As many of my regular readers know, I like to make my own beef jerky using my L'Equip dehydrator. I've tried most of the popular brands of packaged jerky over the years and enjoyed most of them, but despite being a light weight protein-rich snack to carry on the trail they were either too high in sodium or just too darn expensive. Making my own jerky allows me to better control the ingredients and make large enough batches to be much more cost effective.
A few weeks ago John West, the president of Primal Spirit Foods and maker of the Primal Strips range of vegan jerky, reached out to me via my blog to ask if I would be interested in sampling some of his jerky. I'd read about and seen meat free jerky at various stores before, but had never tried any - to be honest it just hadn't ever appealed to me. I accepted his kind offer and received samples of all six flavors that are available in the Primal Strips jerky line up: Hickory Smoked, Thai Peanut, Hot & Spicy, Teriyaki, Texas BBQ, and Mesquite Lime.
Primal Strips are made from Soy, Seitan and Shiitake Mushrooms to provide a similar texture to meat and feature a proprietary blend of flavors that are all natural. According to the packaging they are also 97% fat-free, vegan, Kosher, high in protein, and do not contain any cholesterol, preservatives or artificial colors. Here are the full details:
- All natural
- 97% fat free
- No Cholesterol
- No preservatives
- No Artificial Colors
- High energy/High protein
- Soy, Seitan, Shiitake Mushroom
- Average weight - 1.0 oz/28g
They certainly sounded good, but they would have to pass a taste test by myself and my five-year-old son, Jack who is the #1 fan of my home-made jerky.
As we opened up the package of samples and laid them out on the table we quickly notices that the products inside were a lot more "squishy", to use Jack's exact words, than the jerky I make. Trying to stay open minded we each picked the flavor that most appealed to us and opened them up for our first nibble and taste test - I chose Hickory Smoked and Jack went for Hot & Spicy, not exactly what I would have expected him to pick, but ok!
Jack wanted me to go first, he's not a fussy eater, but I guess he wanted to see my reaction before he was willing to chomp down on his jerky. Interestingly enough the two flavors that we had picked were made from different products and because of that were vastly different in texture. Jack's Hot & Spicy jerky was made from Shiitake Mushrooms while my Hickory Smoked sample was made from Soy. As it turned out, Jack had chosen his flavor not because he was up for a spicy challenge, but because from the see-thru packaging it was the least "squishy" of the flavors. Hmm...
The flavor of the Hickory Smoked jerky was delicious and pleasantly surprising. It reminded me of the quality age-smoked ham but without the meat taste, clearly I'm no food critic so pardon my lack of words to more accurately describe the taste. It was very good though and even more surprising was that the taste lasted as I continued to chew. I had expected the Soy to have a lot of immediate flavor and then be very bland, but that was not the case. The texture was very different that what I was used to and I was certain that Jack would not have liked it. The best that I can describe the texture is that is felt like a thick slice of gammon or Canadian ham, it was moist but firm - not all together bad just different.
Eager to get in on the jerky action, Jack took a small nibble of his Hot & Spicy (Shiitake Mushroom) jerky. I carefully watched his face for any alarm signs of the jerky being too spicy, but he didn't chew on it long enough for that to happen. As I had expected he didn't care for the texture of the meat-free jerky even though he swallowed it down. I asked him if he liked the taste and he admitted that he did, but didn't like how it felt when he bit into it.
To be fair I should mention that Jack is really only used to my home-made jerky which at his request has evolved to the point where it is very dry and almost brittle, see the photo below. We both prefer a drier texture than a moist one and that's just our own personal preference. I've met several people on the trails that loved my home-made jerky and quite a few that didn't because it was so dry - it's not good or bad, it's up to the individual.
Over the course of the last few weeks I have tried all six of the Primal Strips flavors and found that I liked the Hickory Smoked, Mesquite Lime, and Thai Peanut the best. Oddly the flavor I thought I would like the most, Teriyaki, was my least favorite, so it just goes to show that you have to try them for yourself before you'll know what flavors you like. The moist texture took a bit of getting used to especially after being accustomed to eating and chewing on much drier jerky for so long, but I did enjoy the flavors.
As an experiment, I'm going to put the last few samples that I have left into my dehydrator to see if the texture is closer to what Jack and I are used to after it has been dried out some more. I have absolutely no idea whether it will work or not and can almost imagine poor John at Primal Spirit Foods going crazy at the mere suggestion, but we'll see. I'll update this post with the results afterward.
Overall I was very impressed with the quality and taste of the Primal Strips meatless jerky and would definitely buy some of the flavors that I liked the most to take with me on a backpacking trip - the Hickory Smoked jerky really did taste good and was hard to believe that you were not chewing on a meat-based product. Thanks again to John for the samples and my apologies that my son was not such a big fan. I look forward to seeing what other creative trails snacks Primal Foods comes up with in the future.
Disclosure: Primal Spirit Foods provided Brian's Backpacking Blog with a complementary assortment of Primal Strips to review.