Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bacon Freak - Ham Jerky - Peppered

Ham jerky has been growing in popularity as jerky manufacturers continue to search for something new and original to feed a market of meat snackers growing weary of the same old teriyaki beef. And in the course of going "one up" on the competition, manufacturers are trying to make their jerky more like real meat, making it easier to eat, and more moist. Such is the case of Bacon Freak.

Bacon Freak is a brand name belonging to Coastal Vineyards, Inc., a business that started out offering "wine of the month" clubs. It eventually branched out with a wide array of food clubs, such as "pasta of the month" and "jams of the month". But it was when they started "bacon of the month" that they hit upon something big. They pushed forward into the bacon theme by eventually offering a line of bacon jerky, as well as this line of ham jerky.

Most brands of ham jerkies are typically hard, dry, and lean, being more true to the definition of jerky. But Bacon Freak seems to be stretching it further by offering jerky that seems just like real meat, in all of its moistness and tenderness, but still keeping it chewy like jerky should be. It's perhaps more correct to call this kippered ham, but then again the word "kippered" always conjured up images of high-class society sipping tea with their pinky-fingers pointed out. "Jerky" is so much more working-class.

Ingredients

Ham, salt, sugar, brown sugar, pepper, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate.

Taste

The first taste I get from the surface is a strong smoky flavor, followed by a saltiness. A slight sweetness can also be found. Finally, the black pepper comes on strong. Moving into the chewing, much more of that saltiness leaches out followed by a strong ham flavor.

This actually does taste like real ham piece after piece. One thing I've noticed from other brands of ham jerky is that I eventually lost the unique flavor of ham after I ate several pieces, and ended up not being able to tell what kind of meat it was. But I think it's because this ham jerky from Bacon Freak is so moist, that it does a good job of retaining it's unique ham flavors.

The ham taste itself has a stronger smoky flavor than what I've tasted from the many hams I've bought from the grocery store. It also has a more "home made" taste, if you can imagine someone making and curing their own ham.

For being a peppered variety, there is certainly a decent dose of black pepper taste in this, but not a strong one. Each piece gives off a good taste, but that taste builds up over each piece and presents a strong black pepper aftertaste. I'd probably rate this as being "mild-medium" in terms of hot.

The saltiness in this is very strong. This package does not come with a nutrition facts, so I can't tell you how much is in here. But suffice to say it's got a stronger saltiness than what typical grocery store ham has. I think, however, this is only because it's ham jerky, and not sold as real ham.

Overall, the predominant taste in this is a tie between the natural ham flavors and the saltiness. The smoky aroma is perhaps the second most dominant flavor, followed by the black pepper. The sweetness is a distant fourth. I find this quite delicious, mostly for that "home made" ham taste.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be cuts of whole ham, sliced very thick, and in small pieces.

Again, it's very moist, pretty much to the point of being true ham, except not as tender. This ham jerky is actually much more tough to tear apart than true ham, which probably justifies calling it jerky. In fact, it's perhaps a little more tough than a Jack Link's beef jerky, but way more moist. But once you get a piece into your mouth, it chews fairly easily.

And being it's very moist, that moisture gets all over my fingers. But not just a moisture, also an oiliness. I think the vacuum-sealed package is drawing the oils up and out of the meat. The good deal of pepper on this jerky sticks to my fingers as well. This is a finger-licking jerky.

As evidenced in the photos below, there's a lot of fat on these pieces, which is probably on par with real ham, but way more fat that what the typical definition of jerky would allow. For the most part, that fat doesn't really get in the way of the taste simply because this jerky is more like real ham. However that one piece depicted below with a bunch of fat does provide a fatty flavor, which gave out a less-than-desirable flavor.

I did find bits of chewy tendon in a couple of pieces, but overall it was sparse, and perhaps on par with real ham.

Bacon Freak - Ham Jerky - Peppered

Bacon Freak - Ham Jerky - Peppered
Product Value

Bacon Freak sells this Peppered variety of ham jerky at a price of $9.95 for a 2 ounce package. That works out to a price of $4.98 per ounce, putting this into the very expensive price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, that price gives this a decent value. It's a ham jerky unlike the others on the market, being very moist, and intense with flavor, and offering a ham flavor unlike your garden variety of hams. It provides a decent snackability, however it has a very strong saltiness that eventually tires me out, and makes this jerky lose that snackability.

As a peppered ham jerky, it provides a decent value. You will get a good dose of peppery flavor in this. I'm not sure that the price of $4.98 per ounce is worth buying over and over, however. But it's worth buying at least once.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

It's actually one of the better ham jerkies I've had. I really love the smokiness, and its unique "home made" style taste. I get the sense I'm sitting inside the Walton family home at the breafast table, with John Walton reading his newspaper, and Olivia Walton pouring me a fresh cup of coffee, and John Boy talking about getting a job at the lumber mill. It's got a bit of sweetness, and good deal of black pepper flavor.

But I didn't give this a "best" rating because I found this extremely salty. I think it's more salty than Bacon Freak's bacon jerky. But even then, I found the taste of their bacon jerky to be so much more pleasing that I was able to look past the saltiness. While this ham jerky still tastes very good, I can't seem to overlook it's strong saltiness, and eventually I find myself losing interest in this.

But as I said in the Product Value section, it's worth buying just to try it once. I think you'll agree it's nothing like any of the other ham jerkies, being so much more moist, and having an excellent ham flavor. You might even like the strong salty taste.

I think a good beer to have with this is a brown ale.

Rating: Good

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