Trader Joe’s can now proudly claim they belong to that class of supermarkets that doesn’t have canned pineapple, or beans, but does carry two different kinds of salmon jerky. Which is to say that Trader Joe’s is in a class all by itself.
|What it is:||Jerky made from salmon|
|Price:||$5.49 for a 3 oz. bag|
|Worth it:||No. Fish jerky tastes weird.|
Trader Joe’s Wild King Salmon Jerky is, yes, the second salmon jerky Trader Joe’s has brought to market. The original Wild Salmon Jerky I reviewed way back in 2012 when I first started this blog. Back then I had two big issues with their jerky. ( Or three, if you count the fact that it’s weird to jerk salmon in the first place).
The original salmon jerky was very fishy smelling, almost like the smell you get from a box of fish food, and, worse, very sweet due to the addition of brown sugar, molasses, carmelized sugar, and maple syrup. As a result I gave the original salmon jerky a big thumbs down.
Trader Joe’s acknowledges on their own website that the original salmon jerky had some issues, and so decided to reformulate it – hence our new, slightly different named, wild king salmon jerky. However, is the new version any better?
On both accounts, it actually is. This new salmon jerky has a far milder smell – nowhere near as fishy as the original version. TJ’s attributes this to the use of Alsakan king salmon instead of the previous chum salmon. I’d imagine there was probably a change in processing as well.
I’m also happy to report that even Trader Joe’s is capable of stepping back from the howling abyss of madness, and decided to cut down way down on the amount of sickly sweet sugar going into this fish jerky. Like any good jerky brine, there’s still a dose of brown sugar in there, but it isn’t nearly as much. The result is a much cleaner taste, that lets the dried salmon taste speak for itself.
Which brings up back to that third point from way up above. Yes, it’s a marked improvement on their last salmon jerky – but is it actually something you would want to eat? What does this fishy jerky taste like?
Trader Joe’s indicates that this salmon was smoked as part of the jerking process, and that’s what you’ll taste most of all – the distinctive, musky flavor of smoked salmon. If you’ve ever had that, just imagine drying it out it’s hard, and spicing it with a dash of salt and garlic.
It’s not necessarily the best taste in the world, but it is edible. I never found myself really enjoying it at any point in the way I might happily gnawing on a fine piece of beef jerky. That said, the flavors were more odd, than objectionable. I could imagine slowly becoming acustomed to it over time, but I can’t think of a reason why I would want to when Trader Joe’s offers a selection of other tasty jerkies – like their sriracha bacon jerky, and South African biltong jerky.
While it’s certainly an improvement, there are better ways to eat your salmon, and better ways to eat your jerky. No need to take this detour aside from general human curiosity.
Would I Recommend It: Not while there are so many other tasty types of jerky out there.
Would I Buy It Again: No, I would not.
Final Synopsis: An improved fish jerky – but still, it’s fish jerky.
Trader Joe’s has unleashed some strange jerkies on the world already – the unusual salmon jerky and addictive sriracha bacon jerky both spring to mind – but Trader Joe’s new South African-inspired Biltong Beef Jerky has got to be my new favorite. With a more nuanced and flavorful mix of spices, and thicker, more robust slices of beef, this jerky elevates a classic snack to a new level.
Biltong, as the bag will tell you, is from the Dutch bil and tong meaning, literally, “rump strip”. The Dutch name reflects the origin of the recipie. The notion of drying cured meat strips had been native to South Africa since time immemorial – but the arrival of Dutch settlers brought the notion of spicing the meat with black pepper, coriander, sugar, salt and vinegar – putting the jerk into the jerky, as it were.
The result is something extremely beef jerky like… and yet not. At first blush, beef jerky and biltong jerky are damn similar – after all they’re both beef, they’re both spiced and dried – but they vary in small, interesting ways. The first thing you’ll notice is that the biltong is narrow but thick – about half an inch wide and nearly that thick. It’s a much more orderly snack than your usual, raggedy, crumbly pile of wafer thin beef jerky – easier to eat and easier to share.
This same thickness gives the biltong jerky an amazing chewiness. Where ordinary beef jerky tends toward dryness, biltong tends toward juiciness. One strip will give your jaw muscles a full on work out. Once you’ve popped a strip in your mouth, however, you’ll quickly notice something else.
The blend of spices and flavors marinating the biltong is subtly different from most beef jerkies. While Trader Joe’s plays coy with the exact mix in their description – calling it a “family secret” – the result is a taste that is less intense than ordinary beef jerky (which, as we know, often tends toward extreme flavor profiles), and since it hasn’t been smoked the flavor of the meat itself is more apparent. Aside from the expected saltiness of the biltong, there’s a gentle pepperiness along with a faint fruitiness (thanks to the apple cider vinegar used in the curing process) and perhaps even a hint of floral notes – from Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper perhaps?
In any case, the resulting biltong is a whole new take on ordinary beef jerky – with thicker juicer slices, and an equally savory, if more subtle, flavor palette.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, a definite must try for jerky fans – enlightening.
Would I Buy It Again: Absolutely, I love a good jerky.
Final Synopsis: Beef jerky’s slightly more refined older brother.
Guys, you never know what you’re going to get in this world. Case in point, Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky. Just look at this stuff – it could so easily be the worst thing or the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life, and there’s simply no way to tell. I mean, let’s just look at the name for a minute here. “Sweet Sriracha”. Already we’re in trouble. Sweet sriracha? Sweet? I’ve had some sriracha in my time, I’ve even reviewed Trader Joe’s own take on sriracha, but I’ve never had sweet sriracha. We’re two words in and I’m already completely out to sea.
Let’s press on.
“Uncured Bacon Jerky”. Alright, that didn’t stick – let’s try it again. “Uncured Bacon Jerky”. Nope, nothing. I have no idea what that phrase means. Bacon jerky? Bacon? Jerky? Do they mean dehydrated pork slices? If so why don’t they say “pig jerky” or “pork jerky”. Do they actually mean dehydrated bacon slices? Isn’t that just bacon? Isn’t bacon already the crispy, salty, dehydrated form of bacon? What is going on here? Am I loosing my mind? There are no two words in the title I can put together and have them make sense.
Look, I could go on, but there’s really no amount of words that are going to untangle this very confounding string of words. I guess we’re just going to have to crack the bag open and have a taste. And you know what, folks? If you do that, you are going to be absolutely floored by one of the most delicious, most addictive, downright tongue delighting foods Trader Joe’s has to offer. This bacon jerky is a sweet and spicy blast of terrifically chewy, sticky, bacon that you can eat straight from the bag and be delighted by the whole while.
Bacon jerky, by the way, is apparently a thing. It’s when you take bacon and marinate it in a bit of savory spices. In this case, the spices are the incredibly addictive sweet sriracha sauce – basically Trader Joe’s standard sriracah sauce, but toned down to a much milder level of hotness. Into this plenty of white sugar and honey have been mixed to make a sweet glaze with just enough fire to get your lips smacking.
The bacon itself is TJ’s standard “no nitrate added” uncured bacon, and its served up here in long, thin strips that stick together in one big gooey pile. To quote Lays, I bet you can’t eat just one. Bacon by itself is good enough, but add a sweet & spicy glaze to it, and you’re talking about an unbeatable experience.
The only mark against it is the presentation which, in gooey bag form, is less than stellar. Even then, I couldn’t keep my fingers from teasing off strip after strip and gobbling it down. If you happen to prefer something more refined, Trader Joe’s suggests using it in place of regular bacon on your BLT, or crumbling it onto salads, or even over mac and cheese.
Really there’s no way to go wrong with this stuff. These spicy, honeyed slices of portable, ready-to-eat bacon are winners from start to finish.
Would I Recommend It: Not to orthodox Jews, but other than that yes across the board.
Would I Buy It Again: I’m not sure I would trust myself with another bag.
Final Synopsis: An evolution of the bacon experience that everyone should try!
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.