Beef jerky makes me think of cowboys and campfires, of high-plains drifters sitting under a starry sky while staring at a cast iron pot and tugging on a whiskey flask.
But lately, a trip to Sam's Quik Shop in Durham for beer is not complete for me until I leave with a pack of the savory stuff, made by a company of local upstarts called Two Brothers. It's the brainchild of Columbia, South Carolina's Eddie Wales and Durham's Paul Brock, two brothers who were given up for adoption and raised by different families but who found each other decades later. Aside from shared DNA, they also discovered a mutual love of meat that has been dried, dehydrated or smoked in low heat in order to prevent spoilage. It is a quick, lightweight, infinitely mobile source of protein and an excellent source of fuel, which is why it became popular on the range and trail.
But this ain't your great grandpappy's jerky: Two Brothers' jerky starts off with grass-fed beef and comes in three intriguing flavors that represent the siblings' separate upbringings and eventual rendezvous. Meant to reflect "a spicy summer night in Columbia," Famously Hot's heat is tapered, so that those red chili flakes don't really hit you until the finale. Lime juice and honey help tone down the hotness, supplying a strange but welcoming citrus and sweetness to the meat. Bull City Original, meanwhile, embodies the smoky world of Durham, where you can find a long tradition of pit bosses and BBQs.
But Sweet Ginger Teriyaki, the last in Two Brothers' trio, is the prize. It's where the taste buds of two brothers become one. The ginger and soy co-conspire with a strong brown sugar note, producing hints of pineapple and garlic.
When I leave Sam's, not with a whiskey flask but with a six-pack, I make sure I've got some Sweet Ginger Teriyaki in hand. Despite the dusty old stereotype, it's an anytime-anyplace snack food. As the Two Brothers label puts its, summoning its fraternal story of fate, this should be the jerky "that brings people together."
Eat This is a recurring column about great new dishes and drinks in the Triangle. Had something you loved? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Meat up"