What, exactly is Bacon?

We’re in the middle of Bacon Week here at Foodwhirl and it’s time we had a discussion on what exactly bacon is.

Bacon is a type of cured pork.  You hear of turkey bacon or lamb bacon or tofu bacon- these products are not bacon, they are simply treated in a manner to resemble bacon.  True bacon will always be made from pork.  In the United States that usually refers to pork belly which has been cured with a brine and smoked.  This type of Bacon can also be referred to as American Bacon (pictured below).  In England and Ireland it’s just as common to not smoke bacon as it is to smoke it.  Unsmoked Bacon is referred to as “green”.  A single slice of bacon is called a rasher.  This style of pork belly bacon is also available in slab form.

Bacon can also be made from cuts other that the pork belly.  There is Middle Bacon, made from the side of the pig.  Cottage Bacon which is sliced from the shoulder.  Jowl Bacon comes from the cheeks of the pig.  Back Bacon comes from the loin of the pig and is a very lean cut of bacon. This cut is most commonly eaten in the UK (pictured below).  It is also commonly referred to as Canadian Bacon, except in Canada.  In Canada it’s simply called Back Bacon.  The texture of Back Bacon is more like ham then the standard bacon most American’s are familiar with.

Pancetta (pictured below) is an Italian version of bacon that is salt cured and spiced with things like nutmeg, pepper, fennel, hot peppers and garlic and then dried (though not typically smoked).

Bacon is different than other type of cured pork products due to the type of brine that is used in curing the mean.  Typically Bacon brine includes ingredients such as sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate or saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to cure the meat and sodium ascorbate to stabilize color. On the other hand the brine for a ham (another commonly cured pork product) usually contains a large amount of sugar in addition to the curing agents.

Hopefully this short summary has given you a better idea of what exactly bacon is.  Now hop over to your local mega mark, pick some up and give some of our recipes a whirl!

I've always enjoyed making a mess in the kitchen. As a small child I used to sneak into the kitchen to make "rabbit stew" (this consisted of emptying my mom's spices into a large pot of water. Yeah, I was a great kid.) These days I spend my time in the kitchen cobbling together "what-ever-the-heck-you've-got casserole", pushing ethnic-inspired food on my husband and occasionally being called upon to feed the in-laws. I hope you enjoy trying these recipes in your own kitchen. Make sure you let me know what you like! If you want to find me elsewhere on the web- well good luck with that! I'm a baby blogger- this is my first foray into blog land (so let me know how I'm doing!). In real life I can often be found lurking amongst the stacks at local bookstores and libraries sipping on diet pepsi.

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