Humans have salted, dried and smoked meat since as far back as the Ancient Egyptian times, if not longer. While it’s been known by many names in many cultures throughout history, the American “jerky” comes from decedents of the ancient Inca empire in South America. The Peruvian Quecha Indians called their dried meat “ch’arki,” a name that Spanish Conquistadors brought with them as they continued their invasion into what is now the western United States in the mid-1500s.
The conquistadors passed the Quecha Indians’ term onto their northern neighbors, which North American Indian tribes pronounced more closely to our modern “jerky.” And while the name and pronunciation of jerky evolved over the centuries, the basic methods of salting, drying and smoking meat of all types have remained very much all these years later.
The Importance of Fish Jerky
The diets and societies of the Native Nations of the Pacific Northwest revolved around sea life and they continue to define themselves as Salmon People. Salmon is still a part of their spiritual and cultural identity and is considered a gift from the Creator that is celebrated in special ceremonies every year.
For Pacific Northwest tribes in particular, fish jerky was simply a way of life before modern refrigeration. As a purely practical matter, preserving freshly-caught salmon, trout and other local fish was necessary to keep them good for later consumption or trade. Smoking fish was a simple – and delicious – way to safely preserve the day’s catch. In interacting with Native Americans, early American pioneers and western cowboys learned and adopted their fish jerky methods. As the American West grew in population and beef jerky became an American staple, fish jerky has remained a treasured treat in the West.
Fish Jerky FAQs
Now that you know a little about the history of fish jerky in the United States, we’ll get into a few of the questions we often receive from our fish jerky lovers.
What fish is best for jerky?
Just as with any other meat, any type of fish can be made into fish jerky. When it comes to the best fish for jerky – it ultimately comes down to personal preference. The tribes in the Pacific Northwest were partial to salmon jerky; in part, because it was so plentiful and in part because the thickness of its flesh makes it perfect for smoking. Ahi tuna and rainbow trout are also popular types of fish jerky, as they also taste delicious when hickory smoked.
How long does fish jerky last?
How long fish jerky lasts depends entirely on how the jerky is made.
Smoked Fish Jerky
Smoked fish jerky is very flavorful but isn’t the most effective method if you’re looking for long-term storage. When refrigerated, smoked fish jerky is good for up to three weeks; when left out, smoked fish jerky will spoil after about three days. In our opinion, we’d trade a longer shelf life for better flavor any day.
Dehydrated Fish Jerky
Dehydrating fish is a simple, if less-tasty, way to make fish jerky that lasts a bit longer than smoked fish jerky. When done correctly, dehydrated fish jerky can last for a few weeks out of the refrigerator and up to two months when refrigerated.
Can you make fish jerky at home?
Yes! There are tons of fish jerky recipes on the internet – some very simple, others less so. Some fish jerky recipes require special equipment (such as a smoker or dehydrator) while others opt for more low-tech methods. All-in-all, making your own fish jerky at home can be a fun challenge.
If you’d rather skip the hassle and get straight to the good stuff, Mountain America Jerky delivers all the hickory-smoked goodness you could dream of in our handmade fish jerky.
When I lived in Alaska we would stop off at a few Native villages along the river and trade some of our stuff for their salmon…not as salty as the salmon sold here. Wish I could find that…any chance less salty?
Salmon fresh out from Alaska sounds hard to beat! I am sorry you find ours salty. Salt is used as a preservative. We will consider adjusting our ratios.