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Fort on Bacon
The Italians have pancetta, the Germans have speck, the Poles have boczek, the French have poitrine fume, but we have bacon.
Good bacon is simply one of the finest foods in any form on the face of the earth. The smell of frying bacon would tempt an anchorite, and possibly even a vegetarian, to err. 'There were Paddock's crisp sausages and fragrant shavings of bacon and shapely poached eggs' a hungry Richard Hannay fantasizes in John Buchan's The 39 Steps. 'Fragrant shaving of bacon'. 'Shapely poached eggs'. It's always been one of my favourite food quotes. From this I think we can deduce that he was referring to dried cured bacon here, not the coarse, vulgar and flabby wet cured bacon that oozes unpleasing white liquid all over the frying pan, and which never seems to get crisp, let alone fragrant.
It's actually very easy to make your own dry cured bacon. You just bury whichever cut you use - usually belly (aka streaky) or loin (aka back) although I'm fond of cheek (aka jowl; very rare) - in salt and spices of choice for 5-10 days to draw out much of the water on the pork used, remembering to pour off the water every now and then, before smoking it or hanging up in a cool place to dry further.
Wet cured bacon, on the other hand, means the flitches have been immersed in, or injected with, brine for a week or so to cure. This is a method preferred by mass production bacon industry, because the customer ends up buying a disproportionate amount of water with their bacon, and that's the white goo the rashers exude when they fry it.
I also like my bacon, streaky or back, to have some fat on it, so that after cooking, I have some splendid medium in which to fry eggs and bread. Incidentally, the fat of the Hungarian Mangalitza pigs is particularly delicious, while the old British Lop, Tamworth or Oxford Sandy Black are considered the finest bacon pigs.
Article written by Matthew Fort
What Bacon Goes With
There are probably more uses for bacon than one could care to think of. Obviously it is fantastic with its regular partners of lettuce and tomato; as Nathan Outlaw’s wonderful BLT demonstrates, not to mention Adam Gray’s deconstructed take on a BLT.
Similar to the way chorizo and white fish coalesce nicely, bacon is equally as potent. White fish wrapped in bacon is a classic dish and works because of the opposite natures of the ingredients: white fish is subtly flavoured and mild, bacon is salty and coarse.
If ingredients were nominated for Oscars, bacon would surely be a perennial contender for the best supporting category – it is not just fish bacon can be paired with but meat, too. Paul Heathcote includes bacon in his otherwise traditional lasagne recipe, while Dominic Chapman pairs bacon with duck.
Most prefer their bacon slabbed onto a piece of crusty bread with a dollop of tomato ketchup but Galton Blackiston proves with his curious gruyere and bacon soufflé that we need not pigeonhole this glorious foodstuff.
View our wonderful collection of festive recipes, complete with a prawn cocktail recipe from Chris Horridge, white chocolate fudge from Phil Carnegie and delicious mint bon-bons from Marcus Wareing.