The statement “I love jerky” is pointless and trivial. Of course you love jerky, we all do. In addition to jerky, many people also love smoked salmon. But these are two very different foods, and in my life thus far, as wild and adventurous as it has been, I have never been tempted to combine the two. Someone was however, and of course that person was an employee of Trader Joe’s. God bless those crazy mad men.
I’m sure that you, like myself, have encountered jerky in many forms beyond the simple “beef” of yore. Turkey jerky, elk jerky, emu jerky, gator jerky, even alien jerky (if the market shills in Barstow, CA are to be trusted at any rate) – all seem to taste, in the end, basically the same. That’s the miracle of jerky, you get some meat, jerk the hell out of it, dehydrate (or smoke) ‘til dried, slap it in some burgundy-colored bag and mark it up 500%. Bam, jerky. The tang of the spices is what you’re paying for, the meat itself never seems to make that much of a difference. But terrestrial animals are one thing – what about fish? They are, for one, famously fishy tasting. There is something of the river or ocean inherent in the meat of the fish that is not easy to simply jerk and dry away. Or is it?
There are a couple things that immediately stand out about Trader Joe’s Wild Salmon Jerky. One is the texting cowboy riding the giant fish (miniature cowboy riding regular sized fish?) which is fine, whatever. Considerably more interesting are the ingredients that are going into our wild salmon snack – a brine of brown sugar, caramelized sugar, molasses, maple syrup and a touch of salt. Sounds a little sweet, doesn’t it? “But” you might be thinking, “Using salmon for jerky is novel enough – surely they aren’t making sweet salmon jerky.”
Hold onto your pants, because they damn well are.
Trader Joe’s Wild Salmon Jerky is, hands down, the sweetest, most sugary jerky I’ve ever had. Your fingers come away tacky with molasses from each bite, that’s what we’re talking about here. And why not? If you can have BBQ jerky and Teriyaki jerky and “X-box presents: Call of Duty 4: X-trm Habenero” Jerky, why not a fish jerky reminiscent of pancakes?
Honestly, I like this stuff. I like its moxy. I like that TJ’s doesn’t give a flying fig about what everyone else is doing, they’re going to put sugar on salmon and call it jerky. Now, the flavor is not my favorite, but I’ve also never been a fan of teriyaki jerky and plenty of people love that. There’s nothing wrong with the taste – it’s intriguing and new – it’s just not my taste.
That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out a couple of points.
One, there is a strong odor at play here, and not an entirely pleasant one. Open the bag and you’re hit with the combined smell of dried fish and maple syrup – try not to think about cat treats, it does taste better than that.
Two, the pieces are thick and hard. The texture is very different from what you get with long, thin pieces of beef jerky. The salmon jerky is much chunkier, and the toughness of the pieces don’t have the pleasing give to the bite that other jerky does, it’s much more work to chew one of these guys up.
Would I Recommend It: Certainly, if you’re a sweet jerky lover – not that I’ve ever met any of those.
Would I Buy it Again: I’ll stick to my beef, turkey, deer, bison and ostrich jerkies, thanks.
Final Synopsis: An experience that’s more novel than pleasant, but just might tickle the pallet of a sweet jerky lover.