Oh, Big Lots, you magnificent bastard! I never fail to find something interesting, intriguing, or unsettling when I walk through your doors! Like Vienna Sausage...in flavors! How could I resist?
Before I start, I should mention that I actually like Vienna sausages and have since I was a kid. If anything, I might even like them better nowadays since I'm watching my carb intake and a can of these little meatsticks only has about 7g of carbohydrates. Now on with the tasting:
Original - I guess I could call this the control sample. Plain and unadorned, they're made of chicken, beef and pork and canned in chicken broth (this is a slight change from a few years ago, when they were canned in beef broth.) The label reads "America's Favorite" and I kind of believe it because I've tried other Vienna sausage (hello, Libby's - hi there, Goya!) and Armour really are the best; they taste like mild hot dogs, only "squishier." The other three flavors are more or less just dressed-up versions of Original.
Barbecue Flavored - Instead of being packed in broth, these are packed in a tomato-based barbecue sauce. I wasn't sure what to expect from them since cheap barbecue sauce is generally pretty heinous, but amazingly, they're fairly good. In fact, with a little more spice the barbecue sauce could even attain something close to excellence, since - unlike many bottled BBQ sauces available at the supermarket - there isn't a drop of high-fructose corn syrup in them. So here's to you, Pinnacle Foods, you're OK in my book. I would definitely buy these again.
Smoked - In a word: Awesome. Seriously. And that really shouldn't be a surprise, since most meats are better for a bit of time in a smokehouse. The label says "Hickory Smoke Flavor Added" so I thought that they probably just put a little bit of "liquid smoke" in the can before processing. No. They are really smoked - when you pull apart the bundle of sausages, you can see that there's no smoke marks where the wieners were pressed together. I was impressed.
Jalapeno - Although they were my least favorite of the four, they were still pretty good. The weenies are made with jalapeno powder, so don't go looking for little slices of pepper in the bottom of the can. But you can really taste the full-bodied pepper flavor when you chomp into the sausages. There's enough spicy heat in them to satisfy a mild craving for fire (enough for me at lunchtime, thanks) but I'm betting they'd be considered on the mild side by a die-hard chilihead.
So. Four cans of Vienna sausage, four decent lunches. I think I did pretty well.