Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Turkey

Gourmet Jerky - Natural TurkeyGourmet Jerky is a brand of jerky produced by the company of the same name, based out of Claremont, CA. It's been in operation since 1992. Their focus is on making "mouth-watering jerky products to the world's most discriminating customers", placing customer satisfaction as their number one concern.

The brand uses no sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate, and no sugar.

Their jerky is sold in specialty shops and farmer's markets throughout Southern California, as well as through their website.

Ingredients

Turkey, soy sauce, water, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper.

Taste

I get a slight soy sauce taste right off the surface, followed by a black pepper taste, and then by some turkey taste. Going into some chewing, I can pick up more of the turkey flavor, while the black pepper continues to work on my palate. In the background, I can maybe sense some of the garlic, and feel a very slight spiciness.

Turkey jerky continues to enjoy a strong following in this country, I think mainly because people think it's more healthy than beef jerky. But in fact, it really isn't, mainly because beef jerky is already extremely lean, and offers about the same amount of fat and cholesterol. Therefore, you buy turkey jerky for the taste of turkey.

And the taste of turkey is definitely what I get in this variety from Gourmet Jerky. It has a rather fresh taste that reminds me of a piece of breast meat straight from the dinner table. For the most part, it's the dominant flavor of this jerky, which I was even able to pick up from the surface of the pieces as well.

Salt is perhaps the second strongest flavor, but is not overly salty, it's about just right for my preference. The black pepper is noticeable, and I'd say is the third strongest flavor. Those two seem to do a great job of coloring the natural turkey flavors into something more snack-worthy.

That soy sauce flavor I described at the top only seems to be there initially, from the surface, and doesn't really last throughout the chew. Or perhaps put another way, the soy sauce seems to migrate into a salt taste within a matter of seconds.

That slight spicy tingle I also mentioned continues to be there in the background, but doesn't really have any specific taste to it. It just seems to be there to provide some "life" to this jerky. On a hot factor, I'd still rate this jerky as mild.

Overall, this is a great tasting turkey jerky that gives you a strong turkey flavor, and highlights it with some seasonings.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in medium to large pieces.

This is a thin dry jerky, being fairly brittle, but still having some degree of flexibility. If bent too far, they crack and break. For that matter, it's very easy to tear or break off a piece, and easy to chew.

It's also a clean jerky, leaving no sticky, oily, or powdery residue on my fingers.

I found no amounts of fat, tendon, gristle, or connective tissue on these pieces either.

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Turkey

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Turkey
Product Value

Gourmet Jerky sells this Natural Turkey Jerky variety from its website at a price of $7.00 for a 4 ounce package. That works out to a price of $1.75 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, this offers a great value because of its great taste and great meat consistency. It makes it highly snackable.

As a turkey jerky, it's also a great value because of its strong turkey flavor that tastes fresh, and resembling a real piece of turkey breast meat.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

This Natural Turkey variety from Gourmet Jerky does an excellent job of emphasizing the natural meat flavors of turkey, one by giving you a strong taste of turkey, and two by using the right amount of seasonings that add interest to the meat without overpowering it. It also has an excellent meat consistency making it easy to enjoy.

I'll also note that there's no added sugar in this, which will satisfy some of the jerky purists out there, and helps keep the calories down.

A good beer with this would be a wheat beer (hefeweizen).

Rating: Best

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Monday, September 29, 2008

AA Biltong

AA BiltongBledie Lekker!

Which I believe means "bloody tasty", is the exclaimation on the label of this brand of biltong by AA Biltong. Produced by a specialty food shop called South African Food Shop located in Matthews, NC, it's marketed as something as close to being authentic "biltong".

Biltong is of course a type of jerky originating from South Africa. As the history suggests, the British colonized the area and found it fertile for growing vineyards. Locals discovered the vinegar by-product was an excellent (and tasty) means for preserving meats. Based on what I can tell, this is what primarily sets apart biltong from jerky. Biltong uses vinegar, while jerky uses salt.

South African Food Shop has a webpage describing how it got into the business of making biltong.

Interestingly, this package does not provide a nutrition facts. Instead, there are labels on this similar to what you'd find on a package of raw meat, warning consumers to heat the product to at least 160 degrees F, as well as safe handling instructions. I contacted South African Food Shop to ask if I should cook this. They said "no, by all means no". I'm supposed to eat it straight out of the package. They have to place these warnings because the USDA considers this a raw meat, even though it's apparently cured and ready to eat. The Shop says that their biltong is "USDA approved".

Ingredients

Beef, salt, vinegar, natural spices, sugar, potassium sorbate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium nitrate.

Taste

There is indeed a vinegar-like taste that comes through in this immediately. That's followed by a slight salty taste. The aroma that comes from this package of biltong resembles something like salami or prosciutto.

Not being an expert on biltong, I can't tell you if this tastes like the real biltong you'd find in South Africa, though I'm told that biltong varies in taste and consistency depending on who's making it, just like with jerky.

But, when I talked to the guy at South African Food Shop he warned me this stuff is very addicting. That seems to be supported by everything I've read about biltong. It often starts with British citizens visiting South Africa and being introduced to biltong. Then when they return to Britain, they discover they can't find it being sold anywhere. There are stories of travellers sneaking packages of the stuff into the country.

The predominant taste I get from this brand of biltong is that vinegar taste. It's not a tangy taste at all, much more mild, bland, and more consistent with the kind of flavors you'd expect from traditional British cuisine. If you've ever had a "banger" you might know the taste I'm talking about.

The secondary taste in this is the salt, of which I'd say meets the level of "too salty". Each piece I ate didn't necessarily have a lot of salty taste, but for whatever reason, I'm finding a salt scorching starting to build in my mouth after about 3 ounces of this stuff.

The natural meat flavors don't come out very well in this. I can certainly taste it in there, but it's not a strong taste.

There's also some visible pieces of seed-spice in this, I'm wondering if it might be dill seed? It's too round to be dill seed I think. But it has a sharp, dill taste. That taste, however, is only noticed when you bite into that seed. Otherwise, it doesn't really leach into the meat. See the last photo below.

As for being extremely addicting, I could see how this could be so to a South African, since it does indeed have that "british" flavor to it, if you know what I mean. But being an American born and bred, with our diversity of cultures, my palate was refined in a different way. I like the vinegar taste, the bit of salt, but I want more of the natural meat flavors, and I'd like some more spiciness.

Overall, I think it's good. This stuff is CLEARLY different than any of the beef jerky made here in the USA. It looks different, it smells different, and it tastes different, and it scores points with me just because I love trying different things. But this biltong also reinforces my belief that Brits all across the globe love bland food.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced medium thickness, and in small pieces.

This is a soft and tender style of biltong, being very easy to tear apart, and easy to chew. The small pieces are such you'd never have to tear this down; each piece is mouth-sized.

There's a good deal of fat marbilization to be seen on these pieces, but I don't find this biltong to have an excessive fatty taste. I do, however, taste a small degree of fat, and that fat does indeed contribute to the overall flavor of this biltong.

Some of the pieces had some tendon, but very few. Much of this was free of the chewy stuff.

AA Biltong

AA Biltong

AA Biltong
Product Value

I paid $11.95 for this 8 ounce package from South African Food Shop's website. That works out to a price of $1.49 per ounce, putting this into the average price range. However, when you add the $9.95 for shipping, you're looking at $2.74 per ounce, making this expensive.

For general jerky (biltong) snacking purposes, it's a fair value. I do find this having a snackability, though the saltiness will eventually cause me to stop before reaching the end of the bag. The high price, particularly if you're buying this online, makes it hard to justify buying this on a regular basis, unless you really have to have biltong.

But if you're like me, a jerky lover, it's worth the expense to include this biltong in your repertoire of meat snack experiences. This tastes nothing like the beef jerky we Americans are accustomed to.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

It's good mainly because it's different, and because I do like that vinegar taste in the meat. But it's also rather salty, and offers only a little bit of the natural meat flavors. Moreover, there's a blandness to this.

Although, the seed-spice that I photographed above adds a nice burst of flavor when bitten into that I think works well with this vinegar-tasting meat. Overall this biltong reminds me of the italian deli meats, maybe because of its aroma and physical appearance.

Get a light-tasting beer, like a honey blonde ale, to counter the heavy saltiness.

Rating: Good

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Lemon Pepper

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Lemon PepperLemon pepper is a flavor combination that seemed to hit a high point in popularity in the 1990's starting with chicken and then bleeding over into other meats. My curiosity was picqued when Fatman's sent me their lemon pepper variety of beef jerky because I hadn't yet tried this type of seasoning on jerky.

Fatman's Beef Jerky is a brand produced by Red Meat Foods, LLC, based in Roswell, NM. The same town that earned a reputation for little green men may very well earn a reputation for its beef jerky someday. The Fatman's brand seems to be building up a following because I see it mentioned on several websites across the Internet.

The company was started by the husband and wife team of Rick and Ellen Robey. For 30 years, Rick owned and operated a holstein calf raising business and a USDA inspected packing plant, which perhaps gave him a good head start into the jerky biz. All of their jerky is made from inside rounds of American-raised beef, marinated for 24 hours in Robey's own homemade recipes. It's processed and packed in their own facility.

Ingredients

Beef, water, soy sauce, lemon juice, lemon pepper, black pepper, salt.

Taste

I get a good dose of the natural meat flavors immediately from the surface of these pieces. With some time, the black pepper starts making a showing. Moving into the chew, the black pepper comes out more, followed by some salt, and more of the natural meat flavors.

For being advertised as a lemon pepper variety, I'm having trouble identifying the lemon. I tried several pieces to see if some had more lemon flavor, but it just wasn't there. If I analyze closely what I'm tasting, I can sense a tangy, or citrus taste, but it's faint.

If you were to put a piece into your mouth without carefully analyzing what you're tasting, what you'll taste is a dominant meat flavor, plus pepper and salt, but no lemon.

That dominant meat flavor has a fresh taste, a very lean taste, similar to that of the center portion of prime rib. From what I've found from the Fatman's brand, it's the meat flavors that get highlighted in much of their varieties.

In terms of the salt and pepper, I don't really find this to be "too salty" at all, it's probably just right for my liking. The pepper does make a good showing in this. I can taste its presence on each piece, and I'm getting a good black pepper aftertaste in the back of my mouth.

Overall, this lemon pepper variety has a great taste that emphasizes the natural meat flavors, decorated with some pepper and salt. But I don't find much lemon flavor in this.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a thin dry jerky that easily cracks and breaks with some bending. There's even some crunchiness in this. It's very easy to bite a piece off, and moderately easy to chew. The chewing is like what you'd get with steak cooked well done.

There's also a great deal of "cleanliness" to this jerky in that it doesn't leave your fingers with any sticky, oily, or powdery residue.

I found no pieces of fat, tendon, gristle, or other chewy tissue.

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Lemon Pepper

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Lemon Pepper
Product Value

Fatman's sells all of their jerky varieties at a price of $7.99 for a four ounce package. That works out to $2.00 per ounce, putting this into the expensive price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it's a decent value. You'll get a great taste of real meat, highlighted with some pepper and salt, and a great consistency with a bit of crunchiness to boot. It costs a lot more than what you'll find in the grocery stores, but you are definitely getting a better jerky.

As a lemon pepper variety, it's a poor value because I can't seem to identify any of the lemon. I keep wanting to find that lemony flavor, or even a citrus or tangy flavor, and it isn't there. It might be worth taking a spray bottle, filling it with lemon juice, and dousing it before eating.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

While the lemon taste is absent in this lemon pepper variety, it's still a pretty good jerky on its own merits. You're getting a great natural meat flavor, with some pepper and salt seasoning, along with an easy-to-eat consistency. Even the bit of crunchiness adds to the overall snacking fun.

In fact, it's that strong meat flavor that gets this jerky up to a "good" rating. For being free of preservatives, it has a fresh taste, and gave me the sense that I was eating "minimally processed" meat. The fact that it's free of added sugar will please a lot of die-hard jerky eaters as well.

I just would like to get good dose of lemon taste to back up the lemon pepper advertisement.

I think an IPA would make a great companion beer for this.

Rating: Good

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lowrey's Big Beef - Hickory Smoked

Lowrey's Big Beef - Hickory SmokedLowrey's is an old brand of beef jerky that goes back a ways (I'm not exactly sure how far it goes back). But it's a brand that has been bought and sold by a variety other businesses. Since 1995, it's been owned by the Oberto Sausage Company.

But before that it had been acquired by Beatrice Companies, that company that owned zillions of brands that made everything you can think of. In 1987, it spun off a holding company called "E-II Holdings Inc.", and dumped Lowrey's into it. In 1988, E-II was acquired by American Brands, Inc, which made cigarettes and liquor. Several months later, American Brands turned around and sold much of E-II's brands (including Lowrey's) to Riklis Family Corp, who owns the McCrory Stores, as well as the Faberge/Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, and the Samsonite luggage brand. Months later, Riklis sold Lowrey's to Curtice Burns Foods, which currently operates as Birds Eye Foods.

Curtice Burns owned and manufactured a full line of foods, and just so happened to acquire the Smokecraft brand of jerky only a year before acquiring Lowrey's. the company combined the two brands into a new meat snack division called "Curtice Burns Meat Snacks", based out of Denver, CO. Curtice Burns tried to make a serious go at the meat snack market, but because the company fell on hard times during the late 80s and early 90s, it sold several of its brands and child companies, including its meat snack division. In 1995, Oberto Sausage Company acquired Curtice Burns Meat Snacks. The acquisition doubled Oberto's jerky manufacturing capacity, and overnight made it the top jerky manufacturer in the USA.

If anyone can fill in the blanks of how and when Lowrey's got started, up to when it was acquired by Beatrice, please post a comment.

Ingredients

Beef, water, dextrose, flavorings, salt, hydrolized corn and soy protein, monosodium glutamate, natural hickory smoke flavor, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The first taste I get from the surface is a "beefy" taste, along with a salty taste, and a very slight smoky flavor. Moving into the chew, it's largely the same tastes.

The "beefy" taste is not necessarily the natural meat flavors. It doesn't really taste anything like meat. Being a chopped & formed jerky, who really knows what this stuff is made out of anyways?

What this stuff taste like is a meat stick, except this stuff is pressed into a strip and doesn't have the thin membrane that encases a meat stick.

For being advertised as a hickory smoked variety, I don't really pick up much of a hickory smoke flavor. There is a smoky flavor to this, however, just not very well defined.

While the nutrition label shows a high amount of sodium, this stuff doesn't really come off tasting excessively salty.

For the most part, the dominant flavor in this is that "beefy" taste that I described, similar to the contents of a beef stick, with salt being the second taste.

Meat Consistency

This is a chopped & formed jerky, pressed into strips of about 1/2 inch wide and about 4-5 inches in length.

It's fairly soft and tender, perhaps being slightly more dry and stiff than an actual beef stick. It's easy to bite off a piece, and easy to chew.

The beef mixture seems fairly smooth, I don't really find any hard or chewy bits that one might find in other chopped & formed jerkies. But this jerky has a greasy touch which is pretty consistent with chopped & formed stuff.

Lowrey's Big Beef - Hickory Smoked

Lowrey's Big Beef - Hickory Smoked
Product Value

I paid $3.29 for this 4.16 ounce canister at an Albertson's grocery store in Menifee, CA. That works out to a price of $0.79 per ounce, putting this into the cheap range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it presents a very good value. It has a decent taste, is very easy to eat, and offers some great snackability. The taste isn't anything to get excited about, but it at least doesn't taste bad.

As a hickory smoke flavored jerky, it's a weak value, even at this low price. I just don't pick up much hickory smoke flavor.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

This hickory smoked variety of Lowrey's Big Beef primarily offers a good snacking experience with its ease of eating, smooth meat consistency, and a flavor that is neither great or awful. I find myself reaching for more and more, just because I like eating meat snacks, and found nothing in this that might discourage me doing so.

But the flavor in this is far from exciting. It's not a meat flavor, but a "beef flavor", which could be any part of the animal, and after that it's just a salt flavor. It's that plain, uninteresting taste that largely keeps this jerky from getting a higher rating.

One thing I do enjoy with this jerky is that it reminds me of my childhood, back in the 1970s when my mom would buy jerky. The stuff she bought looked and smelled exactly like this stuff, though I don't think it tastes the same as this. Even back then, the jerky she bought came in canisters just like this one. This even reminds me of the 1972 Chevy Vega hatchback that she loaded the groceries into. But I don't really remember the brand of jerky she used to buy. For all I know it could have been Lowrey's.

As for the beer recommendation, a brown ale would be nice.

Rating: Average

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Gourmet Jerky - Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Gourmet Jerky - Teriyaki Beef JerkyGourmet Jerky is a brand of jerky produced by the company of the same name, based out of Claremont, CA. It's been in operation since 1992. Their focus is on making "mouth-watering jerky products to the world's most discriminating customers", placing customer satisfaction as their number one concern.

The brand uses no sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate, and no sugar.

Their jerky is sold in specialty shops and farmer's markets throughout Southern California, as well as through their website.

Ingredients

Beef, sugar, soy sauce, honey, red pepper, white pepper.

Taste

A good deal of sweetness is what I taste right away off the surface, which migrates into something a little bit more like teriyaki. Moving into the chew, I continue to taste the same thing, plus some additional fatty taste.

As you can see in the photos below, there's quite a bit of fat marbilization on these slices. I get a good deal of that fatty taste. It doesn't have a rancid taste, however. I actually do like having some fat in jerky, but in such heavy quantities as this, it gives the jerky a less than desirable experience. I can feel a coating of grease in my mouth.

But there are other pieces in this package that have very little fat, or none visible at all. I do pick up some of the natural meat flavors in this, though the heavy sweetness masks some of those flavors. Being free of preservatives, I don't pick up any kind of stale taste.

For being a teriyaki variety, there is a resemblance of teriyaki, but it's a very sweet one. For the most part, it's a heavily sweetened soy sauce taste. I don't taste any ginger, which I feel is a necessary component of teriyaki, and in fact it's missing on the ingredients list.

The saltiness is very light. The red and white pepper in the ingredients list don't really make a showing in this. It's completely mild.

For the most part, what I'm eating is a sugar jerky, with a slight taste of teriyaki, and just a wee bit of the natural meat flavors.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in medium to large pieces.

It's largely a thin dry jerky, except these have a moist sticky coating on the outside. This teriyaki variety doesn't have the slight bit of crunchiness that the company's natural variety has, mostly because of that moist sticky coating. The pieces with a lot of fat marbilization also have an oily touch.

It's very easy to tear off a piece, and easy to chew.

In addition to the heavy fat marbilization on some pieces, I also found one piece with a thin streak of gristle. It still chewed ok, however. I didn't find any other tendon or connective tissue.

Gourmet Jerky - Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Gourmet Jerky - Teriyaki Beef Jerky
Product Value

Gourmet Jerky sell this Natural Beef Jerky variety from its website at a price of $7.00 for a 4 ounce package. That works out to a price of $1.75 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it offers an "ok" value. It still presents a snackability with the ease of eating, and the fact that it doesn't have a bad taste. If you love sweet jerky, then you'll find this to have a greater snackability.

But as a teriyaki variety, it has a weak value. I get just a bit of teriyaki taste, and a bunch of sugary sweetness. I might even question that what I'm tasting is actually a sweet-salty combination as opposed to sweet-soy sauce.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

Despite all I've written, it still presents a snackability, which guarantees at least an average rating. And being that jerky is first and foremost a snack food, this teriyaki variety from Gourmet Jerky holds up to that basic standard. It's ease in eating is largely what has me reaching for more, rather than it's taste.

But it doesn't taste bad however. It's just largely a sweetened soy sauce taste, that's heavy on the sweetened part. Those pieces with the excessive amounts of fat do drag down the taste, although.

The reason why I can't give this a higher rating is largely because I don't see this as having a teriyaki taste in any significant amount. It's mostly just sugar I'm tasting. Also because the natural meat flavors are hard to find in this.

A good beer with this is a pungent, hoppy, IPA.

Rating: Average

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Enjoy Beef Jerky - Peppered

Enjoy Beef Jerky - PepperedEnjoy Beef Jerky is a brand produced by Enjoy Foods International, which has been around since 1971. For quite awhile Enjoy produced some of the best commercial jerky in business, and was one of the biggest brands on the market.

In 2000 & 2001 it hit financial difficulty and eventually fell into the hands of a receivership. Today, it continues to operate under Saab Enterprises, which does business as "Enjoy Foods International". Saab makes the jerky themselves in their own meat processing unit, and also produces the "Hickory's Best" brand.

The Enjoy brand is still being sold in select convenience stores and markets in rural areas, as well as in large urban areas within such stores like Sam's Club, Smart & Final, and Food 4 Less.

It's also made without preservatives.

Ingredients

Beef, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, pepper, lemon juice, smoke flavoring.

Taste

The first taste I get off the surface is the smoke flavoring, with maybe a slight bit of black pepper taste. Moving into the chew, I can get a good deal of salty flavor, some soy sauce flavor, some of the natural meat flavors, and more of the black pepper.

The surface taste is mostly dominated by the smoke flavoring, which is not really a strong flavoring either. Otherwise, the surface presents little taste. It's when you get into the chew that all the flavor comes out.

The chew is largely dominated by the salty and soy sauce flavors. The salty comes out right away, while the soy sauce becomes more discernable half-way into the chew. Some of the natural meat flavors are there, but are largely hidden behind the salty and soy sauce.

For being preservative-free, the meat doesn't have a stale taste, though its flavors are not necessarily of any pleasing variety either. It'd be like going to a barbecue shack and ordering the "all you can eat beef ribs", and finding out it's all the low quality stuff.

For being advertised as a peppered variety, it certainly does offer a good deal of black pepper taste. However, most of that peppery goodness is realized as a strong aftertaste in the back of my mouth. But there is some pepper to be enjoyed on a piece-by-piece basis. I'd say it does live up to its billing as a peppered variety.

There's also very slight "waxy" aftertaste in my mouth, that you might experience after sucking on a Crayon. I'm wondering if that's produced by the liquid smoke.

Overall, this is a salty and soy sauce flavored jerky, with more emphasis on the salty. With the natural meat flavors being light on taste, you're largely buying this for those two flavors, but enhancing it with the spiciness of black pepper.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in small to medium sized pieces.

It's a thin dry jerky that retains quite a bit of flexibility when bent against the grain, but will easily crack apart when bent with the grain. I find that stripping off some grains requires some effort to do. Chewing can be tough it's a bit more easy if you take your time. You can't really bite this stuff off against the grain.

I do see some spots and streaks of fat here and there, but not in any significant amounts. I didn't encounter any chewy tendon or gristle.

For the most part it's a lean jerky, in thin slices, but is rather tough.

Enjoy Beef Jerky - Peppered

Enjoy Beef Jerky - Peppered
Product Value

I paid $5.99 for this 3.65 ounce package at a general store in Pine Valley, CA. That works out to a price of $1.64 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, I'd give this a decent value. It does offer plenty of taste, mostly during the chew. However, the snackability of this jerky is compromised by the tough meat consistency, and the salt-scorching I get after several pieces.

As a black peppered variety, it presents a good value. You'll definitely enjoy a strong pepper aftertaste in the back of your mouth, though the peppery flavor on each individual piece is not as strong.

Rating

I'm giving this a fair rating.

I couldn't quite get a good deal of snackability out of this due to the tough meat consistency, and with the high level of salt wearing me down. I could have given this a higher rating had it offered an exceptional taste, but it didn't. It's largely a soy sauce taste. There's enough black pepper here to be enjoyed, and enough to break up the monotony of salty soy sauce, it's just that the tough chew and salt scorching takes a lot away from its snackability.

Moreover, it doesn't present much natural meat flavors either. Had it offered a good tasting meat flavor, and a well discernable one, that would have brought this jerky above its negatives, to perhaps a good rating.

Otherwise it appears that Enjoy Foods International is still doing well enough on the strength of its brand name to get its products into the hands of distributors and into the display racks of small town convenience stores.

I'd recommend a light tasting beer that goes down easy, like a honey blonde ale.

Rating: Fair

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

Fatman's Beef Jerky - TeriyakiFatman's Beef Jerky is a product of Red Meat Foods, LLC of Roswell, NM. The company was founded by Rick and Ellen Robey in May 2006.

Prior to launching Fatman's, Rick Robey owned and operated a holstein calf raising business for 30 years as well as a USDA inspected packing plant. Robey says that his experience in in the beef industry told him that all of the commercial jerkies on the market lack a "good true beef flavor", which lead him to start Fatman's.

The company, whose roadside signs can be seen entering the town of Roswell, makes all of their jerky from inside rounds of American-raised beef, marinated for 24 hours in Robey's own homemade recipes. It's processed and packed in Fatman's own facility. They add no preservatives aside from what's already in the seasonings.

Ingredients

Beef, water, brown sugar, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, orange juice, cinnamon, black pepper, red pepper flake, salt.

Taste

Opening this package of teriyaki beef jerky, I get a sweet-smelling aroma, similar to opening a package of cinnamon-raisin oatmeal.

And it's that combination of sweet and cinnamon that presents the first taste off the surface of these pieces. Some saltiness comes through immediately following. Moving to the chew, some natural meat flavors come through.

For being a teriyaki variety, I get very little teriyaki taste, and only during the chew, and only in certain pieces. It's nothing that reminds me of a hibachi or Benihana restaurant. Instead, the sugar and cinnamon dominates the surface taste, and carries over into the chew for a bit. If I didn't know this was teriyaki beef jerky, I'd guess it was "cinnamon & raisin oatmeal beef jerky".

As for the natural meat flavors, they are there but harder to find than in Fatman's other varieties. As I said above, the sugar and cinnamon carries over into the chew for a bit, and do well to compete against it. I can pick up the meat taste halfway into chewing.

There is a very slight bit of spiciness from the red pepper flake mentioned in the ingredients. It doesn't really provide a burn, but makes a slight appearance on the back of my tongue after several pieces. I'm also picking up a black pepper aftertaste after several pieces as well.

And as for that saltiness, it's a mild salt flavor, not too salty at all.

Overall, it's the sugar and cinnamon that dominates the flavor of this jerky. I don't really get any teriyaki flavoring, and I get only a little bit of the natural meat flavors. On its own merits, it's not a bad jerky. In fact, there's a strong sweet-cinnamon combo to taste here if that's what you like. That, combined with some natural meat flavors, salt, and a bit of spiciness would make this an enjoyable jerky to others.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a thin dry jerky that has a slight amount of crunchiness to it. It's very easy to bite off a piece, and easy to chew. I can just bend a piece up and down, and it breaks right off.

And they're very lean as well, seeing I found no visible pieces of fat, tendon, gristle, or connective tissue. Overall, it's an excellent meat consistency.

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

Fatman's Beef Jerky - Teriyaki
Product Value

Fatman's sells all of their jerky varieties at a price of $7.99 for a four ounce package. That works out to $2.00 per ounce, putting this into the expensive price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it presents a decent value. It still offers plenty of taste, and a great meat consistency, which contributes to its snackability. It's sweet, salty, and crunchy nature provides that magical snacking formula that snack food manufacturers are keying in on these days.

As a teriyaki variety, it's a poor value providing no teriyaki taste in any decent amounts.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

This teriyaki variety from Fatman's doesn't really provide a teriyaki taste that I can recognize. Growing up in a Japanese household, I've had a lot of teriyaki in my time, and I just don't find it in this jerky. Living up to its advertised flavor is a major factor in my ratings.

But that doesn't make this a bad jerky by any means. It's still packed with flavor primarily in the sweet and cinnamon. It even provides some natural meat flavors, unlike many other teriyaki jerky brands, and throws in a bit of salty and spicy.

Interestingly, someone, somewhere, asked me if I ever had teriyaki beef jerky with cinnamon, and went on to say that it's absolutely delicious. So, I know there's a market for this stuff. It might actually be better to label this as a "Cinnamon Teriyaki" variety, it may find a more targeted customer-base. I do like sugar and cinnamon together, don't get me wrong, but mostly like it with cookies, and oatmeal. Finding chunks of smoked beef in my oatmeal is something I haven't gotten used to yet.

A really good beer with this is a Blue Moon Apricot Ale.

Rating: Average

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jedidiah's Beef Jerky - Sweet Barbecue

Jedidiah's Beef Jerky - Sweet BarbecueJedidiah's Jerky is a brand produced by Jedidiah's Jerky and Gourmet Snacks based out of Laughlin, NV.

The business was started by David Coffey in 2005. Coffey is a veteran of the meat snack industry having started with Polley's Jerky in 1984, and launching another brand of his, River Run Jerky. His father worked in the jerky business before him.

The Jedidiah's brand was created to represent unique styles and recipes that appeal to the dedicated jerky snacker. This Premium Line of jerky is their standard jerky, while their Private Reserve line is a soft and tender beef brisket variety.

You can watch a video of Coffey talking about his jerky...
http://www.thetalkmarket.com/video/product/446/

Ingredients

Beef, barbecue sauce, salt, sugar, monosodium glutamate, paprika, spices, garlic, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The surface taste from these pieces gives off an immediate sweetness, with maybe a slight sense of the barbecue sauce. It's mainly in the chew that most of the flavor comes out, and in there I pick up more barbecue taste. Some of the natural meat flavors come out as well.

For being billed as "sweet barbecue", it's certainly sweet, but I think it's more sweet than it is barbecue. There's still a definite barbecue flavor to this, however. In fact, all of Jedidiah's Premium line has this barbecue flavor to it, either on purpose or by accident. This jerky variety actually claims to have barbecue sauce in its ingredients. Meanwhile the other varieties in this line do not, but yet still give off the same barbecue likeness.

Overall, I still enjoy the barbecue flavor very much, and I do enjoy the sweetness also. The garlic in this variety is not as defined as it is in the other Jedidiah's Premium line, I think mostly because the sweetness seems stronger in this. But during the chew, I can pick up garlic more.

The natural meat flavors are present but hard to pick up. First off, it's not a strong meat flavor, it's only slight. But second, the sweet and barbecue flavors do well to drown it out.

The medium-to-high dosage of sodium listed in the Nutrition Facts below might make one turn away, however, I don't really taste the salt that much. While my blood pressure might feel the effects, my taste buds do not. It tells me there's just a moderate amount of salt.

It's largely the sweet, the barbecue, and the salt, in that order, that dominates the taste of this jerky. You'll get a slight resemblance of natural meat flavors and garlic to add to it. Overall, the taste of this combination is plentiful, and you'll find it very lip-smacking.

Meat Consistency

These are cuts of whole meat, sliced into medium and thick slices, and in small to medium sized pieces.

For the most part, this review sample provides a dry jerky, but being familiar with this brand, as well as the private labeler that made this jerky, it can vary. I've seen this as soft and tender. It just varies from package to package.

It's moderately easy to tear apart, and somewhat more easy to chew. You're better off letting a piece soak in your mouth for several seconds just to enjoy all the surface flavor. Then give it some chews and enjoy the flavors that leach out.

As you can see in the photos below, several pieces have bits of fat on them. I didn't find this to ruin the taste at all. The fat was largely tasteless. I did find one larger piece with quite a bit of connective tissue, some tendon and some gristle. It was very tough to tear apart and chew. Otherwise, the rest of the meat looked pretty free of such chewy nonesense.

Jedidiah's Beef Jerky - Sweet Barbecue

Jedidiah's Beef Jerky - Sweet Barbecue
Product Value

Jedidiah's sells this Premium Honey Barbecue variety from their website at a price of $5.99 for a 3.5oz bag. That works out to $1.71 per ounce, putting this in the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it's worth buying. It's has a great taste, and decent-to-good meat consistency, that's not excessively salty. It's enough to create some great snackability, that kept me reaching for more.

For being a "sweet barbecue" variety, I found a very delicious barbecue taste that was heavier on the sweet side, with some slight garlic taste, and a bit of natural meat flavors. If you like everything and anything barbecue flavored, then you'll want to spend your money on this.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

This Sweet Barbecue variety from Jedidiah's offers a great taste of sweet barbecue flavor that I found irresistible as a meat lover. While the meat consistency in this review sample is not excellent, it's still not bad. And as I said, that can vary from package to package. And it's not even overly salty by taste. While it was rather weak on natural meat flavors, I still enjoyed this jerky's flavorings quite a bit.

Moreover, this jerky is heavy on flavor, which lends itself to being savored longer in your mouth, and will extend your snacking time.

And if you're going to savor some jerky, then enhance it with a really good beer. Might I suggest a wheat beer (hefeweizen)?

Rating: Best

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Starting a Beef Jerky Business - Introduction

I just got off the phone with a guy named Jeff Horne who lives in Alabama. He's been making his own beef jerky for about 10 years, and his friends have loved his jerky so much they've been urging him to turn it into a business.

It's the same story I see across so many small jerky businesses. A guy is frustrated with the factory-flavored jerky found in so many stores. The guy then decides to make jerky himself. His friends love it a lot. He starts a business, and makes a lot of money.

So last week, this guy Jeff sent me some samples of his jerky, along with a letter describing the kind of jerky he likes and what he hopes to create. He's currently in the process of researching the jerky business and figuring out where and how he'd like to fit in.

I urged him to keep in touch with me, and tell me how things are going with the business, because I'd like to post a series of articles about his beef jerky startup, and maybe help other folks out there learn about how to get started. Perhaps some of you manufacturers out there would care to post comments on these articles as well.

Pictured is his jerky...


I found it with a very strong soy sauce flavor. It's a good thing it has a strong flavor, first because I like a jerky that puts out a lot of flavor off the surface, and this does that. Second, I like a jerky that offers plenty of flavor that lasts throughout the chew, and this does that also.

This is, however, rather salty, and Jeff admitted that, and went on to say that he's still in the experimental phase of finding the right flavor and create a process to ensure a consistent flavor. I didn't necessarily find my mouth getting a salt scorching from this jerky, though I imagine if I continued to eat more and more I probably would.

There is also some good meat flavor in this, but I also found the strong soy sauce and salt flavor too overpowering. That is, I couldn't get enough of the natural meat flavors because the soy sauce and salt crowded it out.

Natural meat flavors is something that will really score high with me, if it can present a great meat taste. Too much of the seasoning or marinade will make it difficult for me to taste the meat. However, I could still assign a best rating to a jerky that's has little meat flavor, just as long as it has a great tasting marinade and seasoning. But for me, great tasting meat will always beat out great tasting marinade and seasonings.

And in terms of meat consistency, these are thick cuts of whole meat. It's a dry jerky, but one that still has good flexibility to it, and tears with some ease if torn with the grain. There are some places on these pieces that are actually soft to a degree. The pieces tear off and chew like a real steak, perhaps similar to the outer strip of a rib eye.

Jeff says that he hangs his jerky during the dehydration, rather than laying them on racks. He uses dry air, as opposed to heated air, the old fashioned way.

I told him it has a good taste, and that I'd rate this initially as "good", though I could easily give this a best rating. I think the heavy salt flavor could be a problem, though he also said that this particular batch came out saltier than normal. I also think the strong soy sauce flavor masks over much of the natural meat flavors.

I also told him that there is a degree of "monotony" with this jerky, that is, it doesn't offer enough flavor complexity to keep the brain entertained. I like to suck on a piece of jerky, soften it up in my mouth, and then chew on it slightly to get the juices out. But all I taste is salty soy sauce. I'd like it better to offer some extra garlic taste, or ginger taste. Or maybe some more black pepper. Something to give it more of an interesting taste.

We also talked about brand names. What I suggested is to find a really unique name, one that plants itself in your brain easily, and is hard to forget. I brought up examples like "Alien Fresh Jerky" and "Fatman's Beef Jerky". Not only do those two names lend themselves to being remembered, but they also present a theme. Having a name that's easily remembered will help distributors, retailers, and customers build up a familiarity, and ultimately a trust.

So, I hope to hear from him regularly. If I do, I'll fill you in on how he's doing.

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Beef Jerky

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Beef JerkyGourmet Jerky is the name of a beef jerky manufacturer based in Claremont, CA. It's been in operation since 1992. Their focus is on making "mouth-watering jerky products to the world's most discriminating customers", placing customer satisfaction as their number one concern.

The brand uses no sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate, and no sugar.

Their jerky is sold in specialty shops and farmer's markets throughout Southern California, as well as through their website.

Ingredients

Beef, soy sauce, water, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper.

Taste

Most of the flavor from this jerky comes from the chew; there isn't much surface taste from this to enjoy. When I pop a piece into my mouth and suck on it for awhile, all I got is a slight smoky flavor. Then as soon as I chew down, the natural meat flavors leach out along with a bit of saltiness.

Black pepper is another flavor that I get, but it's presence seems to vary. It's mostly when my teeth crack open a pepper chunk that I get a burst of peppery flavor. After several pieces, I'm getting a good black pepper aftertaste.

There's also a bit of spiciness to this, as evidenced by the red pepper listed in the ingredients list. It's only slight, however. I feel just a bit of a burn in the back of my tongue, but I'd rate this as mild, or perhaps mild-medium, for those of you with tender tongues.

The natural meat flavors is largely what dominates the taste of this jerky. It has a taste that's very similar to a grilled steak, like a rib eye or porterhouse. And for being void of preservatives, it retains a fresh taste.

As for the other seasonings listed in the ingredients, there's perhaps only a slight presence. The soy sauce is detectable, but is largely represented as a saltiness. The garlic and onion powder is perhaps not well noticed on their own, but contribute to the overall flavor of this jerky.

And as for the saltiness, I don't see this jerky as being salty by any means. There's just enough in there to enhance the natural meat flavors.

Overall, it's a very tasty jerky that largely emphasizes the great taste of real beef, and throws in the added taste dimension of black pepper, and a bit of red pepper kick.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in medium to large sized pieces.

This is a thin and dry type of jerky, one that is a little bit brittle. It's very easy to tear a piece apart and very easy to chew. It has a crunchy nature to it that adds to the overall snacking satisfaction.

This jerky is also a little oily to the touch. It leaves a thin film of oil on my fingers. It's perhaps due to the vacuum sealed package drawing the oil up from the meat.

The meat itself appears to be pretty lean. I found no chunks of fat, though I can see some decent marbilization. But nothing chewy in the way of tendon or gristle.

Overall it's a great meat consistency.

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Beef Jerky

Gourmet Jerky - Natural Beef Jerky
Product Value

Gourmet Jerky sell this Natural Beef Jerky variety from its website at a price of $7.00 for a 4 ounce package. That works out to a price of $1.75 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes this offers a great value at this price. It's very snackable with its emphasis on natural meat flavors, enhanced with salt, red and black pepper, along with a great meat consistency that offers a bit of crunchiness.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I really liked the strong natural meat flavors that come out in this highlighted by the seasonings. The soy sauce, red & black pepper, garlic and onion make just enough of a presence to give you some added enjoyment. And the bit of crunchiness that I mentioned actually provides some extra snacking satisfaction.

However, I just felt that it was still rather light on seasonings, hence why I didn't give this a higher rating. When I popped a piece into my mouth, I really didn't get much flavor at all until I started chewing. I'd like to get something that goes right to work on my palate.

Simplicity is a word that comes to me with this jerky. Folks who don't like sugar in their jerky will really like this stuff.

A creamy stout beer would go nice with this.

Rating: Good

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

People's Choice Jerky - Premium Teriyaki

People's Choice Jerky - Premium TeriyakiPeople's Choice is a brand of jerky produced by People's Sausage Company, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA. It's a third-generation family-run business that's been around since 1929 originally focusing on sausage. The company later stopped making sausage and moved into the restaurant distribution business. It wasn't until the grandson of the founder got involved that the company started making beef jerky and came up with the "People's Choice" brand name.

People's Choice Beef Jerky is mostly known for its "Big Slab" style jerky that's often found on the checkout counters of convenience stores and roadside fruit stands. They also produce a line of premium packaged jerky made from Angus beef, as well as specialty jerky sold in mexicantessens. They also produce a brand called "Old West", which is more like the traditional thin dry jerky.

The subject of this review, which involves the company's Premium line, claims to be made from "Certified Angus Beef", but it doesn't appear to be the actual Certified Angus Beef brand. I think they made a typographical error, meaning to say it's just angus beef. Otherwise, this Premium line is meant to emphasize a healthier snack based on all natural ingredients, using American raised cattle on a corn-fed diet.

Even though the ingredients use the words "organic" and "natural", there is no USDA Organic seal.

Ingredients

Natural angus beef, organic evaporated cane juice, tamari soy sauce, water, natural spice seasonings, natural apple cider vinegar, natural onion powder, natural garlic powder.

Taste

A combination of sweet, salty and peppery flavor is the first thing that hits my taste buds. That's quickly followed by a soy sauce flavor. It seems like there is also garlic mixed into that salty. Moving into the chew, I can taste the natural meat flavors.

The surface taste of these pieces is very strong with that triple-tandem of sweet, salt, and pepper. I find it very enjoyable and irresistible. In fact, I can almost smell it. I think, however, what I'm smelling is the soy sauce and beef.

For being a teriyaki variety, this has no taste of teriyaki. Rather, it's all soy sauce. The sweetness of the cane juice doesn't marry into the soy sauce at all. That's not to say this jerky is a disappointment, it's still very enjoyable on its own merits.

The natural meat flavors are well evident in the chew, but it has a slight stale taste. The "Sell by" date on this is stamped as "0609", so it appears to be well within the parameters. But the jerky overall still has a snackable taste.

In terms of saltiness, this is heavily salted. But even at the 680mg of sodium listed in the nutrition facts, it doesn't necessarily wear me out. The other seasonings seem to have me wanting more. But the salt flavor is something that looms very large over this jerky.

Overall, this jerky is dominated by the soy sauce flavor, with the salty taste being a second. During the chew, the dominant flavor is the salty, with the natural meat flavors being second. The burst of pepper, sugar, and garlic I get from the surface of these pieces is great. But for being a teriyaki variety, there's no taste of teriyaki in this.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in medium to large pieces.

This is largely a thin and dry jerky, but retaining some degree of flexibility. If bent far enough, they all crack and break apart. It's very easy to tear a piece apart, and easy to chew as well.

Most of the pieces have some decent marbilization of fat, with a couple pieces having larger chunks. But it doesn't seem to ruin the flavor; they actually enhance it somewhat. Otherwise, I found no pieces of tendon or gristle.

Overall, it has a great meat consistency.

People's Choice Jerky - Premium Teriyaki

People's Choice Jerky - Premium Teriyaki
Product Value

I paid $3.99 for this 3.25 ounce bag at a roadside fruit stand just south of Valley Center, CA. That works out to a price of $1.28 per ounce, putting this into the lower end of average priced.

For general jerky snacking purposes, this is a great value. At this lower price, you're getting a lots of flavor, a complexity of flavors, a decent amount of natural meat flavors, and a great meat consistency. That all combines to make this highly snackable.

But as a teriyaki variety, this fails. I get no taste of teriyaki at all. It's largely a soy sauce taste I get, with a shot of sweetness off the surface. Those two are not fusing together to form teriyaki. Besides, teriyaki is more than just soy sauce and sugar. There's the ginger and sake (or mirin wine) components as well, which the ingredients list does not mention.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I really like the burst of sweet, salt, pepper (and some garlic) that comes off of the surface of these pieces; I find it rather addicting. The soy sauce flavor is enjoyable, along with the natural meat flavors. Even though the meat has a slightly stale taste to it, I don't find it at all disappointing. And while this jerky is very salty, it doesn't wear me out. In fact, I find this jerky difficult to resist.

I chose not award it with a higher rating because it doesn't live up to its advertised teriyaki flavor. It's just a soy sauce flavor with a brief shot of sweetness in the beginning.

If any of you remember the Old Settlers brand of jerky from years ago, back before they were acquired by Jerky Snack Brands, this jerky tastes kinda like that, except the seasonings in this are more intense.

For my beer recommendation, again a jerky with this much flavoring needs a beer light on taste: a honey blonde ale.

Rating: Good

Where to Buy: