We know it’s a bit cliché, but seriously, doesn’t everybody love bacon? Just thinking about it means you can imagine its unique aroma filling your nostrils. Maybe you can even pretend to taste it on your tongue.
Our sense of smell is the only one of our senses that allows us to observe the past. Remember all those happy Sunday mornings when, if you were lucky, everyone could gather around the breakfast table to share a meal before heading off to church, or work, or choring? When you came back to the kitchen hours later, you could still smell the bacon. That’s kind of magical.
Bacon, officially, is a type of salt-cured pork made from various cuts, but usually the belly or less fatty parts of the pig’s back. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game (such as venison and pheasant), and it can also be used to insulate or flavor roast joints by being layered onto the meat. The word comes from the Proto-Germanic bakkon, meaning “back meat.”
Before refrigeration in the modern era, curing meat was necessary for its safe long-term preservation. However, both the flavor imparted to the meat in doing so and the extended shelf life it offered had become much prized, and although curing is in general no longer necessary in the developed world, it continues in wide use.
Bacon is cured through either a process of injecting it with or soaking it in brine, known as wet curing, or rubbed with salt, known as dry curing.
While meat from other animals (like beef, lamb, chicken, goat or turkey) may also be cut, cured or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon, and may even be referred to as “turkey bacon,” it’s just not the same. Vegetarian bacons such as “soy bacon” also exist.
As for its cooking, there are several options. Some people like it loose and juicy. Your author prefers crisp, almost to the point of burnt. “The Virginia Housewife” (1824), thought to be one of the earliest American cookbooks, gives no indication that bacon is never not smoked, though it gives no advice on flavoring, noting only that care should be taken lest the fire get too hot.
There are a few different bacon types, and they depend on the primal cut of pork from which they are prepared:
- Side bacon, sometimes known as “streaky bacon,” comes from the pork belly. It features long alternating layers of fat and muscle running parallel to the rind. This is the most common form of bacon in the U.S.
- Back bacon contains meat from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It’s a leaner cut, with less fat compared to side bacon. Most bacon consumed in the UK and Ireland is back bacon.
- Collar bacon is taken from the back of a pig near the head.
- Cottage bacon is made from the lean meat from a boneless pork shoulder that is typically tied into an oval shape.
- Jowl bacon is cured and smoked cheeks of pork.
Whatever your favorite style of cooking – I’ll admit, I prefer the microwave, as it’s easier clean-up – and whatever your favorite cut, we hope you’ll celebrate Bacon Day with something super tasty. Share your photos with us on Facebook too!