but they are proud to use local grass-fed beef and have developed their jerky recipes to show it off.
A few years ago, Bob Wool and a friend were offered the opportunity to purchase a quarter of a cow from Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne. When the meat was delivered the men knew exactly what to do with the steaks and ground meat in their order. But the larger, tougher braising and roasting cuts were a different story. Bob’s son Ezra suggested that they make beef jerky as a delicious way to use it up.
And so a business was born. Bob and Ezra started making jerky at home as a hobby and found that family and friends were begging for more. They teamed up with another father-and-son team, comprised of Michael Scuderi and his sons Michael and Joseph, found an approved commercial kitchen at St. Anthony’s Church in Longmeadow, and started selling King Cow Jerky at the Forest Park Farmers’ Market in Springfield in late summer 2012.
Since then, their product line has expanded to include three flavors: the original honey chipotle, teriyaki, and sesame ginger. Each flavor comes about after tinkering with flavor ideas. The first flavor, honey chipotle, was developed after Bob and Ezra went out looking for liquid smoke (a common ingredient in most commercial jerky) and found smoky chipotle peppers instead. As avid campers, the Scuderi family had been making their own jerky for a while, and brought additional recipes and a lot of experience to the team.
No matter the final flavor, each batch of jerky follows the same process. Once a month the team picks up 150 to 200 pounds of beef from Wheel-View Farm. They bring it into their kitchen and start by slicing it into thin strips. The beef is then put into a highly flavored marinade for 24 hours. It’s then put into the dryers for about eight hours to make its final transformation into jerky. The drying process removes excess liquid and makes the jerky safe to store at room temperature for as long as eight months. Each batch of beef results in about 50 to 75 pounds of beef jerky. Then team packages each batch into one- and two-and-a-half-ounce bags for sale.
At the time we go to press, you can find King Cow Jerky at Wheel-View Farm (Shelburne), All Things Local Coop (Amherst), and at the Forest Park Market (Springfield), the Otis Farmers’ Market and the Mass Mutual Farmers’ Market (Enfield, CT). Bob assures us all that they are working on setting up online ordering as well as getting more distribution locations in place.
For more information, visit KingCowJerky.com.