Tuesday, November 11, 2008

J.C. Rivers Jerky - Habanero

J.C. Rivers Jerky is a brand that I don't see much of around the Southern California area, even though it's based out of this area. It's owned by Glenoaks Foods, Inc. of Sun Valley. Glenoaks has its own meat processing facility and private labels jerky for other brands like Big Bird Jerky and the Ring of Fire hot sauce line.

I haven't tried many habanero varieties of jerky, mainly because I don't see to much of it around either. I did review one for Oh Boy! Oberto, but found it a disappointment, hardly being hot at all. Considering the habanero pepper is supposedly the most hottest pepper around, or at least right up there with the hottest, I have big expectations for this jerky.

Ingredients

Beef (top round), soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, pineapple juice, water, Tabasco Sauce, habanero pepper, red crushed chili pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, liquid smoke, black pepper, white pepper, ginger powder.

Taste

The taste I get from the surface starts off with a moderate sweetness. Soon after I'm getting a spicy tingling brewing on my tongue. I can also pick up some faint soy sauce flavor. Moving into the chew, I get some natural meat flavors, and some chili pepper taste. I can even pick up the Tabasco Sauce too.

There's definitely a good taste of chili pepper in this jerky, either as a combination of habanero pepper & chili pepper, or one or the other. I also get a slight vinegar taste from the Tabasco Sauce, in fact I think it's the vinegar taste that I largely attribute as the Tabasco.

In terms of being hot, I'd probably rate this as medium on a piece-by-piece basis. However, it continues to build up in strength as I eat more. After several bites, I can see this as being medium-hot. My scalp is tingling and I can feel moisture building up on my forehead. Further into eating this, I have drops of sweat running down the back of my neck.

There's a good deal of sweetness on this jerky, in fact the jerky itself has a slight bit of stickiness to it. If you like sweet & hot jerky, that's basically what this is.

The natural meat flavors are there, but are not very strong. In this case, that's not a big issue for me because there's plenty of flavor to enjoy in the habanero, chili, sweet, and Tabasco Sauce. But considering this is preservative free, it still maintains a fresh taste.

As far as being salty, I don't see this as being all that salty, but there is some saltiness to it, but probably mostly as soy sauce.

In terms of the other ingredients like black pepper, garlic, onion, and ginger, I don't really pick those up. It's probably because the sweet, the chili peppers and Tabasco flavorings are strong enough to dominate this jerky.

Overall, the dominant taste of this jerky is that habanero/red chili pepper taste combined with the Tabasco Sauce taste. I'd give the sweet/honey flavor the second most dominant taste, with the soy sauce taking third.

Meat Consistency

These are slices of whole meat, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a soft and tender style of jerky, though the meat is more on the dry side. The pieces are very flexible, perhaps due to its layer of sticky sweetness. I was able to tear off smaller pieces with relative ease, and found it easy to chew.

It provides a chewing experience similar to that of a real steak, but not totally. There's still something of a gummy nature to this, but slight.

Even though I said this jerky has a sticky sweetness on the surface, it doesn't necessarily leave my fingers sticky. I still find them dry, so it's still a clean jerky.

But I do find these pieces have a fair amount of fat marbilization, and one particular piece depicted below has more marbilization than others. But I don't see any pieces of tendon or gristle.




Product Value

I paid $3.45 for this 1 ounce package at a Hot Licks store in San Diego, CA. That puts this into the very expensive category. Note that the photos above depict 2 ounces worth. You can also buy it online directly from the J.C. Rivers' website at $1.99, putting it at the border of expensive and average.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it's a decent value. It'd be an excellent value if you pay the $1.99 price. I find it very snackable with its concentration of taste and easy to eat consistency.

As a habanero variety, it presents a good value. It's not quite as hot as the habanero pepper itself, though I imagine it would be hard to eat this jerky if it were. But I think you're getting a strong taste of chili peppers with its concentration of habanero, red chili, and Tabasco flavors. If you can find this any cheaper, you're getting a great value.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

I was pleasantly surprised that I could get a strong chili-peppery taste in this jerky. I found the addition of Tabasco Sauce to give this a very nice vinegar taste. And the good deal of sweet flavor and soy sauce really compliments this well.

And while the natural meat flavors are only there to a smaller degree, you're largely enjoying this jerky for its strong seasonings and marinade. It even tears apart and chews fairly well.

A good beer with this is smooth, creamy stout (to sooth that burning tongue).

Rating: Best

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