Randy St. Claire and His Jerky
Not to overcook things on the jerky front, but as long as I came all the way down here, figured I might as well ask Nats pitching coach Randy St. Claire about his world famous Spring Training Deer Jerky.
(One rival media employee said vegetarians should be prohibited from writing about jerky, but it's the attraction of The Other at play here. Vegetarians write about meat, the Nats brass talks incessantly about the Braves' success, same thing.)
So Randy St.Claire has been hunting deer since he was a little kid, making it into jerky for more than a decade, and bringing said jerky to Lost in Space Coast Stadium for seven years. He agreed with Manny Acta that much of the magic is in the marinade--"the secret's in the sauce baby, the sauce," St. Claire said--but he refused without negotiation to divulge any hints about his recipe.
"I can't do that, if I do that I'd have to kill you," he said, which might be a cliche but which resonated when the topic was dead things. "It's my own little concoctions, you know?"
One deer could yield far more than nine vacuum packs, but St. Claire--who cleans his own meat--also carves steaks and roasts and stew meat out of his kills. He brought nine vacuum packs of jerky to Viera this year, but said he could bring far more than that and still not satisfy demand.
"If I brought in eight packages today, it'd all be gone," he said. "Players, coaches, everybody loves it. So I bring in a pack, they crush it, then I'll wait for a few days. It's very good for you. One of the leanest meats you can eat. There's very very little fat in deer and elk."
"Bergy's had some," St. Claire said, as Jason Bergmann walked by.
"What, good starts?" Bergmann asked.
"Venison, Bergy," St. Claire said, and while Bergmann agreed that he'd tasted the jerky, he thought he had never tried venison. Some confusion, here. Indeed, Acta referred to it as "beef jerky" several times. That's a whole different animal.
Anyhow, to make proper deer jerky, St. Claire marinates the meat for a few days, turning it every hour to get the flavors balanced, then rotates the meat hourly once the dehydrating begins. It also requires proper butchering.
"Deer meat is different than cow meat, it isn't loaded with fat, ok?" St. Claire said. "Beef is very greasy and fatty. You've got to really take care of it, you've got to clean it all, debone it all. Venison fat is NOT very appetizing. It's like a lard, it sticks to anything and everything. So you really have to clean the meat really well and keep all the fat off. If you don't, it doesn't leave a good taste in your mouth. You've got to take care of it, and butchers don't spend that kind of time on it."
Acta said the jerky was a Spring Training tradition, and I asked St. Claire whether deer jerky was particularly appropriate for this weather and this place.
"Oh yeah," he said. "It goes well any place."
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