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Kitchener Market 2017

Bacon

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Preview of Bacon

Available

January 1 - December 31

Harvest Period

N/A - N/A

Bacon is one of the oldest preserved meats as records show that the Chinese were preserving and salting pork bellies around 1500 B.C.  Bacon is traditionally a cut of meat taken from the sides, belly, or back of a pig, which is then cured with salt and sometimes smoked. Today, meat such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat and turkey is also being prepared in ways that resemble bacon.

Making Bacon

 

Bacon is pork, which has been preserved in a salt solution or brine. This process is known as curing. Syrups (apple and maple) or spices (mesquite, peppercorns etc.) can be added at this point to give the bacon the variety of flavours available today. Dry cured bacon is a process whereby dry salt rather than a brine is used.

 

Salt is an essential part of bacon production since it acts as a preservative. However, modern bacon production methods have enabled producers to reduce the amount of salt to between 3-4 percent compared with levels of 5-7 percent over 100 years ago.

 

After curing, the bacon is smoked using wood chips or other smoking processes.

 

Selecting and Storing

All bacon should be found in the refrigerated case at your grocery store and kept in your refrigerator at home. Be sure to check the expiration date on the package to be sure you are getting the freshest product. In general, bacon should have thin streaks of meat, evenly distributed and separated by snowy white fat. If you are using the bacon as a side dish, a higher meat to fat ratio is usually preferred. When using bacon as a flavouring, a little more fat will enhance the final dish.

Packaged sliced bacon can be kept in its unopened, vacuum-sealed package in the refrigerator up to a week past the expiration date. Once opened, keep it tightly wrapped in foil or a storage bag and use it as soon as possible.  Sealed packages of bacon can be frozen up to one month before the fat begins to go rancid. You can separate a package of bacon into serving size portions and then freeze in freezer bags. Thaw the bacon in the refrigerator to reduce splatters during cooking.

Cooked bacon can also be frozen. Wrap individual portions in paper towels and place into freezer bags for up to six weeks. Frozen, cooked bacon can be heated up for a minute in a hot pan or warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Nutritional Information

Bacon is a good source of phosphorus, selenium, and niacin. A hefty ratio of fat to meat is essential to good bacon, usually one-half to two-thirds fat to meat. Since bacon must be cooked before being consumed, much of the fat is rendered out and can be poured off if not needed for other recipes.

2 slices of pan-fried bacon (14g) provides 80 calories, 6g fat, 0g carbohydrate, and 6g protein.

Cooking Bacon

In order to prevent bacon slices from sticking to each other and tearing, take the bacon out of the refrigerator thirty minutes before cooking. If crispy bacon is preferred, choose thinner slices to fry up. Always start by placing the bacon into a cold pan to reduce the amount of splattering and then raise the heat to medium-low. Pour off the fat into a glass or metal bowl as it accumulates in the pan. Cook slowly, turning often, to render out the most fat and help reduce shrinkage. Pricking with a fork will help alleviate any curling problems. Drain bacon on paper towels.

Bacon can also be easily baked in the oven, resulting in flat slices. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place a rack inside a baking sheet. Lay out slices and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on desired doneness level.

The fat rendered from the cooked bacon is highly-prized as a cooking oil for its flavour. After cooking the bacon, cool the rendered oil to room temperature and then cover and store in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.  If the rendered fat is not to be used, then let it cool before putting into the garbage.  Never pour bacon fat down the drain as it will coagulate and clog up the drain.

 

Varieties

Canadian bacon is made from the rib eye of boneless pork loin. Most European countries use the ham (thigh) or shoulder to make bacon such as dry-cured Italian pancetta. Slab bacon is sold in a solid chunk, so you can cut it as thickly as you want. Or it can be cut into lardons, which are narrow strips used to flavour meats and other dishes in French cooking.

Low-fat and low-sodium versions are options for those on restricted diets. Fully-cooked bacon slices are also now available in most markets for those with cooking time constraints. Bacon bits are pre-cooked pieces of bacon which are then dried.