Salty. Smoky. Fatty. Savory bacon.
And with it comes an endearing family memory.
My dad liked bacon; really, really liked bacon. So much so that he would buy it in slab form from a mailorder outfit in Arkansas. I can still recall the smell of it sizzling on the flattop griddle in our tiny little farmhouse kitchen. He covered the entire surface with strips lined up in perfect rows. The heat was always low so not to spatter and make a greasy mess, but also to render out the fat more gently and make a more ideal slice of bacon.
We would affectionately refer to dad’s obsession as Sunday Bacon, with the Sunday part coming from the day of the weekend he and mom would pull the little stainless steel electric slicer off the top shelf of the cabinet, assemble it and tackle the smoky brick of pork. It was a bit of an ordeal, but part of the reward lie in the process as well as the aroma and flavor that filled the house and palette.
I don’t have my dad with me any longer, but I do have that old slicer, and now possess the knowledge and skill to make the kind of bacon that I think would have made him proud.
In my restaurant, I buy two Berkshire hogs every three weeks. They arrive at my kitchen in primal cuts; two loins, two shoulders, two hindquarters, two bellies and the head split in two. On the day of delivery, I break these pieces down further into smaller portions for multiple uses on our menu. I usually set aside the bellies for Dave to take back to his farm the next day to make bacon. He runs a smokehouse and is better equipped than I to cure and smoke four large sides of pork.
But with the Charcutepalooza challenge including bacon this month, I decided to do it myself this time and see what I came up with.
What I have discovered with charcuterie is that it is, for the most part, an easy process. By ease I don’t mean quick. But a simple rub of salt cure followed by a week of patience and an hour in the smoker, and you can be known around the office as the “guy who cures his own bacon.” This merit badge can be worn with pride and pinned next to your “dude who brews his own beer” or “one who bakes her own bread.”
I made and served a warm salad with the housemade lardons that is worthy of repeating.
Warm Maple and Bacon Vinaigrette
- 1c canola oil
- 1/4c pure maple syrup
- 1/4c fresh lemon juice
- 1/4t thyme, sage, marjoram
- pinch of salt & pepper
- 1/2c lardon of bacon
Emulsify liquid ingredients and herbs with stick blender, then add bacon and let set for at least an hour before serving. Warm a small amount in a sauce pan and pour it over fresh spinach, grated Grana Padano, sliced boiled egg for a perfect late winter salad.