Cheese Jerky is a new snack product that combines string cheese with bits of beef jerky. It's a product of Snack Patrol, LLC, a family-run business based out of Glendale, WI. Snack Patrol has only been around for about 8 months.
It's the brainchild of Ross Segel, a fan of both string cheese and beef jerky, who wondered if anyone tried to combine the two into one. The idea came to him to take the unique flavors of beef jerky, and leach them into the cheese. He uses a secret process to incorporate the beef jerky bits into the string cheese that allows it to maintain it's stringy consistency, and still maintain the unique flavors of mozzarella cheese and beef jerky. According to Segel, Cheese Jerky is about 93% cheese, 7% jerky.
Cheese Jerky is available in two flavors, Original and Peppered. There's also a third flavor, Zesty which is going back to the drawing board to make it more spicy hot. Segel has plans for other flavors like pepperoni, habanero, chipotle, jamaican, etc.
Each flavor uses the same mozzarella-based string cheese that we're all familiar with, however Segel says he uses an "artisan cheese maker" who makes really good cheese. Each Cheese Jerky variety get its unique flavoring from the jerky. So, an original flavored jerky creates Cheese Jerky Original, while a peppered jerky creates Cheese Jerky Peppered. "That's the beauty of this product is that we have the ability to put any jerky flavor into the cheese to give it a unique taste", Segel explained.
It's also worth noting that while Cheese Jerky has been in retail stores and convenience stores mostly in the Milwaukee, WI area, it's going back for some redevelopment. Right now it's sold in 12oz packages, with large sized sticks about 2-3 ounces each, about the size of a bratwurst. That makes Cheese Jerky rather expensive. The package was also difficult to open. Segel is now creating a smaller 1.5 ounce size, sold individually with an easy-to-open wrapper.
Part-skim mozzarella cheese [cultured pasteurized, part-skim milk, salt, enzymes], beef jerky [beef, water, sugar, less than 2% salt, corn syrup solids, dried soy sauce, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, flavorings, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite].
Not being a cheese expert, the cheese itself does indeed taste like the standard mozzarella string cheese you'd find anywhere else, but I do in fact taste a more "meaty" flavor. It's still mostly a string cheese flavor, but with a noticeable meaty highlight.
The peppered variety perhaps provides a stronger flavor with a clear shot of black pepper. You still get that slight meaty flavor in the cheese, but adds a clearly noticeable bite of black pepper.
But overall, this string cheese still mostly tastes like string cheese. It won't taste like beef jerky, it'll only have that slight bit of meaty flavor, and in the Peppered variety, an added black pepper bite.
One might think that by incorporating beef jerky into string cheese, you'd end up with a very salty product. But I don't taste this being all that salty, it seems to be on par with standard string cheese.
I'm sure there's a wide variety of applications for this hybrid product, a topping on Ritz crackers, or cutting into cubes and sticking them with toothpicks, but right now, an omelet sounds tempting.
In thinking back on all the different brands of string cheese I've had, I remember some that was more stiff, and some that was more soft. This Cheese Jerky is the softer variety.
And it does seem to pull apart into long strings, provided you can start with a thick string. Thinner strings tend to break off as they hit upon a beef jerky bit.
But I found it more snackable just biting off chunks.
The cheese also seems to hold up well to room temperature. Since I started writing this review, eating samples, and even talking on the phone with Segel at the same time, this stuff has sat out for about 3 hours, and still retains its soft stringy form without getting oily, sweaty, or dried. However, I've kept them shaded from my office window, and away from my desk lamp.
As for the jerky bits themselves, they seem to be bits of whole muscle jerky, as if Snack Patrol took the fragments sitting in the bottom of a Jack Link's bag and dumped them into their cheese mixture.
Here and there my teeth finds a beef jerky bit and it seems to be rather soft and pliable. I haven't found any unchewable bits of jerky, like gristle, tendon, or stringy connective sinews. And no bits of fat either. The best I can tell, it's all meaty bits.
The Peppered variety produces plenty of black pepper bits that when bitten into provides a burst of peppery flavor.
Eventually, Cheese Jerky will be sold in individual sticks of about 1.5 ounces in size. Segel thinks most stores will price these around $1.00 to $1.25 per stick. That would work out to a price-per-ounce of $0.67 to $0.83 per ounce.
If compared to standard beef jerky, that price is very cheap. I don't really know how that price compares to other string cheese brands. But eating this stuff, I do find a great deal of snackability, mostly as a string cheese with a new style of flavoring.
So, going back to Segel's original idea of combining both string cheese with beef jerky, does this product succeed in that regards? Well, I think this is still largely a cheese product than anything else, and I did hear Segel say that as well. It's more of way to enjoy jerky seasonings in a cheese snack. I'd be interested in seeing what this is like with a higher ratio of jerky, maybe 10%.
I'm giving this a good rating.
I find it better than the standard string cheese, both for the cheese itself, which has a soft smooth taste, and for the unique jerky style flavoring that's quite noticeable from the first bite. As a jerky snacker, I like the idea of my favorite jerky seasonings and marinades leaching into a cheese snack.
But it's not going to give you a burst of jerky flavor, in fact you'll only notice a slight difference in the Original variety, and maybe a bit more peppery flavor in the Peppered variety. I actually brought a package of Peppered Cheese Jerky to my friend's Superbowl party and had some guys try it. They couldn't tell there was any jerky flavoring to it, saying it tasted only like string cheese. Whereas I was analyzing it carefully for this review, they were simply snacking on it.
This review sample, which is the 12oz package of bratwurst-sized sticks, was also visually impressive, and I think creates more snacking anticipation. The future 1.5oz individually wrapped sticks may be lacking in that visual appeal.
In addition to being a snack, I think it'll also do well as a cooking ingredient, for stuff like omelettes, macaroni & cheese, and pizza. Might be good to shred this up and sprinkle over popcorn.
As for where you can buy this, it sounds like supplies are running out with Cheese Jerky going back for more development. Segel says to look for it in food retail chains throughout the Milwaukee, WI area.
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