Everything you think you know about jerky is wrong, says Jon Sebastiani, founder and CEO of Krave gourmet jerky.
"Most people when you ask them their opinion or image of jerky you get a pretty common response, which is that it's junk food; it's gas station food; it's dry and leathery; it's not good for you," he says. When made properly, none of the above is true and in fact, "it is good for you."
Oh, you thought jerky was a fun snack to chew on while watching the football playoffs?
Well, that part is true, although Sebastiani is trying to get consumers to think of jerky as something more than a between-meals stopgap and see it more as a source of nutrition and even as the basis for other dishes.
"My objective here is to reintroduce the product to the American customer and present it as the healthy, good product it is and have fun with it," he says.
As football heads toward the playoffs, gourmet jerky lovers have more choices. High-end jerky is available in everything from the traditional beef to turkey, lamb, and even fish.
At Epicurious.com, interest in high-end jerky, especially among men, has become so popular that the site listed Brooklyn-based King's County Jerky in its Foodie Stocking Stuffers gift guide. And when it comes to serving tips for something like a Super Bowl party, Epicurious editor-in-chief Tanya Steel recommends putting out a jerky-filled glass on the buffet along with dips, salsas and chips -- "and next to lots of water!"
Sebastiani's introduction to good food and flavors came by way of his upbringing as a member of a Northern California winemaking family. His interest in jerky came when he was training for the New York City Marathon a few years back and was eating a lot of jerky because of its low-fat, high-protein and low-carbohydrate properties.
There was a moment when he realized that jerky is "this fantastic product," but one that wasn't necessarily being made all that fantastically.
He researched the market, dominated by a handful of big players, and drew up a business plan for a different kind of jerky that would be flavorful, tender and serve as more than just a snack food.
The result is a range of flavors that run from quite sweet to very spicy, made from domestic beef, pork or turkey. Signature flavors include chili-lime (beef), smoky grilled teriyaki (pork), and basil citrus (turkey). The product contains salt, but according to the company, less than the major brands. Krave's Garlic Chili Pepper Beef, for example, has 140 mg sodium per 1 ounce serving.
The jerky, distributed nationally and available from the website (www.kravejerky.com), includes a double-marination process with the jerky baked in the marinade and made in small batches so more of the marinade and moisture is left in the meat.
"Once people taste our jerky, there's an 'Oh, boy!' moment because it's so tender and so moist and flavorful," says Sebastiani.
Fans can join a Krave Jerky of the Month club to receive monthly bags of jerky, newsletters and recipes incorporating jerky into everything from twice-baked potatoes to quiche.
A quiche made with jerky? Somewhere we hear the sound of real men clapping.