I continue my quest for the world’s tastiest Little Smokies. So far, by a wide margin, Hillshire Farms Beef are my favorite….in the number two slot is the in-house brand at discount grocer Aldi. It’s not a close second as far as the primary criteria, flavor and texture, no, Aldi places for value… regularly nearly half the price of the big brands. (Hillshire Farm are usually $4.99, sometimes $4.49, and Aldi clock in at $2.99 always.
Today I tried out John Morrell; a product that the package promises “Plump Meaty Bites.” Morrell is a meat company that traces its roots back to 1827 England. They sell products under a number of brand names that they have acquired over the years: Ekrich, Armour, Kretschmar, Krakus. Morrell itself is now owned by Smithfield, which of course, became a Chinese owned company recently. (Not sure if it’s a good idea for US food companies to sell out to Chinese, just sayin’).
There can be some confusion between “little smokies” and “cocktail franks.” Cocktail franks taste like mini wieners and are most often found floating in a chafing dish full of barbecue sauce at a party or event you wished you hadn’t attended. Little smokies are more “sausage-like” in both texture and flavor.
I grabbed the Morrell package because it was substantially discounted compared to Hillshire, maybe $3.49. Although the package says ‘little smokies,” these are clearly cocktail franks, an extruded type sausage with the same fine grind and ingredients, and seasonings of one of Morrell’s hot dog products, I am sure. Not only do they taste and feel like a frank, they are a much lighter color than the Hillshire Farm beef products.
What is an extruded sausage? A slurry of ingredients is produced, and squirted into a collagen casing, which can be edible or non-edible. If the latter, it is stripped off in the last state of manufacturing (fascinating to watch). Newer technologies offer ‘spray on’ collagen casings, the operator can designate different thicknesses, in order to emulate the feel of a natural casing (intestines).
Morrell’s product is pork and mechanically separated chicken. Hillshire Farms, ain’t.
Does the Morrell product place on my ‘consider regularly’ list? Nope. If I wanted little wieners, I’d buy wieners and chop them. My taste in Little Smokies requires a resemblance in flavor and taste akin to “real sausage”, so I’ll suck up on the purchase price and stay with Hillshire Farms.
The Morrell package does not indicate a USDA plant number. I don’t understand why some packages must have it, others don’t. I asked the USDA and got pawned off from one department to another – ultimately not receiving an answer.
I generally don’t care for any ‘sausage’ product that contains chicken or turkey. Yeah, I know they are supposed to be better for you, but the taste and texture just doesn’t appeal to me.
Speaking of confusing? The regulators could help me out by coming up with definitions for “franks,” “wieners,” and “hot dogs.”
John Morrell Little Smokies Review