We are obsessed with bacon. Many proclaim their love of bacon loudly and proudly, while others have been forced to hide their love affair in the shadows in fear of the so-called “fat police.” In spite of this, bacon has taken up its rightful place in the foodie world. Showing up in high-end restaurants, you can even find bacon-topped treats in upscale bakeries. Bacon-flavored vodka and maple-bacon liqueurs line the shelves of popular mixology bars.
There remain, however, the purists: those who love bacon for the sake of the bacon itself. While we can appreciate bacon-infused foods, our true love remains that perfect slice (or slab!) of bacon all by itself. In search of the holy grail of bacons, we must turn to the artisan producer.
An artisan is a person who has become skilled in a particular craft. The bacon artisan is someone who has learned the art of curing and smoking pork belly. The artisan will first choose the pork belly itself. There are any number of factors to consider here, with most opting first for quality organic pork. Next the artisan will consider the breed of pig, what its diet consisted of, and the age and weight of the pig. All of these factors will contribute to the taste and texture of the finished product.
The curing of meats is simply a way of preserving them for later use, without freezing. Dry curing is a way of pulling the moisture from the meat, as moisture is necessary for bacteria to grow. Bacon is made by rubbing a mixture of Kosher salt, a sugar, and a nitrite (a naturally occurring type of salt that deters the bacteria that causes botulism) into all surfaces of the pork belly.
The dry cure mixture is where bacon artisans add their flair. Their chosen mix of sugars and spices will add specific flavors, colors, and textures to the bacon, making it a truly unique product. After the dry rub is applied, the meat is left to cure in a cool place for several days. The better the cure, the less shrinkage in the final product when it hits your pan.
Once the meat is properly dried, the curing mixture is rinsed off and the meat is dried and then hung for a period of a few days to a few weeks. Sometimes during this hanging time, the meat is smoked, which imparts another level of flavor to the finished bacon.
At every stage of this process the artisan’s expertise ensures a top-quality end product. Mouth watering yet? Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated in our search for the perfect artisan bacon and to get more information on our featured bacon of the month.