Hillshire Farm Gourmet Creations – Beef with Bacon and Monterey Jack Cheese Smoked Sausage

Before writing this review I went back and looked at the last review we did for the Hillshire Farms Gourmet Collections brand and the first thing that struck me is the length of the name of their products. It takes 13 words to accurately record the name of this particular sausage. That reminded me of the old Lance Crackers commercials where the guy says “we have 12 scientists creating our products and one drunk guy naming them”. That was a funny spot.

This was a medium to fine grind sausage with slight hints of bacon. The cheese, while visually present in small pockets, added nothing in mouthfeel or flavor. Slightly smokey and just a hint of spice, overall this was not a bad sausage, it just needed more flavorful cheese.

I would rate this a 4 on a scale of 10. It wasn’t greasy and the texture was fine. The overall flavor lacked any punch so it had that “getting by for the masses” appeal that you often find in mass produced products.

 

Polish Style Smoked Sausage by Kiolbassa

Another review for the good people over at Kiolbassa, you can see our last one here. We have tried 4 products from this company and they continue to impress.

One thing we have found over the years is that if you start with quality ingredients and keep it simple, you should turn out a very fine sausage. The other thing we found is that this isn’t always the case. The devil is in the details and with sausage there is a lot that can go wrong like a finished product devoid of flavor, over or under smoked, or a sausage that is very greasy or has an odd mouth-feel because the texture is wrong. And don’t get me started on gristle and bone.

Of the 4 Kiolbassa products we have sampled, every one them including of course the smoked polish above, got it right. From the medium to fine grind, the spicing, the smoke levels, the heat levels (where applicable), even the cheese flavor and texture (again, where applicable), all right. No gristle or byproduct to screw up the experience and no puddle of grease on your plate when you’re done.

We mentioned before that this is a premium sausage that is available in your local grocery. If I were in Texas, I would probably get over to a really good smokehouse for sausage. But quite frankly, you just can’t go wrong with Kiolbassa.

 

Highly recommended, this is as good as a commercially available sausage gets and rivals a good smokehouse product.

Kiolbassa Beef and Cheddar Smoked Sausage

When I think about states I like to visit just for a good sausage sampling run, several come to mind.

New York – great neighborhood meat markets, many offering their own version of various primarily fresh sausages.

Louisiana – again with the neighborhood stores and meat markets turning out boudin and andouille made from everything from pork to alligator.

Ohio – lots of great polish, slovenian. german, and czech sausages in Ohio

Wisconsin – Brats of course!

Texas –  If you’re a sausage fan and you’ve never been to Texas, you need to set some time aside and make the trip. You could spend months visiting smokehouses and local sausage makers of all styles and varieties and still come away wishing you had time to get to that one last place that somebody told you about at what you thought was your final destination. Texans take their sausage seriously.

One thing that Texas does well is Beef sausage and today we are reviewing a Texas staple brand, Kiolbassa Provision Company of San Antonio. Kiolbassa has been in the sausage business for over 60 years and their sausages are readily available throughout Texas.

kiolbassa smoked sausage beef and cheddar

This is a medium grind lightly smoked beef sausage with cheddar cheese. Kiolbassa retails their sausage both in stores all over Texas and of course online – at $9.95 per package this is priced as a premium sausage but each package is 1.25 pounds so they are packing in a little more sausage then average.

This had a nice beef flavor with just a hint of smoke compared to your typical smoked pork sausage. No fillers or gristle in any of the sausages and the cheddar added a nice if not slightly muted touch to the flavor profile. I find some beef sausages to be a little greasy from time to time but that was not a problem with the Kiolbassa beef and cheddar. The casing on this sausage was thicker then you would normally get from your typical pork sausage also but it is appropriate for the style of sausage and personally I like the extra snap and texture.

I have 3 other varieties from Kiolbassa to sample later but if they hold up to this one, I would say that Kiolbassa provides as fine a product as you will find in your grocery store and it can hold it’s own with many of the fine beef sausages I’ve had at some of the best smokehouses in the state.  I expect Texas beef sausage to have a nice dose of black pepper and this did not. That didn’t detract from the overall flavor or the quality of the sausage, it just was different then what I expected in that area.

I would purchase this sausage again and recommend it as a good example of Texas beef sausage.

Ingredients: Beef, water, pasteurized processed cheddar cheese, salt, potassium lactate, flavoring, sugar, garlic, sodium nitrate, sodium diacetate.

Hillshire Farms Gourmet Creations – Beef and Jalapeno with Monterey Jack Cheese Sausage

Some of the large (national? multi-national?) sausage companies are spinning out some products that, by name at least, are premium products. I for one applaud any effort to make a better sausage but I suspect that many of them will be much like Budweisers attempt to produce a premium beer. Pretty much tastes the same, just costs me more. I however will not rush to judgement and will review each sausage on its own merits.

Here we have a new product from Hillshire Farms labeled under their (new) Gourmet Creations collection. This collection includes the following:

  • Sweet Italian with peppers and mozzarella
  • Beef and Bacon with monterey jack cheese
  • Chicken Apple with gouda
  • Beef and Jalapeno with monterey jack cheese

hillshire farms gourmet creations collection sausage reviewFor my first foray into this collection I went with the Beef and Jalapeno, cooking it to browned on one side and then turning the sausage over, covering, and turning off the heat. The grind on this sausage is ok but overall the flavors are weak and muddled with no real Jalapeno flavor. If you’re going to put cheese in a sausage, which I personally like, the cheese should be good enough to make a dent in the flavor and texture. Unfortunately this cheese did not.

I’d love to list the ingredients and packaging information but unfortunately the wife tossed out the packaging and email to Hillshire went unanswered except for the $1 off coupon I received in the mail 4 days after requesting more information from the company about the ingredients, etc for this product.

So eventually, when I get back to the store, I will get back to this post and fill in the blanks but for now suffice to say that this edition of the Gourmet Creations Collection is a miss and not a sausage that I would purchase again.

 

Ok, in just a shade under 3 weeks I heard back from SaraLee, the parent company of Hillshire farms. Here’s the ingredient list for this sausage:

INGREDIENTS: BEEF, WATER, CORN SYRUP, PASTEURIZED PROCESS MONTEREY JACK CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, WATER, CREAM, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SORBIC ACID [PRESERVATIVE], LACTIC ACID, ENZYMES), JALAPEN?O PEPPER, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: PASTEURIZED PROCESS SHARP WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE [CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), WATER, CREAM, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVE)], RICE BRAN, SALT, DEXTROSE, NATURAL FLAVORS, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, BROWN SUGAR, POTASSIUM AND SODIUM PHOSPHATES, YEAST EXTRACT, CILANTRO, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE. CONTAINS MILK