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Archive for June 18th, 2009

beef chewing gum

Willy Wonka: Don’t you know what this is?
Violet Beauregarde: By gum, it’s gum.
Willy Wonka: [happily, but sarcastically] Wrong! It’s the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world.
Violet Beauregarde: What’s so fab about it?
Willy Wonka: This little piece of gum is a three-course dinner.
Mr. Salt: Bull.
Willy Wonka: No, roast beef. But I haven’t got it quite right yet.

- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) as quoted by IMDb

About 6 weeks ago, I received a package of Holy Cow Kosher beef jerky after I tweeted the vendor with my interest in trying it, offering to share my opinions with this new market entrant.

The marketing material on the package gives some pretty high expectations: “American’s favorite Kosher beef jerky!” ??? And, I’m not even commenting on the incorrect capitalization of “Kosher” <sigh!>.

package close-up

I was a little disconcerted by the actual package because there seemed to be a fair amount of moisture surrounding the meat (apologies for the glare – this was the best picture I could get). I thought jerky was supposed to be very dry.

jerky close-up

But, hey, I take my job as a food taster seriously. I didn’t want to trust just my taste buds … I wanted to get balanced opinions from a wide range of friends coming from different backgrounds. Waiting for the right occasion took a little while, but it finally arrived – my good friend Sacha was finally back in town from DC and threw a late night barbecue.

Lots of meat. Hungry people. A little beer and scotch flowing. Let the opining begin.

I arrived shortly before 11 pm with my 2 oz bag of Holy Cow jerky poking out of my purse between my wallet and cell phone. After eating a hamburger, I busted the bag out and explained our task for the night, dispensing brown nibbles to all attendees. The comments came fast and furious.

One friend, somewhat prone to (melo)drama, and who admitted to not liking beef jerky in the first place, spit the jerky out and called it “stale plastic in bargain basement teriyaki sauce…like a dog chew toy…” Granted, I’m not sure why he knows what a dog chew toy tastes like, but I’ll leave that for another discussion.

Another non-jerky eater described the flavor as “weird” but was impressed that the ingredient list was all pronounceable with only one preservative.

Our final jerky novice was similarly not impressed, handing her piece to her husband after one tentative bite, dismissing it as “tasting like poop.”

Her husband, on the other hand, our first jerky pro, felt that the meat “was already a little too moist and loose already…had a good taste but went too quickly… it should require a bit more work to loosen it up.”

Sacha, our most voracious meat eater and consistent traveler, said that there was absolutely no comparison between this jerky and what he calls the gold standard, Jeff’s Gourmet dried beef jerky sticks that he buys and eats on airplanes.

The self-described “ultimate cheapskate” who spent time in Texas and therefore should know a thing or two about jerky called the meat “something like a Japanese candy” and eventually had to throw it out despite the starving children in Africa.

Finally the most experienced jerky connoisseur, having actually made jerky with roommates while in Yeshiva in Israel, described the Holy Cow jerky as having a texture that immediately brought to mind “fleishig” chewing gum. Again, not boding well for jerky.

Now, a note on the jerky’s texture. The company’s website states:

Through our revolutionary production process, we’ve mastered the art of Jerky making. The result is truly fantastic flavor with a lean, tender finish – never brittle and dry. Moreover at Holy Cow! Kosher, we never use artificial ingredients, No Trans Fats or unnatural preservatives. If you’re looking for 100% quality, you found it.

So, they seem happy with their “tender finish” but our consensus was that “brittle and dry” is really the way to go with jerky.

The précis for Holy Cow!:

- Nice use of natural ingredients
– Poor texture, too moist for jerky
– Mediocre taste
– I would not buy this again, especially because there are better options out there

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