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!