I have always loved to barbecue. I guess you could say, in a way, I am known for it. Of course, we cook all the traditional stuff such as hamburgers and hot dogs but throughout the years pork chops, steaks, poultry and even a turkey have all been ways that the family has celebrated meals on the grill together. I have also done pulled pork and barbecue ribs, as well as many other things on the grill – awesome!
We have had all kinds of grills since Janet and I were first married. We have tried charcoal, propane and natural gas. During the summers, we grill almost every night and five or six years ago, I learned how to make beef jerky. All the kids and grandchildren love it, but with the natural gas grills, it is really an act of love to make good jerky. It takes a long time, demands constant attention and the turning, as well as the rearranging, of racks of beef throughout the process. Additionally, gas grills really cook too hot and that creates another problem for the beef jerky aficionado.
The end product is good but I have to say that there is so much work, I rarely make it. Then things changed. Recently, right before Christmas, Janet and I decided to invest in a large smoker to make the process much easier. We also use the smoker for other things, but beef jerky is the family favorite and so far this year, I have processed more than 35# of beef, turning it into the family’s favorite snack.
In order to make good beef jerky, it must be cured so it doesn’t spoil very quickly. Most of the recipes that I have used include a salt cure as well as a packet of spices to impart various flavors – such as hickory, teriyaki or other favorites. Since the first of the year, we have actually named our smoker “Scotty’s Smokehouse.” It started out as kind of a joke, but we had to have an identifying name for the wifi connection so I could track the progress of each cook from my cell phone. The name stuck!
As the various recipes have become more complex, I have noticed that it is necessary for me to learn how to cure meats with salt so I can create my own spice recipes. My first attempt, this past Friday afternoon, was a real failure. In fact, earlier tonight, I threw out what was left from the batch. Friday, I even called the Morton Salt Company in Chicago to see if I had made a mistake or if there is something I can do differently in the future.
I learned quite a bit from their customer service department on the use of salt to cure meats. In fact, they taught me that there are recipes that call for curing meat in salt for many days at a time. My first attempt was only for a day but it didn’t work out so well. The instructions said that I was to rinse the jerky before I cooked it, but the result was horrible. It had no taste whatsoever. Whatever the salt had added to the taste was instantly gone when the salt was washed off. I know first hand what it means for salt to lose its saltiness!
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Bible and all the references to salt – and that Jesus expects us to be the salt of the earth. What exactly does that mean for us? Well, salt has been used as a preservative for many generations and it adds taste to food.
The idea that we are the salt of the earth goes to the idea that we are to show people the unconditional love of Christ through good deeds. In other applications, it can describe any good, fundamental person. We call such a person the “salt of the earth.” So, the concept of being salt is that we are to help others learn about and be exposed to Jesus.
Our verse for tonight is from the Gospel of Matthew. The apostle tells us, in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” The experience I had at the end of last week was living proof that salt that had lost its saltiness was worthless, it had to be thrown out – exactly what I did with my recipe failure.
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to be the salt and light of the earth. We are to be active in leading people to the knowledge of Jesus and how His involvement in our lives can make all the difference. Without salt, life loses its taste and our lives would become bland if we had to do without. My prayer is that all believers will choose to be active as salt and light in the earth. Life has so much more flavor when it has saltiness – and so does beef jerky! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…