It seemed like quite a lot happened here in my little corner of the city yesterday. Just before my daughter and I left on our walk to school, there was a peal of thunder (it was warm-ish, with a weird yellow tint in the air) and then it hailed like mad: quarter-size balls of ice pounding on the roof, on the car, bouncing around on the sidewalk.

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Our poor dog was mortified, but by afternoon he’d recovered his wits enough to try to alert me to the fact that our jack-o’-lantern was being swiped right off our porch, but I didn’t believe him. And on my way to pick up Thalia at school, I saw a minivan full of teenagers tilt and skid to a stop as its whole front wheel came off and rolled across the street. An hour later, we found our pumpkin, abandoned in a yard down the street, too heavy or too rotted to carry any farther. Halfway across town, near where Thalia was having an evening swimming lesson, I saw the same minivan, still missing a wheel, on a tow truck parked in a turning lane on a side street. Thalia spent most of the rest of the night reading tidbits aloud from library books about the possibility (or not) of human contact with extraterrestrial life. Have a spooky, freaky Halloween, everyone.

In the midst of all the excitement (it’s relative) I was seized by a strange urge to dehydrate something, anything. I have an old hand-me-down dehydrator, a putty-colored Magic Aire II, with one switch that goes on and off. No temperature setting, no fan speed control, no extras, just eleven large plastic trays. And it works great. It does tend to heat up the room, though, so I only use it in fall and winter, and it stays in the basement—drying food usually smells pretty lovely, but it’s nice to be able to escape it easily.

 

This being beef country, I sliced some flank steak, threw together a marinade similar to the one below (the quantities listed are approximate, so if you’re making this yourself be sure to taste it before you add the meat—it should be very salty, a little sweet, and spicy), and put it in the refrigerator to soak overnight. After a few hours’ exposure to Magic Aire: jerky.

 

Maple-Chipotle Jerky

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of salt
1 flank steak, trimmed of all visible fat and thinly sliced with the grain

Combine all the ingredients except the steak in a resealable container and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the steak and turn to coat all the slices with the marinade. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate 8 hours or overnight. Lay out the slices on a dehydrator tray (spray the tray with oil first if it’s not nonstick) and dehydrate until very dry but still a tad pliable, not crisp or hard—this is about 4 1/2 hours in my old dehydrator.

Let the jerky cool completely, then put it in a clean, dry glass canning jar, put the lid on, and store at cool room temperature. It should keep a fairly long time—several months—but use your judgment: if anything looks, smells, or tastes weird after a while, toss it. I put a couple tablespoons of rice in the bottom of the jar just to absorb any excess moisture, the way you’d use a silica packet (“Do not eat”), but I’m not sure if it makes a difference.

Think maybe I’ll slice some apples, give them a quick soak in vitamin C water (Fruit Fresh), and dehydrate them, too!

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