Move over, teriyaki.
The minds behind Jack Link’s jerky products have decided to get creative.
The Wisconsin-based company’s new test kitchen in downtown Minneapolis is a laboratory for experimental jerky flavors, made fresh and sold deli-style by the pound in its retail shop on the skyway level of Target Center (600 1st Av. N., Minneapolis, 612-766-6500, jacklinks.com/wild-side-store).
For its first foray for “Jack’s Signature Batch,” the company’s Culinary Institute of America-trained head chef Wes Castelsky came up with three flavors: craft cola, spiced mocha and umami boom.
The flavors will rotate every few months, with plans for a sweet pickled jalapeño and — don’t roll your eyes — pumpkin spice. The company is seeking consumer input on future flavors.
If the idea of “fresh jerky” sounds like an oxymoron — it is preserved meat, after all — the Minneapolis-made batches have far fewer preservatives than the typical shelf-stable product found at gas stations everywhere. These are actually “beef strips” rather than traditional jerky, and they only last 2 or 3 days from purchase.
Spiced mocha is a turkey jerky made with the flavors of dark roasted coffee, caramel and roasted chiles. Craft cola replicates the molasses, cinnamon and allspice notes of the carbonated beverage. Umami boom has hints of roasted mushroom and tomato, tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and other savory flavors triggered by glutamic acid. In other words, MSG.
Castelsky has worked out a pairings menu for his new flavors: the cola goes with bourbon, the mocha goes with waffles, and the umami goes with a molasses cookie that’s been speckled with ground-up bits of the jerky. Those sweet-and-savory cookies will be available for purchase in the store.
Depending on how the new jerky sells here, Jack Link’s will decide whether to make it on a larger scale to sell around the world.
“There really aren’t limitations,” Castelsky said. “The high-protein diet is exploding.”