Monday, March 2, 2009

Ajay's Montana Bananas - Original Extra Hot

Continuing in this series on Ajay's Montana Bananas is this Original Extra Hot variety. This is from their "Traditional Thicker Cut" line, which also includes Original Peppered and Original Sweet Teriyaki. They also offer a "Slab Style Thin Cut" line which include the same three varieties in a different meat consistency.

This brand launched back in 1979 when Ajay Avery, a singer-songwriter in a country rock band, discovered a very tasty homemade beef jerky at a butchershop in Missoula, MT. He loved it so much that he bought the recipe and decided to shift his career focus to that of a jerky marketer.

But that hasn't stopped him from writing and recording music. He actually released an album several years ago called, "Life Smarts at 40", under the artist name "Ajay and the Montana Banana Bunch", released on "Smokehouse Records".

Ingredients

Beef, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, spices, liquid smoke, garlic.

Taste

The first flavor I get when I put a piece into my mouth is a medium level sweetness, which seems to morph into a teriyaki sauce. That's followed by a slight spicy burn which seems to gain in strength over time. Seconds later I can start to taste the soy sauce. As I start chewing, I can get a weak meat flavor, and some saltiness. In some pieces, as I bite into a chile pepper seed, I can also taste the natural chile flavors. Other pieces seem to have a strong dosage of black pepper.

As for being dubbed "extra hot", what I can say is that this indeed offers some good heat, but it's hard for me to define what "extra hot" is supposed to mean since everyone has a different tolerance. After a couple of small pieces, I can feel a medium-level burn on my tongue, I can feel a warmth coming over my body, and a moisture percolating up through my scalp and dripping down the back of my neck. On my hot scale, I'd rate this as medium on an individual piece basis, but it builds up to hot over several pieces.

As for being extra hot, I think it warrants the use of that word. For me personally, I'd consider it as just "hot" at best, but in comparison to other brands of hot jerky, this is indeed hotter. Most brands that claim to be hot usually only turn out to be mild-medium, or medium.

This jerky is actually a sweet & hot variety because I'm getting a good deal of sweetness from the surface of these pieces. If I suck on a piece for several seconds most of that sweetness wears off by the time I start chewing. It's perhaps best to just suck some flavor for about 5 seconds, and then chew a little, suck a little, suck a little, etc., to get the best effect.

The natural meat flavors are there, but are light. I can taste them throughout the chewing, and get some decent enjoyment out of it. But it's clearly not the strongest flavor of this jerky. It seems like there's some soy sauce flavor mixed into meat flavor, but it's mostly noticeable in the latter part of chewing, just before I swallow.

I think that distinction goes to the sweetness. If you alternate between chewing and sucking throughout each piece, you'll find it there from the moment you put a piece into your mouth all the way until you swallow it down. That sweetness has a slight teriyaki color to it. Perhaps the second strongest flavor is the natural meat flavor, with the third strongest being the saltiness.

There's also a black pepper flavor going on in this, but it's hard to notice because of the chile pepper burn. The black pepper tends to collect in the curls of these pieces and gains strength there. When I bite into such areas, it's strong enough to notice.

The natural chile pepper flavor only seems to be noticed here and there as I bite into a chile pepper seed. I do detect some smokiness in the meat, but very light. And I can detect a light garlic taste in the background.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced thin, and in small to medium sized pieces. Note that while the package says "traditional thicker cut", it's not thick at all, or even medium thickness. It's more on the thin side.

This is a dry jerky, somewhere between soft and hard, even though the photos below make it look wet and soft. That's just a shiny coating of sweet glaze. These pieces are very flexible however, if bent lengthwise, I can bend them 180 degrees with no cracking.

Most pieces are moderately easy to bite off. However, because they're all sliced with the grain, they can take a little gnawing and pulling to bite off. Chewing can be tough in some pieces, and moderate in others. There's also so much sucking flavor in this that you tend to keep it in your mouth longer and that softens up the chewing.

The chewing texture is not exactly steak-like, but it's not mushy or crumbly. It is however a little gummy at first, feeling something like a fruit roll-up, which I think is due to the coating of glaze and the thinly sliced meat. Once it hydrates and chews down it starts to feel more like meat. But it doesn't quite have that fibrous steak-like quality.

Despite the sugary glaze, my fingers don't pick up any residue at all, remaining quite clean. But because the pieces can be tough to bite off, tiny fragments of meat and seasoning tend to fall off into my lap and onto my desk.

And these pieces appear to be very lean, I found no streaks of fat, tendon, or gristle, and didn't find any unchewable wads of tissue remaining in my mouth.




Snack Value

BevMo! sells this Original Extra Hot variety of Ajay's Montana Bananas at a price of $6.99 for a 4oz package. That works out to a price of $1.75 per ounce, putting this into the average price range. You can also buy this online directly from Ajay's Montana Bananas, but you have to buy a minimum of 13 packages, however the shipping is free.

But for general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.75 per ounce price, it seems to present a good value. I'm getting a lot snackability mostly for its great overall flavor, high level of flavor intensity, and even a strong flavor complexity. It's a good meat consistency in that it's very lean, though the chewing texture is average.

As an "extra hot" variety, at the $1.75 per ounce price, I think it's also a good value. I am in fact getting a good deal of heat, more so than with other brands of jerky that claim to be hot. If you're wanting to spend money on a tongue-burning jerky, and even get a bit of chile pepper flavor to go with it, I think you'll get some good mileage out of this one.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I found this Original Extra Hot variety from Ajay's Montana Bananas to live up to its claims of being extra hot, at least in comparison to other brands of hot jerky, and a great deal of snackability for its great overall flavor. You're mostly getting a sweet & hot variety, with some noticeable natural meat flavors, and then here and there you'll experience bursts of natural chile pepper flavor and/or black pepper.

I got a good flavor complexity with several noticeable flavors, the sweet, salty, teriyaki, soy sauce, meat flavors, chile pepper flavor, black pepper, smokiness, and garlic. Not all of these flavors are noticeable at once, or in every bite, but throughout the entire package I encounter them all.

The chewing texture is ok, but not great, and it can make your jaws tired if you plan to eat the entire contents in one sitting.

I'd recommend a smooth creamy stout to pair up with this jerky.

Rating: Good

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1 comment:

  1. LOVE Ajays Montana Bananas jerky! One the best out there. We first found it at a gas station on our way to Lake Tahoe, and we have ordered it on-line several times. My favorites are the Extra Hot and the Teriyaki. Good stuff!

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