I admit that one of the flavors I kind of miss as a Vegetarian is jerky. Sort of like I do with bacon, there are alternatives to still enjoy this taste. When I think back on eating jerky it really was the texture and spices that made the meal, not necessarily the meat. Jerky can easily be adapted into a vegetarian version using eggplant and a number of different vegetables. I have found that eggplant has the best chewy and crunchy flavor that tends to be the best vegetable for jerky.
A food dehydrator is the best way to make this but if you don't have one an oven on the lowest setting will also work. It takes about 8 hours for the jerky to cure at a low temperature of about 160. With a food dehydrator I am comfortable leaving it on all night or even when I'm away from the house whereas I don't like to leave ovens on unattended, but that's just me.
This is super easy to make and makes a great healthy snack. It's also GREAT for hikes when you need a little snack.
You will need:
- 1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
- 3 TBSP Olive Oil (I use a garlic flavored)
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Regular or applewood-smoked salt
- 1 TBSP. soy sauce
- 1 Tsp liquid smoke
- a few dashes of cayenne for a spicy version (optional)
Slice the eggplant with skin still on about 1/4 inch thick. You can leave them as rounds or cut lengthwise to make crescent shapes. You can also just cut them lengthwise to make longer strips.
Mix the jerky ingredients and mix with the eggplant. Cover and let this marinate for about 2-3 hours. The eggplant will soak up the sauce and become light brown in color.
Place on dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 145-160 for about 8 hours. Some pieces will be crunchy and others will have a chewy texture when done.
Store in a plastic zip bag with a folded paper towel to absorb any excess oil. These will keep for weeks if they even last that long. Mine never do!
I have yet to give these to meat eaters but have no doubt that they would enjoy them as much as I do!