When I go on my drives, seeking out great dogs, burgers, and pizza across America, my in-vehicle snack food is frequently meat snack sticks, like Slim Jims. I can’t even begin to fathom how many brands and variations there are of this popular snack food. Ingredient and cost wise, they span the whole spectrum from crap to gourmet.
I don’t have a “regular brand,” I guess other than I seem to end up with Slim Jims the most often, simply because they dominate the shelf space. My criticisms of Slim Jims are two: 1) mechanically separated chicken, and 2) there is an oiliness to the product.
While I also can’t verify this fact, it appears Slim Jim is America’s oldest brand in the genre, being introduced in 1929. Of course (at least in my opinion) it wasn’t an off the cuff lightbulb idea for a new product. I believe America meat snacks are based on the German-Austrian snack “Landjaeger.”
That snack has been around “forever” usually a combination of beef, pork, lard and spices, and cured through a heavy smoke process. It is popular with hikers, hunters, and the military as it keeps a long time without refrigeration.
So this trip, seems my mouth bumped into a Slim Jim’s, one from Klement’s of Milwaukee, a Jack Link’s and a local product from a butcher in Solon, IA.
You need to know off the top I’m always kinda partial to Link’s, because it was a local company when I was growing up, and I really like their peppery steak sticks. Regardless of its geographical heritage, I do like Link’s meat snack sticks. I don’t venture into flavor land tho.
The original is salty, smoky, and has a good texture, requiring you to actually chew. Links has entered the refrigerated sausage market, not crazy about that product. If you ever find yourself rolling through Minong Wisconsin, the local grocery serves as a Jack Link outlet store. Some dandy deals.
Klement’s is an old timey Milwaukee sausage company and I’m a fan of many of their products.
I hadn’t seen their meat snack sticks on the grocery station circuit before and ran into them in Ronald Reagan’s hometown.
No connection, I’m sure. While the Klement’s product smelled great, so I thought it had great potential, upon the first bite, I said to myself “no way.” The texture is awful, and by awful I mean, not very firm. It’s almost mushy. And I bought two, what do I do with the other one? Anyway, so I won’t be picking those up again, or at least not until I forget I didn’t like them.
Finally, in search of an entirely different product, I ran into a little butcher in the small burg of Solon, Iowa, and he had his own variety. They were superb, meaty, smoking, chewy. Ruzicka’s is a butcher, locker plant, state inspected processor and caterer. Great ambition, small shop, great products. Yes, they’ll grind up your deer, cow or hog, too. Ruzicka’s is apparently famous for their Jalapeno Salami, and they’ll ship that to you.
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