I love bacon. I love a bacon sandwich. Nowadays, usually a toasted bacon sandwich. I happened to catch a snippet of a TV programme about Wiltshire cure bacon… Mmm, thought I. Let’s investigate this further.
Bacon, as you probably know, is pork meat. The process starts by curing – usually with large quantities of salt, which dries the meat, or with brine (generally known as Wiltshire cure). The first bacon produced is known as green bacon (I don’t think I’ve seen this cut for a while, but I remember my Mum buying it when I was a child – green back bacon) otherwise known as fresh bacon. Bacon is then usually dried for several more weeks, or boiled or smoked. If it’s boiled, it’s ready to eat; otherwise it usually needs cooking first.
Wiltshire cure bacon originated in the 18th century, apparently it has a milder flavour than traditional bacon, which was more popular at the time. It means soaking the meat for four or five days, and needs less salt than the traditional method.
Boiled bacon (or bacon ready for boiling) is usually bought by the joint. Bacon for cooking comes in rashers. It’s also incredibly useful for laying over chicken to be roasted or to make “pigs in blankets” – sausages rolled in bacon rashers.
Bacon is distinguished from ham by differences in the curing process, and ham is traditionally made only from the hind legs of the animal.
Cuts of bacon vary around the world, but here in the UK, we commonly eat the following:
Streaky bacon (also sometimes called side bacon) – this comes from the belly of the pig, and tends to be alternating layers of fat and lean. (It’s the most common bacon in the US.). It’s ok if very well cooked.
Back bacon is from the loin in the middle of the back. It’s very lean, with a layer of fat around the side.
Cottage bacon is usually a thinly sliced, oval shaped cut from the shoulder.
Jowl bacon is smoked and cured meat from the cheeks, known as guanciale in Italy. I don’t believe I have ever seen this.
Slab bacon (and again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this) comes from the side of the pig and is usually not sliced into rashers. It tends to be quite fatty and is the same time of cut as salt pork but differs in that the latter is not cured.
My favourite bacon is probably smoked back bacon, but I’ll eat any of it, as long as it’s well grilled… Got to go, it’s just about ready to eat.
© Susan Shirley 2016