Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bacon Isn't Going Away Anytime Soon

I know I said bacon is so last year. It kind of is, but it's still delicious, and we're all still gobbling it up by the ton every year. How well do you know your bacon facts? 

The average slice of bacon is 1/16 of an inch thick, and about 16-20 slices per pound. This sliced bacon, which I have never seen, is 1/32 of an inch, and thick sliced measures up at 1/8 of an inch, which yields 10 to 14 slices per pound. Two slices of regular bacon, in spite of appearing to be mostly fat, seem pretty diet-friendly at 73 calories. In the United States over 60% of restaurants have bacon on the menu. At the breakfast table, bacon clobbers the other breakfast meat, beating out ham and sausage and making up nearly 50% of meat eaten at breakfast! A survey of U.S. households revealed over 80%of households purchased bacon in 2013 and 2014. The average American eats about 18 pounds of bacon every year. **

That's hard to imagine. I'd like to meet these "average Americans"- I certainly am nowhere near 18 lbs. of bacon! 

As you know, I got to visit a modern pork producing farm earlier this summer and got to meet the baby bacons literally at the moment they were entering the world. It's amazing that on one farm those baby piglets will grown up, be weaned, and move in graduating barns as they grow up, until they reach market size and....gulp.......go off to the pork plants. I'd rather not dwell on that part, because pork is just so delicious, and I am so thankful to get to see how invested the farmers and producers are in the animals' welfare that it does give me some level of comfort. 

Once we have passed the unpleasant stage of meat production, we have, well, meat. In this case pork, and if it's going to become delicious bacon it's got to be cured and smoked. A lot of folks have been busy curing their own bacon at home in recent years, perfecting their techniques, the cure mixtures, smoking temps, even the cut of meat can be a bit off the track. My friend Ross, from STATE, often uses part of a pork butt to make home cured bacon instead of belly. This must make one of the leanest bacons imaginable. Another friend, Marty, from Ohio, goes the more traditional route using pork belly. He shares his technique and recipe HERE.

Check out Marty's bacon- perfectly hand sliced even!
I noticed in Marty's directions he mentioned smoking to an internal temp of 150 degrees by smoking at 200 degrees. Amazingly that was something my friend George, a professional chef and master of all things food, mentioned I asked him about curing your own bacon. He balked at the recommendation but didn't say what temps he shoots for when curing and smoking meat. Trade secrets and all, you know? Dan, from Waterloo, says he warm smokes bacon and even does a vegan bacon. You might remember Dan- he is the pit master at Phat Kat Barbeque and is a barbeque judge and has shared food stories with us before. 

All this bacon talk has got my mind whirling. I happen to have some bacon, not a lot, but enough to do something with....... and some bone-in country style ribs, a cast iron skillet, and untold numbers of herbs, spices, sauces and condiments around I bet I can whip something up really quick- like this Recipe Free Dinner.

Easy to do- season the bone-in pork country style ribs with salt, pepper, whatever meat rub you like and lay two slices of bacon on each one, lengthwise, securing with toothpicks. Heat that cast iron skillet til it's nice and hot, then place those ribs in there, bacon side down, and let them cook til the bacon is starting to brown. Flip em over, pop the skillet in a hot oven to finish (145 degrees for perfect juicy pork). Sauce them if you like, and serve.

We can't be totally recipe free however, so I am going to share a recipe that was shared with me, and since we're on the bacon topic- well, you just need to try this. Bacon jam. Yep. Jam. You know I am always checking out the latest unique and artsy fartsy condiments, and when a friend was telling me about this one- I became hooked. I have no idea where the original recipe came from- she passed it on to me and I'm passing it on to you guys. I can see millions of possibilities for using this stuff to make amazing dishes. I plan on keeping my freezer stocked from now on. Let's make some!

Bacon Jam

3 lb bacon, cut into pieces
4 large sweet onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups leftover strong coffee
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a heavy Dutch oven cook the bacon over medium low heat, in three batches, until browned and crispy; removing each batch and draining off the fat in between. Reserve 2 tablespoons fat from last batch.

Return Dutch oven to medium heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until softened but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another couple minutes. Add all ingredients except the bacon. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes.

Add the bacon and stir well. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, sticky and syrupy. Spoon into freezer jars and store in the fridge, or freezer for long term storage.

Now for those of you who are curious about making your own home cured bacon, you can check out Marty's recipe by clicking that link above. I did a little searching online and found all kinds of recipes and smoking styles and cure recipes. I'm sure you'll find one you like or create your own!

**National Pork Board

No comments:

Post a Comment