Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caveman Jerky - Crushed Red Pepper

Caveman Jerky - Crushed Red PepperThe second in my series on Caveman Jerky is this Crushed Red Pepper variety. See my previous review of their Original Black Pepper variety.

Caveman Jerky is a brand of Caveman Jerky, Inc., based in Oakview, CA. It was started by Noah Staggs, who launched the company just a few years ago up in Grants Pass, OR, where his family is originally from. He uses an old family recipe that dates back to 1908.

Since then, he moved the company south to Oakview, and makes all the jerky himself. He buys his beef from People's Sausage Company, of Los Angeles, CA, who makes the "People's Choice" brand of jerky. His wife does the packing, package design, order fulfillment, and website.


Beef, water, salt, spices, sugar, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, hydrolyzed soy protein.


The flavors I pick up from the surface of these pieces starts with a meaty flavor right away, with a bit of saltiness coming through. In the chewing, I get more saltiness right away, followed by some natural meat flavors, some black pepper, and a light garlic aftertaste.

With the words "Crushed Red Pepper" on the package, and with red pepper flakes and seeds clearly visible through the package window, one gets the sense of this being a hot jerky. But it clearly is not. I get only a light spicy burn on the tongue, but perhaps only enough to consider this "mild-medium". That burn tends to build up its intensity over several pieces to "medium".

Overall, I don't taste a lot of the red pepper's natural flavors, except where there was a more dense sprinkling, or where I bit into a red pepper seed. I'd estimate about 1 in every 10 bites I could taste a light red pepper flavor for just a couple of chews. The package doesn't make any claims of being hot, spicy, or depict graphics to suggest that. So, perhaps it backs up its billing as a crushed red pepper variety for having crushed red peppers on it, and providing a light to medium burn.

The natural meat flavors vary from light to medium in strength. Some pieces have a smooth texture which provide a light meat flavor. The pieces with a rough texture tend to give off a stronger meat flavor. It's a flavor similar to a porterhouse steak, cooked well-done over a grill, and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and garlic.

I think the overall dominant flavor of this jerky is the saltiness. It starts when I put a piece into my mouth, I can taste salt granules on the surface. In the chewing, the saltiness increases its intensity to where it seems to overshadow everything. But it's not quite to the point where it becomes too salty for me.

To describe the general taste of this jerky, go back to what I said about the natural meat flavors. It's like a porterhouse steak, grilled well-done, seasoned with salt, black pepper, and garlic, except where the meat was marinated in salt and became rather salty. There appears to be some sprinkling of salt granules on the surface that give off an early shot of flavor. Finally, there's the burn of the red pepper that lingers in the background.

Meat Consistency

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

It's a dry jerky, any degree of bending will cause it to crack. As a result, tearing pieces apart is very easy with my fingers, although chewing tends to be moderately tough.

The chewing texture is very steak-like, being meaty and fibrous. It's about the texture of a well-done grilled steak, except dry. I didn't find it at all mushy, crumbly, or gummy. There's a certain amount of toughness to this jerky that can tire the jaw muscles if you eat it rather quickly. There's just barely enough surface flavor in the seasoning that it will let you suck on a piece before chewing, and help soften things up.

As I tear pieces apart, either with my fingers or pulling off with my teeth, pieces of red pepper are falling off. I find myself picking them back up and popping them into my mouth just to add a little more flavor.

The meat appears to be very lean. I don't see any significant amounts of fat, and no tendon and no gristle. I didn't even get any unchewable wads of membranous tissue remaining in my mouth.

Snack Value

Caveman Jerky sells this Crushed Red Pepper variety from their website at a price of $7.99 for 6 ounces. They actually sent me two 3.5 ounce packages, making it 7 ounces total. I also ordered 6 ounces of their Original Black Pepper variety as well. In all, I paid a total of $26.93 for 14 ounces of jerky after you tack on tax and shipping. That works out to a price of $1.92 per ounce, putting this just inside the average price range, but close to being expensive.

Note that also sells this jerky, and right now they have a deal going where if you buy $25.00 or more, they waive the shipping fee.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.92 per ounce price, I think this has a good value. I'm getting a good snackability out of this mostly for its good overall flavor, and good chewing texture. I think this has a little bit more flavor than the company's Original Black Pepper variety due to the random shots of red pepper flavor here and there, and the light burn that comes with it.

As a red pepper variety, at the same $1.92 per ounce price, it's a fair value. At that higher-end price, I'm not getting much mileage out of the red pepper. I get just a light burn on an individual piece basis, and maybe a moderate burn over several pieces. But half-way into the package, the endorphins have kicked in and taken the edge off of that burn; it's not really doing anything for me now. What I really want is the flavor of the red pepper, and I only get sparing amounts of it.


I'm giving this a good rating.

This Crushed Red Pepper variety from Caveman Jerky is largely the same as their Original Black Pepper in terms of taste, consistency and texture, except it offers a light-to-medium red pepper burn, and a light red pepper flavor here and there. I think it adds just enough extra "oomph" to push this above average.

And like the Original Black Pepper, this variety also provides that same natural meat flavor. It's varied, however, with some pieces having a light flavor, and others with a medium-level flavor.

I find myself getting more snackability out of this jerky because I get sparing amounts of that red pepper flavor that I want to find more of it. As it turns out, I don't get much red pepper flavor overall, but where I do get a shot of it I really love it. That's enough to keep me craving for more. Maybe the next time I find myself cruising through Ojai, I'll sneak into Caveman Jerky's kitchen, and toss an extra bottle of crushed red pepper into the mixture.

While this jerky can also be a tough chew, it doesn't seem to be all that bad if you can slow down the snacking. I'd suggest sucking on a piece first and then chewing, or you can take a few light chews, suck out a bit of flavor, take a few more light chews, suck out a bit more, etc. That'll make it easier on the jaws.

As for my beer recommendation, a cherry or raspberry lambic would go great.

Rating: Good

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