When I think back to the early 1990s and my pathetic attempts to make a wobbly tofu burger, I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self about the amazing world of plant-based meats that would emerge over the course of the next thirty years.
So desperate was I for a burger facsimile that I still have a soft spot for the Money’s Gardenburger of the late 1990s–this was the veggie burger that was on the menu of every forward-thinking burger place of that era. I still remember trying to convince my carnivore friend, Bruce, to try one claiming that he would never be able to tell that it wasn’t meat.
He still teases me about that.
Soon after, Yves–a Canadian company–emerged…with not only veggie burgers, but veggie dogs, and even veggie ground round! To this day, we always keep a supply of Yves Veggie Burgers on hand for a quick dinner.
Since then, hundreds of companies that produce plant-based meat have been competing with each other to produce amazingly tasty (and not-so-tasty) products for the plant-based diner.
Over the past couple of years, the market has exploded. Oddly, the front-runner seems to be Beyond Meat, whose burgers and sausages have made quite a splash on the market. In my opinion, the company’s made a larger splash than it deserves. I’m still not quite sure why their products, which all seem to have the same monolithic fake meat taste and lack any kind of gustatory complexity, have gained such popularity, but there you are.
A much more deserving company in my opinion is….
The Very Good Butchers
The Very Good Butchers, a Victoria-based company that produces plant-based meats, started on our very own Denman Island, and went public in June of this year. Within days, their stock went from $.25 to $2.00 per share, which goes to show not only how popular plant-based meats are becoming, but how good their products are.
Still, it’s surprisingly difficult to get one’s hands on their products, so I decided to purchase their Big Box of (Plant-Based) Meat online when they ran a special with reduced shipping costs in June. The box contains…
2 packs of Very Good Burgers
1 pack of Smokin’ Burgers
1 pack of Smokin’ Bangers
1 pack of Very British Bangers
2 packs of Taco Stuff’er
1 pack of BBQ Jackfruit
2 packs of Ribz
2 packs of Pepperoni
I’ll be reviewing each of these over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Today, I’m reviewing their pepperoni!
But before that, back to the ordering business…
I made the order on June 28th and quickly learned that the order would not be fulfilled for three to four weeks because of high demand, which was a bit disappointing. There is an option to pick the order up in Victoria within only one week of making the order, however.
The order eventually arrived on July 29th–just a bit over a month of my order date.
The Very Good Butchers uses Purolator for deliveries, so I was a bit concerned about delivery because we live on an island and Purolator hands all packages over the Canada Post rather than come on island…which means my package would not necessarily be delivered to my door.
I was concerned that the box would be delivered to our community mailbox and sit in a metal box in the hot sun all day, so I was checking for shipping updates compulsively for two days. And that is, in fact, what happened, but fortunately James ran up to the community mailbox midday and found the package so it was in the metal box for only two hours.
The box was well insulated within its shipping box with an insulated bag and several mini freezer packs interspersed within. Everything was still cold, though the package left the facility in Victoria two days ago. The products are all individually vacuum packed as well, so we had no worries about spoilage.
We did a quick inventory of the items and discovered we’d been shorted one pepperoni stick, which was disappointing. I e-mailed the company and am awaiting their response.
So…here’s my first review!
The Very Good Butcher Pepperoni
We were invited over to our friends across the street in the late afternoon for a socially distant glass of wine. We had a lovely visit, but ended up staying much longer than we intended and, when we arrived home, decided to have more of a picnic than a cooked dinner. I’d made a couple of focaccia earlier in the day, and I’d made some hummus yesterday, so I put together a little platter which included a few slices of pepperoni from our order.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t cut much of the little sausage because I thought the pepperoni was the one item in the order I wouldn’t like. I thought it might be good on a vegan pizza, but felt it certainly wouldn’t be good “raw.”
How wrong I was.
After snipping the end, I easily peeled back the covering of the pepperoni. The texture is smooth, but obviously not as firm as meat-based pepperoni. Because of this lack of firmness, I expected I might have difficulty slicing the pepperoni cleanly, but it sliced very nicely–perhaps not as thin as regular pepperoni, but fine.
The texture and mouth feel is not as slick as regular pepperoni, but it is surprisingly pleasant–slightly grainy, but not unpleasantly so. The taste is nicely complex and engaging. My one–very minor–complaint is that the fennel is, at first blush, slightly too profound, but this became less evident as time went on.
I’ll admit, I went back to the trough and sliced off many more slices for our little vegan charcuterie.
The ingredients for the pepperoni are surprisingly healthy. The only oil is sunflower and it comes quite low down on the ingredient list. Further, the ingredients for this seitan pepperoni include both vital wheat gluten and adzuki beans. If you recall from my earlier posts, seitan becomes a complete protein when its wet ingredients contain beans because beans contain lysine. According to The Very Good Butcher website, their pepperoni contains organic wheat gluten, water, onion, organic adzuki beans, apple cider vinegar, garlic, pearl barley, organic sunflower oil, paprika, fennel seeds, salt, chili flakes, natural flavour, and black pepper.
Final Verdict: 9/10
I will buy this product again in a hot minute and I can hardly wait to try it on a pizza. My main complaint (other than the fennel) is that I was shorted one of my pepperoni sticks in the order, so I might not have enough to try it on a pizza!
And the song of the day is Mason Jennings’ “Never Knew Your Name”: