I love bacon
April 18, 2006
Bacon has developed a cult-like following, and it is not hard to see why. Whenever bacon is brought up in conversation, 90 percent of the time the reaction is akin to something Homer Simpson might say: “Mmmmmm, bacon.”
Bacon is always delectable, regardless of how it is prepared, and a couple slices of crispy, wavy bacon are a perfect addition to compliment almost any food.
Maybe part of bacon’s appeal is its versatility: It can be added to spinach salads, or to lentil soup. We can wrap it around other meat products, such as meatloaf or a nice piece of steak. Bacon can be eaten for breakfast with eggs, in a sandwich with lettuce and tomato for lunch, and as an accent to the most sumptuous filet mignon dinners.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about bacon is that that it is delicious when it is soft and slightly undercooked, and it is equally delicious when it is overcooked, even burnt, just crumble it up and throw it on a baked potato. Thanks to Mr. Atkins and his diet, people are less afraid of fat in the recent past, and more apt to indulge in a delicious, crisp-tender strip of salty pork.
Mankind has been enjoying bacon for thousands of years, in all parts of the world. There are accounts of instructions for curing pork as far back as 4,000 years ago in China and there is a recipe for curing pork in the first-known cookbook in Rome, dating back to the first century, A.D. Every culture has its own version of bacon; while American bacon traditionally comes from the pig’s belly, bacon’s leaner Canadian cousin comes from the pork loin, and Irish and British styles of bacon are usually cut from the back. Italians love Prosciutto, Spaniards adore their Jamon Serrano, both versions of pork are cured, but not smoked.
The preparation of bacon arose out of necessity, in the days before refrigeration. Salt was used as a preservative, and heavily cured meats could be stored for months without being refrigerated. Today the curing of bacon is done to develop the traditional texture and flavor of bacon. Bacon is made by curing the particular cut of pork with a salt solution, either a dry rub, or an injection of saline solution. Spices, sugar or maple syrup are often added to the curing process for flavor. After curing, bacon is rinsed of the salt and spice used for curing, and it is usually smoked for several hours, to give the meat that distinctive bacon flavor which we have all come to love.
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Bacon lovers who are still worried about the caloric value of bacon will be happy to know that there are bioengineers working on developing heart-healthy bacon. The key to the healthy bacon is a microscopic worm, added to the DNA of cloned pigs, which produce pork loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, the kind believed to stave off heart disease. While this new version of bacon may be too creepy for some people to enjoy, the good news is that traditional bacon is perhaps not as bad as some people may have thought.
It is an excellent source of protein, containing necessary minerals such as zinc, iron, copper and selenium. Uncooked bacon is much higher in calories and fat than its crispy counterpart ” a thick slice of cooked bacon, a little less than a 1 oz. portion, contains approximately 36 calories and is 6 percent fat, whereas an uncooked slice has about 126 calories and is about 24 percent fat. So cook up some bacon, and enjoy it guilt-free.
Wrap a filet mignon in bacon before throwing in on the grill; top with blue cheese crumbles right when you pull it off the grill for a melty, delicious feast.
Saute a large chopped onion and a 1 lb. package of bacon, sliced into small pieces. Add a 3 lb. can of beans, a splash of water and 100 percent maple sugar and brown sugar, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste and then let simmer for a half hour to a full hour, depending on how thick you like your beans.
More recipes for bacon aficionados can be found in “Everything Tastes Better With Bacon,” by Sara Perry and Sheri Giblin. This gem contains 70 recipes starring bacon, and is one of the most important pieces of literature written this century.
Bacon enthusiasts might also enjoy checking out the Web site http://www.iheartbacon.com, which rates and reviews artisan bacon, discusses things like Bacon Brittle and Gummy Bacon (yes, they exist), and also directs fellow consumers to other bacon-related Web sites and recipes like bacon tempura, and even chocolate covered bacon.
For true bacon lovers, a membership to the Bacon-of-the-Month Club might be in order. Direct your Web browser to http://www.gratefulpalate.com and check out the Club. Members receive a monthly shipment of artisan bacon to their door which includes informative notes on the selection, as well as a pig ball-point pen, a bacon T-shirt and an official membership card.
Could anything be better?