En route to Sacramento from Oregon House this afternoon after updating myself on the ways and wines of Renaissance Winery, the subject of a future Dunne on Wine column in The Bee, I stopped at the roadside Tuff Stuff Jerky Company.
This was my first visit in more than 13 years. I like jerky, but just don't get to Yuba County much. At that time, I met the owner, Jim Fletcher, and his son Brad, who was in the back tending the smoker. "There's nothing to making jerky. You just start with a big piece of meat and end with a little piece," Jim Fletcher said at the time. He founded the business in 1986.
Jim Fletcher died in 1995, and Brad was killed in a car wreck in 2001. Jim's wife, Betty, leased out the place for awhile but then got it back and not only has resumed making jerky with Jim's original recipe she's been adding all sorts of new flavors of her own creation. "Chardonnay teriyaki jerky," anyone? Or how about "sweet chipotle jerky," the newest member of her lineup? Aside from the novel flavors, she's continuing to make jerky pretty much as her husband and their son made it, without nitrates and MSG, starting with strips of lean top round and a wood-fired smoker.
While isolated - Tuff Stuff is along Marysville Road about 20 miles northeast of Marysville - it looks to be prospering, in part for all the hunters, fishers and other recreationists zipping through the area, and in part for her extended product line, which now also includes flavored nuts, marinades, jams and the like. Jerky, however, still is the main draw.
Tuff Stuff Jerky Company, 7155 Marysville Road, Browns Valley, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Jerky and other products also can be ordered through Tuff Stuff's Web site.