B is for Bacon!
What is Bacon?
Bacon is a salt-cured and smoked pork product that can be made from various types of pork, but for the sake of this post, we’re going to talk just about belly bacon, the most common and popular type of bacon in America. There’s also back bacon, Canadian Bacon, and Cottage Bacon, but for this post, we’re going to focus on belly bacon – that is a cured pork product made from the belly of a pig.
Historically, before refrigeration was widely available, preserving meat to last without spoiling was of critical importance to protein hungry humans. Preserved foods helped humans explore new areas, survive winter or times of food shortages, and were an important trade commodity. The main method that was used to preserve meat was coating the meat with a high enough concentration of salts to help destroy or slow the growth of harmful microorganisms that cause the meat to spoil. This process was probably discovered by accident after a hunter found meat that had fallen into the sea and the salt water bath helped preserve the meat longer than they otherwise would have expected.
Today, there are both wet and dry curing methods of curing meat. Wet curing methods involve using a salt and water solution to have the salt solution penetrate the meat and start the preserving process. This is a faster process than dry curing and also helps keep the meat juicy and flavorful. Dry curing is done without any liquids – a salt mixture is just spread over the meat to slowly cure the meat. There is significant moisture loss during this process, which makes for a more intense flavor and dryer product when it is cured. For illustration, American deli hams are a wet cured product while prosciutto is a dry cured product.
Smoking also helps the preservation process, because the smoke forms a protective layer that helps stop microbial growth on the outside of the product. Since the smoke is only on the outside of the product, smoking needs to be combined with another preservative technique (like curing) to make a preserved food. Smoking also has the added benefit of adding delicious flavor the food!
Pork bellies are one of the most commonly cured and smoked items in the world. Pork bellies have a lot of fat in them, and aren’t a very tender cut of meat. This makes them prime candidates for smoking and curing, as this process helps tenderize the meat and adds salt and smoke flavor to offset the fat. Finally, when the belly is sliced into thin strips of bacon, it becomes more tender and easy to fry with all of the fat
Today’s bacon that you will find in American butcher shops and grocery stores is typically a wet cured product that has then been smoked. It is not a shelf stable product, but compared to plain pork belly, it has a significantly longer shelf life under refrigeration. You will find bacons that have been flavored either through a different brine, a unique type of smoke, or a rub on the outside of the pork belly. We truly love our bacon in America – the average American now eats about 18 pounds of bacon a year!
We are so proud of the quality of bacon we make here at Lake Geneva Country Meats. We start our bacon production process by being pretty picky about the pork bellies we use. We look for bellies that are flat and rectangular with moderate marbling. We don’t want overly fat or curved bellies that would lead to odd shapes or too much fat in your bacon slices. We then wet cure our bacon and send them through our smokehouse on a carefully calibrated program that we’ve developed over years of experience. After the bacon comes out of our smokehouse, we slice and package the bacon for you to enjoy at home!
Our Bacon has won many awards including:
- Gold Medals at the 2016 & 2019 International Quality Competitions for Sausage hosted by the German Butcher’s Association.
- Reserve Grand Champion 2019 Wisconsin Cured Meat Championships
- Grand Champion 2018 Wisconsin Cured Meat Championships
- Honorable Mention 2016 Wisconsin Cured Meat Championships
- Reserve Champion 2011 Wisconsin Cured Meat Championships
We also make a very fun bacon t-shirt that you can wear with pride! You can purchase your “We Won’t Go Bacon Your Heart” shirt on our online store.
Other Types of Bacon
At the start of this post, we mentioned some of the other types of bacon that aren’t belly bacon. Here’s a brief overview of some other types of bacon you’ll find at Lake Geneva Country Meats:
- Back bacon is common in the United Kingdom and is a wet cured & smoked product made from loin meat. It’s a leaner type of bacon compared to American-style belly bacon (or what they call streaky bacon in the UK). This is also called Canadian bacon in America.
- Cottage Bacon is a wet cured & smoked product made from a boneless pork shoulder. It it an oval shape and is great on sandwiches!
- Bacon Wrapped Bacon is a Lake Geneva Country Meats specialty, and we like to refer to it as “Ultimate Bacon.” This product is a miracle of meat engineering and is a piece of Canadian bacon wrapped in belly bacon. We love it on a BLT sandwich – or as we say, an Ultimate BLT Sandwich!
Finally, bacon can be made from other animals like deer, turkey, and more. These products are usually made from ground meat that is then seasoned, pressed into a belly shape, and then cured and smoked since these animals don’t have the same belly shape as pigs.
What’s the Best Way to Cook Bacon
There are many different ways to cook bacon, but here are a few of our favorite ways to make bacon:
- Put your bacon on parchment paper lined baking tray and bake for about 25 minutes at 400ºF until the bacon is as crispy as you like. This results in the meatiest, juiciest bacon, and is a great way to make a lot of bacon at once. However, it does take more time!
- Put your bacon in a cold non-stick skillet and cook on medium heat, flipping occasionally until the bacon reaches your desired doneness. This will result in more shrinkage (it happens!) but is fast and easy.
- If you have an air fryer, you can cook it in the basket for about 7-8 minutes at 400ºF until it reaches your desired level of crispiness.
Don’t forget to save your bacon grease – there are so many wonderful uses for bacon grease. Check out this article on Bon Appetit that lists 15 Ways to Use Bacon Fat.
Give Me Some Bacon Recipes!
Bacon makes everything better – here are some of our favorite recipes for bacon. These recipes use bacon to wrap something else and make it much more tasty:
- Bacon Egg Cups
- Bacon Wrapped BBQ Country Style Ribs
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Wings
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops
- Bacon Wrapped Trout
- Bacon Wrapped Wieners
- Beer & Bacon BBQ Pork Chops
- Grilled Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Filet
These recipes use bacon as an ingredient to add lots of flavor to the finished dish:
Don’t forget bacon is key to make vegetables taste better:
- Bacon Sautéed Okra
- Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
- Creamy Fried Confetti Corn
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Cashews
Finally – you won’t want to miss this Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe!
That wraps up our B is for Bacon post. We hope this post helped you learn more about our beloved bacon and gave you some new ideas on how to cook bacon or recipes to try that use bacon. Stop by Lake Geneva Country Meats and try our award winning bacon. We promise you won’t regret it!
Do you have questions about Bacon? Leave us a comment below and we’ll be happy to answer. If you want to keep deep diving into more meat topics, you can click here to see all the entries in our A to Z of Meat blog series!
We’ll see you soon at Lake Geneva Country Meats!