Next in my series on Ajay's Montana Bananas is this Peppered variety. Last month I wrote a review of their Original Peppered variety. The difference between the two is that the Original Peppered uses a thicker cut of meat, while the Peppered uses a thin cut.
Ajay's Montana Bananas brand of jerky has been around for 30 years, even more than that if you want to consider Ajay Avery himself started selling this jerky before then. In fact, it's been around longer if you consider he bought the recipe for his original Cowboy style jerky from a Missoula, MT butcher shop that had been selling thsi jerky for years before then.
Today, his jerky is sold through the BevMo! chain of liquor stores throughout California and Arizona, as well as tool trucks like Matco and Snap On, and through the brand's website.
Beef, sugar, water, soy sauce solids, salt, natural spices and flavoring, hydrolyzed soy protein, monosodium glutamate, garlic powder, guar gum, polysorbate 80, caramel color powder, sodium nitrite.
I started off with a piece that had a good deal of black pepper sprinkling. The first thing I tasted off the surface is a medium level sweet flavor, followed several seconds later by some black pepper taste. With some sucking, I got some soy sauce flavor, and it's associated saltiness. As I started chewing, the black pepper aftertaste built up stronger.
But trying out a piece with hardly any black pepper visible on the surface, I didn't quite get the same level of intensity, but I still could taste the black pepper.
As a peppered variety, this jerky does seem to hold itself up to that billing. I'm getting a medium level intensity on each piece, with a few pieces varying from more to less intense. Throughout eating the entire contents, I'm getting a strong aftertaste.
The dominant flavor throughout eating this jerky is some kind of sweet flavor off the surface. It's more like a sweet flavor mixed in with something chemical-like, perhaps the guar gum, or polysorbate 80, I don't know. It's remains dominant from the moment I put a piece into my mouth, to about 1/2 the way into chewing, until it starts wearing off.
The other half of chewing seems to be dominated by the soy sauce flavor. I can pick it up as I start chewing, but it hides behind that sweet-chemical flavor until that wears off, and the soy sauce becomes more pronounced. There's also a fair amount of saltiness in that flavor, about a medium intensity.
The natural meat flavors are difficult to find in this Peppered variety, whereas in the Original Peppered variety I got a light taste. The difference, as I explained earlier, is that these are different cuts of meat. But I found some pieces in this Peppered variety with a good deal of fat marbilization that gave off a "beefy" taste.
There's a bit of spicy burn inside the meat, registering a "mild medium" on my hot scale. It could be just the black pepper and saltiness combining together, or perhaps something secret in the "natural spices and flavoring".
Finally, there's also a noticeable slimy feel on the surface when I put a piece into my mouth, and that might also be what's behind the sweet-chemical flavor.
These are slices of whole meat, in a slab style, sliced thin, and in small to medium sized pieces.
The meat fibers appear to be semi-moist, with a semi-moist exterior as well, and very flexible. The pieces are easy to tear apart with my fingers, and easy to chew.
The chewing texture starts out with a piece feeling thin and flimsy in my mouth, and chews down to a meat-like consistency with no rubbery-resistance, and does so in about 20 seconds. Once it's chewed down, it still doesn't feel like steak. It's softer, a little more mushy, than steak. Maybe it feels more like prosciutto.
Tearing these pieces apart causes a lot of black pepper chunks to fall off. I'm seeing them fall on to my desk and my lap. The surface of these pieces have a light stickiness, that picks up on my fingers, but not enough to warrant a finger licking, or wiping on my jeans.
I found a few pieces with some chunks of fat, and these seemed to contain some chewy tendon hiding inside. A couple of other pieces had some significant marbilization that added a unique taste. Otherwise, I didn't find any gristle in this jerky, and there's little in the way of chewy sinews.
Ajay's Montana Bananas has a suggested retail price of $7.00 per five ounce package for this Peppered variety. That works out to a price of $1.40 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at this $1.40 price per ounce, it seems to provide a good value. I'm getting a good deal of snackability through its good overall taste and easy eating. It provides some good flavor off the surface, plenty of flavor in the chewing.
As a black peppered variety, at the same $1.40 price per ounce, it's also a good value. I get a lot of black pepper flavor in a jerky that's easy to eat, with a good deal of sweet and soy sauce flavors to go with it.
I'm giving this an average rating.
In comparison to other peppered mass-market jerky brands, this one from Ajay's Montana Bananas is clearly a better product. It's has a better overall taste than what you'd find in most grocery stores and convenience stores, and is still easy to eat and chew, and actually tastes like a peppered jerky.
But there's still some shortcomings, for one I couldn't pick up any natural meat flavors in this, and two, it doesn't have that steak-like chewing texture that I enjoy. There's even that strange, chemical-like flavor mixed into the sweetness. While I can overlook those things if a jerky provides an excellent flavor, this jerky's flavor is good, better than average, but not excellent.
For a moment I teetered between "average" and "good", but I kept finding myself leaning towards average. It has a mass-market character to it, but providing a better flavor.
When I learned that Ajay's Montana Bananas is sold at BevMo! stores, I visited the one in my town, and sure enough they are there. Except they sit right next to packages of Umpua Indian Foods jerky. After having reviewed both, I definitely like Ajay's better.
I think a good beer to go with this is a red ale.
Buy this online: