Last week I published a review of Route 66 Beef Jerky - Original, and wanted to follow up with a review of their Green Chile variety.
Route 66 is a brand produced by Old Santa Fe Trail, Inc., based out of Albuquerque, NM. They've been making beef jerky since 1988, right off the old historic Route 66. Their jerky is made from their own USDA approved facility, staffed with a small crew of 9 people.
The company says that this green chile variety was made using chiles from the Hatch Valley of southern New Mexico. According to Matthew Chavez, the company's founder, Hatch is the chile capital of the world, saying that the people there have such a keen sense for chiles, they can taste one and tell which side of Interstate 40 it grew from.
It sounds like I'm in for a real treat.
Beef, water, green chili, salt, garlic powder, pepper.
The taste I pick up from the surface of these pieces is just a mild meaty aroma, not even a taste. In the chewing, what I taste is a moderate level natural meat flavor, and a bit of salty.
Oddly, I couldn't taste any of the green chiles in the above paragraph. So, I took another piece, with lots of green chile seeds, and just started chewing right away. Could I taste the green chiles then? Not there either.
However, I finally found a piece where I could chew right away, and get some green chile flavor. But it still wasn't a significant flavor. It was just enough to color the natural meat flavors.
Overall, for being a green chile variety, I'm left feeling teased. Many of these pieces, perhaps the majority of pieces, don't really offer a green chile flavor, though I did a find a few pieces here and there that seemed to present a light taste. Instead, the pieces offer a slight spicy burn on the tongue, but not necessarily the flavor of green chile. That spicy burn is also light, something I'd rate as mild. Lesser adapted tongues might find it as mild-medium.
Now admittedly, I'm not a chile pepper expert. I can't analyze the effects that green chiles may have had on these meat pieces, but then again, I don't think the general public would either. If I can't appreciate this as a green chile jerky, what about all the other jerky snackers? What about a green chile fanatic? Will they find this jerky satisfying?
As for the garlic powder and pepper listed in the ingredients, if it's there it's very slight. After several pieces, I don't feel the garlic aftertaste, or even the pepper (I assume black pepper), aftertaste.
For the most part, this jerky is largely the same as the brand's original variety, except with a slightly noticeable spicy burn, albeit still mild.
For the record, the dominant flavor of this jerky is the natural meat flavor, which is presented in a moderate to strong showing. It has a taste very much like a steak cooked well done. It's actually a very good meat flavor.
The second-most dominant flavor is a moderate to light salty flavor. There were times when I found a piece with a higher salt flavor that I wondered if maybe I was tasting the green chile flavor. But I don't think I was. I thought carefully as to what was a salty flavor, and what was a green chile flavor.
For being someone who isn't a chile expert, my impression is that I can't taste much green chile in this, maybe just a little bit here and there.
These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to a medium thickness, and in small, medium, and large pieces.
This is dry jerky, very dry. It's so dry that it has a lot of crunchiness to it. It's almost like biting into a tortilla chip, except that it clearly has a meat-like texture. It's easy to bite off into smaller pieces, and it chews somewhat easily. Some pieces can require more effort into chewing.
The chewing texture is excellent. Once a piece hydrates in my mouth, it feels exactly like chewing a steak cooked well done.
In terms of clean eating, it seems pretty clean. My fingers don't pick any residue, and those chile seeds haven't fallen off into my lap. But then again, knowing how crunchy and brittle these pieces are, I found myself taking care not to let anything fall into my lap.
I found a number of pieces with some streaks of fat, but considering how dry these pieces are, I couldn't taste anything from the fat. I also found a couple pieces with gristle, but again, because of how dry this jerky is, the gristle was all crispy and not chewy at all.
I paid $9.75 for this 4 ounce package from Route 66's website. That works out to a price of $2.44 per ounce, making this an expensive jerky. It's worth noting that this price includes shipping and handling.
For general jerky snacking purposes, it's a fair value. I do get a good deal of snackability from this. I think the crunchiness of these pieces really adds to the snacking fun. The natural meat flavors are good enough to keep me wanting more, and then it's colored by the salt, and then what small amounts of green chile flavor I find here and there makes it worth reaching for more. You'd have to buy this in larger quantities to get that per ounce price down before I'd consider it a better value.
But as a green chile variety, at this higher price, it's a poor value. When I buy a bag of jerky at this price, seeing it advertised as a green chile variety, I expect to get a good-to-great helping of green chile flavor. In fact, I'd expect chunks of dehydrated green chiles stuck to the pieces. The green chile flavor should swarm my taste buds, instead I'm having to search for them.
I'm giving this an average rating.
This green chile variety from Route 66 is actually a snackable jerky mainly for its moderate to strong natural meat flavors and excellent chewing texture. The fact that it's very crunchy seems to add more snacking enjoyment. But it still comes off as a bland jerky.
That's largely what I said about Route 66's original variety, but I had hoped this green chile variety would provide a more tasty punch to the overall flavor. It just doesn't. There isn't enough green chile flavor do that. While some pieces do seem to have a identifiable green chile flavor, most of the pieces do not.
And while it's appreciable that Route 66 uses green chiles from Hatch, NM, the chile capital of the world, they may as well as have used green chiles from Washington DC, our nation's capital, considering the light-to-faint traces of green chile flavor.
Personally, I think the best way to enjoy this jerky is like a tortilla chip. Get some salsa verde, and dip it in there.
I think a good beer companion for this is a light pale ale, like a German kolsch.
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