Of all the cheap canned pseudo-foods out there, the one that undoubtably resides on the very lowest rung of the ladder is Potted Meat (which was once upon a time called "Potted Meat Food Product.") I remember having bought it once long ago and being severely underwhelmed.
Most of the time when I find Potted Meat, it's either Libby or Armour brand, and stocked on the shelves next to the Vienna Sausage. But at Dollar Tree, the Potted Meat has it's very own shelf, and different brands are sold side by side.
And that's how I found Brunswick Potted Meat With Crackers. How cool! It's just like having an entire lunch in one convenient package! Because the Brunswick kit came with Bryan Potted Meat, a brand I had never tried before, I also picked up a can of Armour Potted Meat so i could do a side by side comparison.
After I got the stuff home, though, I discovered that I really didn't need to compare these side by side. I noticed the USDA inspection seals - Both of them were made at Establishment P-4247. That's Pinnacle Foods, owner of the Armour brand as well as others like Hartford House and Hungry Man. Apparently, their plant is also making Potted Meat for sale under other labels...such as Bryan.
The primary ingredients of Potted Meat these days are mechanically separated chicken, beef tripe, and salt. There are traces of seasonings and spices as well. "Mechanically separated chicken" is a meat product which celebrates the triumph of technology over nature. Chicken carcasses and bones which are left over from normal processing are forced through a sieve under high pressure, removing every last bit of meat from them. This makes the final product very finely ground and paste-like.
The Brunswick lunch pack comes with a small Mylar packet containing five nondescript round crackers, a tiny plastic spoon/spreader for the Potted Meat, and the can of Bryan Potted Meat. There are a couple problems with this setup. First, five crackers are a totally stingy portion. Even with the Potted Meat heaped generously upon them, I still ran out of crackers long before running out of Potted Meat. And trust me, having enough crackers is critical to the enjoyment of this product. The texture of the Potted Meat is pretty horrendous. It's a slippery paste with a slightly granular feel (thanks to the tripe) with nothing to sink your teeth into. Putting it on a crispy cracker gives it a more pleasing texture along with a satisfying crunch. And when the crackers run out, it's a lot harder to be enthusiastic about eating a can of salty meat paste.
As for the flavor - well, if you've ever eaten a Vienna Sausage or some cheap bologna, you kind of know what Potted Meat tastes like. But not really because the flavor of the beef tripe really does stand out against the bland "white slime" chicken. And above all else, there's the salt: the choking, throat-parching salt - enough, it seems, to cause cardiac arrest.
Clearly, Potted Meat is virtually inedible on its own. And yet, there has to be a market for it - Armour wouldn't be producing so many cans of it if no one were buying the stuff. Perhaps people are creating some of the various snackular dishes that Armour suggests on their website. Things like:
2 3-oz cans ARMOUR® STAR POTTED MEAT
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
Bread or assorted crackers
Combine all ingredients, except bread or crackers; chill thoroughly. Serve on bread or crackers.
1 3-oz. can ARMOUR® STAR POTTED MEAT
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup onion, diced
12 slices French Bread
Combine first 4 ingredients, mix well. Spread mixture on bread slices. Broil 5-10 minutes, or until brown.
For more recipes, you can click here to go to Armour's website and follow their links to the recipes if you dare.