Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gary West Meats - Elk Strips

gary west meats elk jerkyGary West Meats is a manufacturer of smoked meats, based in Jacksonville, OR. The company started in 1966, based on old family recipes handed down to Gary West by his grandfather.

While the company is well known for their smoked hams and turkeys, they've made a name for themselves in recent years as a manufacturer of "artisan jerky", putting emphasis on the natural meat flavors.

These elk strips is one of two exotic meat jerkies that Gary West Meats makes. The company says they use elk raised in natural environments, with no steroids, no hormones, and no antibiotics.

Interestingly, the package on these elk strips says "Beef Added", which is very common with exotic meat products. Many other manufacturers produce chopped & formed exotic meat jerky because they mix in about 10% beef, so as to escape the exotic meat certification requirements. However, according to Gary West Meats, they have a different explanation, though it sounds like it could be the same. A USDA inspector is in their factory every day, inspecting beef, but doesn't inspect any of the exotic meats. So in order to get their exotic meats inspected and approved, they add beef to it. To do this, they puree some beef and add it into the marinade. Then they soak the elk strips into the marinade. Technically, there's going to be some bits of beef stuck to the elk strips, but for all intents and purposes, it's whole elk meat.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Samak Smoke House Beef Jerky - All Natural

samak smoke houseSamak Smoke House is a smoke house and country store located in Kamas, UT. It's a mom & pop business run by an actual mom and pop, Jen Hisey and David Witham. The name "Samak" interestingly, is Kamas spelled backwards.

The couple makes jerky in their own USDA inspected facility, smoking them over cherry wood chips. They also smoke salmon, trout, buffalo, and deer. They make cookies, energy bars, and biscotti. And when they're not staffing the country store, they're selling their stuff at Farmer's Markets in Salt Lake City and Park City.

Samak Smoke House offers two lines of jerky, this All Natural line, which comes in the black package, and an Original line which comes in a tan package. I also have their Chipotle beef jerky and turkey jerky to review later.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sograte Beef Jerky - Black Pepper (Revised)

sograte beef jerkyIn July of 2009 I posted a review of Sograte's Black Pepper beef jerky. But last week, the company sent me another package claiming they improved the recipe, and sought another review.

Read that review here.

I had actually given this jerky my highest rating (best) back then, but after reading my review and the comments posted on that review, Cary Franklin, the guy who runs Sograte Beef Jerky, wanted to make some adjustments. Specifically, I had reported a high saltiness, and a tough chew in the thicker pieces. One commenter agreed with the toughness, claiming it was difficult to eat.

Now, Cary reports that in this revised recipe the saltiness has been toned down, and the meat has an "improved texture".

I also want to note that this package was not vacuum sealed, and I think it may have been when Cary sent it to me, but somehow lost its seal through the delivery.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

McDonald's Meats Beef Jerky - Original

mcdonald's meatsMcDonald's Meats is a full service butcher shop in Clear Lake, MN, in operation since 1914. It was actually in operation before then, but under a different name.

It's a family-run business originally founded by John Leo McDonald, who passed it to his son Richard in 1954, who then passed it to his son Dave in 1989. While they run a full service meat shop and wild game processing, they claim to be known for their jerky, with 22 varieties in all, which they make in their own USDA inspected facility. The company smokes their jerky over real wood.

On the company's website, they state their jerky is "award winning", but didn't specify who awarded it. I'm curious! In addition to beef jerky, they also offer beef strips, which I'll be writing reviews for as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Insane Jerky - Sweet & Spicy

insane jerkyNext in the series on Insane Jerky is this Sweet & Spicy beef jerky. See my previous reviews of their Original and Jamaican Style varieties.

The company, based in Ashburn, VA was founded by Atta Khan, who wanted to bring beef jerky to the muslim community, through the use of halal certified beef. Halal is a term used to identify products that are brought into line with Sharia law. With respect to food, it's like the muslim equivalent of kosher.

Recently Insane Jerky changed meat processors, and tweaked the recipe. I had done a couple of reviews of their older product, which I gave out "dog treats" rating to, based on a very tough meat consistency, and a near-flavorless taste. But I've found that this new meat processor and new recipe has turned the brand into the right direction.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cattleman's Beef Jerky - Hot

cattleman's beef jerkyCattleman's Beef Jerky is a brand of KMB Foods, Inc., based out of Arcadia, CA. KMB Foods owns other brands, including Pacific Coast Jerky Factory, and Cactus Jacks.

KMB Foods also has a big private labeling business, making jerky for several different brands. They also manufacture proprietary recipes for other jerky brands as well.

This particular jerky from their Cattleman's brand uses a different type of meat that I haven't seen from them before. It's a slab-style cut, but cut more thin, and is very flexible. I've seen a another slab-style cut they use that's more rigid, and almost black in color, which I've reviewed from their Pacific Coast Jerky Factory line, and another brand called Mt Shasta's Finest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gary West Meats - Silver Fork Natural

gary west meats silver fork naturalGary West Meats is a brand of smoked meats that has been in business since 1966, operated by a company of the same name, based in Jacksonville, OR.

It's a second generation-run family business first started by, none other than, Gary West. But the company's meat products goes back further to Gary's grandfather Fred West, who taught the old family recipes to Gary. In 2004, West sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law. In addition to jerky, the company also makes smoked hams, turkeys, and sausages.

The Gary West brand of beef jerky seems to have made a name for itself in a new genre of "artisan jerky". I still haven't figured out what "artisan jerky" is, because if you ask any other jerky brand out there, they'll tell you they work really hard at creating great tasting jerky. But I keep reading various food journals that describe certain brands of jerky as being SO good, that people sip wine with it. The Gary West brand seems to always get mentioned with this.

This Silver Fork Natural variety appears to be a new offering, as I can't find it mentioned in the company's catalog or website. The package describes Fred West summering his cattle in the Silver Fork Basin, high above the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon, and recalls a time when beef jerky was simple, pure, and free of modern-day chemicals. This is not marked as organic however, but simply "natural".

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sograte Beef Jerky - Original (Revised)

sograte beef jerkyYesterday I received a package from Sograte Beef Jerky containing a bag of their Original beef jerky and a bag of their Black Pepper beef jerky.

Cary Franklin, who runs Sograte, revised the recipe for his beef jerky, saying he made it more moist, and cut back on the saltiness, after reading the reviews I did last Summer for several of his varieties, as well as comments posted on those reviews.

Read my previous review here.

In my previous review of the Original variety, I gave it a four-star rating (Good) on the strength of its smoky natural meat flavor. But I had shyed away from the five-star rating due to a high saltiness, and a somewhat tough chew.

Sograte Beef Jerky is based in Lubbock, TX, and has been around since 2005.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Insane Jerky - Jamaican Style

insane jerky jamaican style beef jerkyNext in the series on Insane Jerky is this Jamaican Style beef jerky. See my previous review of their Original beef jerky.

Insane Jerky is specializes in selling "Halal Certified" beef jerky, which is the muslim equivalent of kosher. The animal must go through a specific slaughtering process, and go through an extensive blood-draining process that effects the flavor of the beef.

Recently Insane Jerky changed it's meat processor, and revised its recipe. Previously, I found their jerky to be very tough, and lacking flavor. In this revised product, I've found it to be more tender and flavorful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mingua Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

mingua beef jerkyNext up in the series on Mingua Beef Jerky is this Teriyaki variety. See my other reviews of their Cajun Style, Hot, and Mild varieties.

Mingua Beef Jerky is based in Paris, KY, founded by Ronnie Mingua (pronounced Ming-Ghee). One late night, Ronnie, a tobacco farmer, bought a Ronco food dehydrator after watching one of those late-night infomercials. A year later, he perfected a recipe and soon started selling jerky all over the State of Kentucky.

Eventually he and his brother built a USDA approved facility and designed their own meat dehydrators, and expanded production. Now, the Minguas rely on beef jerky sales to keep the family going, and are selling it to stores all across the eastern USA.

Mingua Beef Jerky is made without preservatives and no nitrites.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gary West Meats - Cajun

gary west meatsGary West Meats is a small family owned meat business in Jacksonville, Oregon, dating back to 1966. It was created by Gary West who made use of old family recipes handed down to him by his grandfather. In addition to making beef jerky, they produce smoked hams and turkeys.

The company refers to their jerky products as "strips" rather than "jerky" claiming that it's more moist than typical jerky. All of their jerky is hand made from beginning to end.

In 2004, Gary West sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law, who continue to operate it today. Since then, it's jerky business has skyrocketed and has been featured on all the major media outlets, CNN, ABC News, The Food Network, Good Morning America, New York Times, and Outdoor Life.

Gary West Meats also offers a separate line Certified Angus Beef jerky, and is the only brand authorized to make jerky from CAB.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jerky Junction - Sweet & Spicy

jerky junctionJerky Junction is a brand of Jerky Junction, Inc., based out of Carson City, NV. The brand has been around awhile, going back to about 18 years now. It's run by Andy Baird and his son Kyle, and Andy's brother Ian.

Baird had been in the restaurant industry and had wanted to start his own business in the food industry, and picked jerky. The train theme comes from his love of trains, which stemmed from his grandfather Walter Baird, who invented the first electric light for trains. Just a year ago, Jerky Junction opened up its first retail outlet in Truckee, CA, inside an old train caboose.

This particular package of Sweet & Spicy is from the brand's "Clear Bag" line, which is a slab-style jerky cut up into small pieces. It's manufactured by Country Archer in Grand Terrace, CA. Jerky Junction offers other lines and varieties of jerky.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Insane Jerky - Original (Revisited)

insane jerkyLast August I wrote a review for Insane Jerky's Original beef jerky, which I had given a "Dog Treats" rating, mostly because it was tough, and lacked flavor. Read the original review.

But last week the company sent me packages of their new beef jerky, explaining that they've since hired a different meat processor, and modified the recipe making it more flavorful and moist. In addition to this Original variety, I have their Jamaican, Spicy, and Sweet & Spicy varieties to review later.

Insane Jerky specializes in selling "Halal Beef Jerky". Halal is the equivalent of kosher for muslims. Animals must be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. They are slaughtered by hand, severing the jugular vein, leaving the spinal column intact, while draining out as much blood as possible. Because of this, the meat tends to taste different than other beef.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gary West Meats - Teriyaki

gary west meats teriyakiSince 1966 Gary West Meats has been serving up smoked meats and jerky from its facility in Jacksonville, OR.

The company, started by Gary West, was established using the same recipes that have circulated through his family going back to the 1850s. The company is well known for making jerky that emphasizes the great taste of beef, using minimal seasonings, and grade A maturity beef, which is younger and more tender.

In 2004, West sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law who continue to operate it today. Since then, they have introduced new line of jerky made from Certified Angus Beef, and is the only company authorized to make it.

All of their jerky is hickory smoked and cut by hand.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mingua Beef Jerky - Cajun Style

Mingua Beef JerkyNext in the series on Mingua Beef Jerky is this Cajun Style. See my previous reviews of their Mild and Hot varieties.

The Paris, KY-based brand got started in 1993 when Ronnie Mingua (pronounced Ming-Ghee), a tobacco farmer, was watching a television informercial on the Ronco food dehydrator, and decided he had to get one. It took about a year until he perfected a recipe, and started selling his jerky to folks all over the State of Kentucky.

Eventually he and his brother built a USDA approved facility and designed their own meat dehydrators, and expanded production. Instead of farming tobacco, Mingua has now shifted to beef jerky manufacturing and sells it to stores all across the eastern USA.

Mingua Beef Jerky is made without preservatives and no nitrites.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Crazy Ed's Roadkill Awesome Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

Crazy Ed's Roadkill Awesome Beef JerkyNext up in the series on Crazy Ed's Roadkill Awesome Beef Jerky is this Teriyaki variety. See my earlier review of their Black Pepper beef jerky.

Crazy Ed's Roadkill Awesome Beef Jerky is a brand of MTL Enterprises, Inc. based out of Sunderland, VT. It's the creation of Jeramie Westbay, who started making beef jerky nearly 20 years ago, but only recently started selling it commercially. His Crazy Ed's Roadkill brand first hit store shelves last September.

The name "Crazy Ed's" is in tribute to his late friend, Ed Colomb, a biker who taught Westbay how to make beef jerky. The Crazy Ed's Roadkill brand is smoked with real hickory wood over charcoal, and is made in Westbay's own USDA facility. He says it's cooked hotter and faster than most jerky, and claims this retains more of the taste of beef.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Gary West Meats - Cracked Black Pepper

Gary West Meats - Cracked Black PepperGary West Meats is a company based in Jacksonville, OR that makes smoked meats, including jerky, hams, turkeys, and sausages. They've been around since 1966.

The business was started by Gary West using recipes handed down to him from his grandfather. The recipes actually date back to when his grandfather was just a little boy growing up in southern Oregon. The West family as a whole have been in that region since the 1850s. In 2004, West sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law, who continue the same recipes today.

The brand's focus is to highlight the natural meat flavors, which they have done quite well. All of their jerky varieties tend to be low on seasonings, just to prevent them from competing with the meat's smoky taste.

Gary West Meats cuts and processes all of their jerky by hand at their own facility in Jacksonville, OR.