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03/08/2007 Archived Entry: "Hi Mountain jerky seasonings -- good stuff, good people"

GOOD PRODUCTS; GOOD FREEDOM-LOVING PEOPLE. Back when the Jim Zumbo bomb exploded, you might remember that Hi Mountain Seasonings was one of the first sponsors, just after Remington, to sever all ties with the hunter who called his fellow gun owners "terrorists."

Zumbo has since expressed sincere remorse and made a revival-style change of heart. He's been given new chances, including one from one of my own publishers, S.W.A.T. magazine. (You can follow the entire saga via discussions here and here if you haven't already been Zumboed to death.)

I'm glad of that. But dropping sponsorships in the wake of his original blurt was the right thing to do.

Hans and Kim Hummel, owners of Wyoming's Hi Mountain Seasonings, not only distanced themselves from Zumbo's anti-gun prejudice with speed and style (and at a considerable hit to their small-business budget since they must redesign and reprint all their packaging and package inserts). But when they responded to my emails I learned they're also passionate freedom lovers, regular readers of Wolfesblog, and dog fans to boot.

So I figured I had many reasons to give their products a try. I made my first two batches of Hi Mountain-seasoned beef jerky yesterday & am glad to share my experience with this fine little company and its products. (At least one other Wolfesblogista also made a Hi Mountain purchase and hopes later to blog about that.)

Hi Mountain Jerky -- Good Products; Good People

Hi Mountain specializes in seasonings and cures for jerky and sausage. Their products are suitable for beef or game. Some are specifically formulated for goose, wild turkey, or fish. They also carry dip & salsa mixes, jerky-related kitchen supplies, and Hi Mountain hats & tee shirts.

I ordered online early one weekday morning, and got my first pleasant surprise shortly thereafter; within two hours, they notified me my order had already shipped. Now that's service! Sure enough, three days later, packets of jerky-making supplies arrived. Before walking back up my hill from the post office, I stopped and bought a 2.5 pound rump roast. (Top round is the recommended jerky-making cut, but rump roast was the local butcher's recommendation, and it was on sale.)

I froze the roast for an hour or two to make it easier to cut, sliced it into 1/4-inch strips, then applied Hi Mountain's Mandarin Teriyaki cure & seasoning to half the meat and their new Sweet & Spicy to the other half. Clear instructions come in each package, along with one bag of curing salts, one bag of seasonings (enough for up to 15 pounds of meat), and a shaker bottle.

After coating the strips thoroughly per instructions, I put them in Ziplok bags in the fridge for 24 hours to cure.

I have no fancy smokers or anything like that. So I just used my oven -- 200 degrees, with the door open a crack -- and dried the beef strips on a broiler pan. Hi Mountain recommends laying the strips directly on your oven racks for maximum air circulation, with foil below to catch drips. Some of my strips were too small for that, so I had to use the slotted broiler pan and turn the strips periodically. Because of that, drying took about 1-3/4 hours rather than the 1 to 1-1/4 Hi Mountain's instructions indicate. I dried until just before the point where the strips "snapped" when bent, and well before they got dry enough to break.

But the results? Well, pretty darned good.

I must admit, I've never been a big beef jerky fan -- and given store prices for the stuff, I was never likely to cultivate the taste. Last time I made my own jerky was 20 years ago. So I was skeptical.

In the oven, it took about an hour for the flavors to fully develop. And only after my sample batches had cooled on the counter did I really appreciate the taste. These jerkies are fun to eat because the flavors change as you chew. Initially, both types have a distinctively similar "Hi Mountainish" taste that probably comes from the curing salts (which are the same in each kit). It's pleasant, but not enough to turn a jerky non-fan into a devotee. Then the specific seasonings kick in.

Sweet & Spicy jerky hits you quickly with a distinct and pleasant peppery taste. Not a "blazing hot, burn-your-mouth out" sensation, but a piquant tang of fresh-ground black pepper. A little heat kicks in, then fades away, leaving the sweetness behind. The pepper can't be missed. The sweet takes a little focus to perceive. My first thought was that next time I might add a spoonful of brown sugar to the seasoning mix (Hi Mountain encourages you to experiment with your own additions). But I dunno ... the subtlety is growing on me.

Mandarin Teriyaki is also a subtle one. It's not a "smack you in the face" teriyaki experience. If you didn't know, once again you'd have to pay attention to notice the specific flavors. The teriyaki makes itself apparent slowly, then just the teeniest hint of mandarin orange sneaks in at the end. Very nice. Again, you could kick the impact up a notch by soaking your beef strips in teriyaki sauce, pineapple juice, or orange juice for five minutes before applying the Hi Mountain seasonings. Or perhaps cure for longer than 24 hours. (Hans? What do you think of those options?) But again, I found the subtlety growing on me. (ADDED: Here's Hans' reply.

Hm. I guess I'll just have to keep eating -- and keep making more -- to find out what I like best. :-) And both local grocery stores just happen to have top round on sale this week.

If you like jerky and have ever wanted to make your own jerky or sausage, I can highly recommend a cyber-stop at Hi Mountain. A purchase from them is also a good way to "vote" for freedom -- in particular the right to keep and bear arms. Thanks, Hans, Kim, and company for all you do.


P.S. Please keep in mind that it takes a few months to change all product packaging, so Zumbo's endorsement may still appear on items you buy now. Please don't hold this against the Hummels. Replacing four-color packaging and product inserts is a very expensive and time-consuming proposition especially for a small, family-owned business.

Posted by Claire @ 11:20 AM CST

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