Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Black Forest Bison Jerky - Caliente Canyon

Black Forest Bison Jerky - Caliente CanyonNext in the series on Black Forest Bison Jerky is this "Caliente Canyon" variety. See my previous review of their Gunsmoke and Rocky Mountain Red varieties.

Black Forest Bison is a small family operated bison ranch just north of Colorado Springs, CO. It's been in operation for six years, dedicated to raising all natural grass fed bison. They sell steaks, roasts, ribs, sausage, and jerky.

This Caliente Canyon took 1st place at the 2009 Scovie Awards as a spicy hot jerky. The company describes it as "The perfect blend of Habanero and Chipotle peppers, this spicy jerky will warm the back of your mouth, the top and sides of your tongue but never burn your lips."


Bison, soy sauce, water, worcestershire sauce, chilis, herbs & spices.

The soy sauce, herbs & spices are noted as being made from organic ingredients.


The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a light saltiness, some kind of spice blend, and about 5 seconds into this I can feel a light spicy burn building. I can also taste a faint bit of worcestershire from the surface also. Overall, the surface has a medium level flavor intensity.

In the chewing, the first thing I notice is a light natural meat flavor, a little bit stronger burn, and a tad more of the spice blend.

For being described as a spicy jerky that will warm the back of your mouth and the top and sides of your tongue, I think it does live up to that billing. I do get a good deal of burn, what I would rate on my hot scale as a "medium hot". There's clearly a burn going on, but not so intense that I can keep on eating without pause. I'm not getting sweat pouring out of my scalp like with other brands I've had, no watery eyes or runny nose, just a nice exquisite tongue burn.

The company's description also notes a "blend of Habanero and Chipotle peppers", but it's not easy for me to identify the unique chile flavors. While I do taste a definite spice blend in this, I can't quite identify the actual chile flavors. However, there are some crags and bends in this meat where the seasonings collect and have a stronger intensity, and I was able to get a light chile pepper flavor.

The primary flavor of this jerky seems to be an even combination of soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and the herbs & spices. I can taste all three in this quite evenly. Compare that to the Gunsmoke and Rocky Mountain Red varieties that I reviewed previously, where the soy sauce/worcestershire seemed to have a stronger presence.

There's also a dominant saltiness to this due to the dominant soy sauce and worcestershire flavors. It's perhaps at a high level, but still within my personal tolerance level. But, I note that the saltiness is still high enough that if I were to eat the entire contents of this package all the way through, I'd lose sense of the other flavors.

I note a stronger natural meat flavor in this compared to the Gunsmoke and Rocky Mountain Red varieties, and there's also a bit of smokiness in that meat as well. It's strong enough that I'll go ahead and consider it the third dominant flavor, but it's only strong enough to be noticed in the first bite I take, or after having paused for 10-15 minutes. The problem is the high salt intensity; it tends to scorch my tongue just enough to where I can't taste the meat anymore, hence the need to pause in between bites.

Overall, what you're going to taste in this jerky is a lot of flavor intensity, through an even blend of soy sauce, worcestershire, and the spices, which includes a good deal of chile pepper heat. You'll even notice some natural meat flavors.

Meat Consistency

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

This is a dry jerky, but still feeling somewhat soft and tender. They crack apart easily with just a little bit of bending. Tearing pieces apart with my fingers seems somewhat easy, there are some stingy fibers that make things a little tough to tear. Chewing seems fairly easy.

The chewing texture has a very steak-like feel once its chewed down to a soft mass. Initially, a piece starts out feeling dry but soft, without any rubbery chewing resistance. It moistens up and chews down fairly quickly and easily. Eventually it takes on steak-like feel, similar to a well-done cooked steak.

I didn't find any visible streaks of fat on these pieces, but I did find two pieces with some small chunks of gristle, however they were small enough that they didn't subtract much from the chewing enjoyment. I also found some chewy sinews in this meat here and there, but overall not too bad.

In terms of clean eating, this jerky seems pretty clean. I don't pick up any residue on my fingers, and tearing pieces apart yields very little meat fragments falling off on my lap or desk.

Snack Value

Black Forest Bison sells this Caliente Canyon variety online at a price of $11.00 for a 3.5oz package. If you were to purchase 3 packages (each a different variety), the shipping costs would amount to $10.50 (if sent to my home town). That works out to a total price of $43.50, or a per ounce price of $4.14.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $4.14 price per ounce, it's a fair value. I actually get a lot of snackability from this for its strong flavor intensity, decent flavor complexity, its unique spice blend, and good chewing texture. The medium-hot spicy heat is nice too. It's just that a price of $4.14 per ounce is very high; most gourmet jerky isn't even that high. As good as this jerky is, it's worth trying at least once, but I can't justify paying that price over and over again.

As a spicy hot bison jerky, at the same $4.14 price per ounce, again it's a fair value. It's actually a very good spicy hot bison jerky, that even provides some natural meat flavors to let you enjoy the unique flavor of bison meat. And while bison meat is going to be more expensive than beef, perhaps this high of a price is understandable. But like I said in the previous paragraph, it's worth trying once, but it's tough to justify subsequent purchases.

What would make this a better value is that it's specifically a grass-fed bison jerky, made with organic ingredients. Add to that how good this jerky tastes, only then it might warrant paying that high of a price for those people who demand such bison.


I'm giving this a good rating.

This Caliente Canyon variety from Black Forest Bison provides a good deal of spicy heat, with a high flavor intensity from its blend of soy sauce, worcestershire, and herbs & spices. There's even enough natural meat flavors in here to enjoy the unique taste of bison meat. Add in the good chewing texture, and it creates an excellent jerky.

The biggest negative I found in this is its high salt intensity. I wouldn't call it "too high" for my personal tolerance, but it's still high enough that it tended to numb my sense of the other flavors. Particularly, the natural meat flavors are easily lost. In order to enjoy the full flavor of this jerky, I had to pause about 10-15 minutes between each bite, to let the salt scorching wear off.

That's largely what kept me from giving it the higher "best" rating. Having to wait that long in between bites to enjoy full flavor makes it frustrating to snack on. If I wanted to, I could still snack away without pause, but I'd end up losing out on the full flavor.

Perhaps others of you don't have the sensitivity to salt that I have, and could easily see this as a "best" rated jerky.

My recommended beer pairing for this, try a dark smoky porter.

Rating: Good

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