Jerked beef, or jerky, as it is colloquially called in the USA, is lean beef that has been cut into strips and dried in the sun. It is used as iron rations by hunters and the like, and has more recently taken on a role as a low-calorie sustainer for the weight-obsessed. When the term first entered the English language, it was as jerkin beef: John Smith wrote in his Map of Virginia (1612) ‘as drie as their ierkin beefe in the West Indies’. This was as close as the English could get to American Spanish charqui, which in turn was derived from the Quechua Indian word echarqui ‘long strips of dried meat’. It was in common use in Spanish America from the sixteenth century onwards, and through prolonged exposure the English had by the beginning of the eighteenth century arrived at a slightly closer approximation to the original in jerked beef.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.