Ah, bacon, the food of the gods. One of the most popular foods to ever exist, it’s fatty, crispy, salty, majestic. After many years of playing a supporting role in breakfast, bacon has taken center stage, becoming star of goods both edible and not. These days, bacon can be found almost anywhere. There’s bacon beer, ice cream, vodka, donuts, chocolate, cologne, lip gloss, brownies, toothpaste, breath mints and soap. True bacon devotees can visit bacon camp or worship at the church of bacon (real thing) and, on September 2, celebrate International Bacon Day. There are those who say that man exists solely to make and consume bacon, and, honestly, who are we to argue? In the spirit of honoring man’s pork-filled destiny, we celebrate all things bacon, including a little history, a bit of trivia, and a tried and true method for making this ultimate comfort food using our Baconology Kit.
The “hog log,” or, bacon in history and culture
- It may not be as old as the hills, but bacon has been around a pretty long time. More than 3,000 years ago, the Chinese were the first to cook salted pork bellies, making bacon one of the world’s oldest processed meats. And since you can’t keep delicious foods hidden for too long, bacon eventually moved west, where it became the stuff of dreams: The Romans, for example, made “petaso,” boiling salted pig shoulder with figs, then seasoning the mixture with pepper sauce. Oh, mama mia. The word “bacon” itself is from the Germanic root “-bak,” which refers to the back of the pig that supplied the meat. From there we got “bakko,” which became “bacco” in French, which was then adopted by the English around the 12th century, and finally resulting in a dish called “bacoun.” Initially it referred to any pork product, but it eventually came to be used just for the cured meat.
- The term “bring home the bacon,” unsurprisingly refers to bringing home bacon. But it originally had nothing to do with fat stacks of cash, just actual fat stacks of bacon. In 1104, a couple impressed the Prior of Little Dunmow with their devotion to each other and he rewarded them with a side of bacon. What a prize! Since then, the tradition has carried on in Great Dunmow, Essex, with couples showing their devotion to win the bacon goodies. Eventually the term spread and came to mean being successful and earning the cash
- Everybody knows about buying war bonds and donating stockings during war times. But bacon also had a hand (hoof?) in helping the war effort—donated leftover grease was used to make explosives in WWII. You see, rendered fats create glycerin, which in turn can be used to make bombs, gunpowder, and other explode-y things.
- Despite his hammy name, Kevin Bacon is apparently veg-centric. You judge as you see fit.
Get your bac-on
So all of this bacon talk has gotten you to salivating, right? And while you could just go out and buy a slab of the stuff, wouldn’t it be more fun to make it yourself? Sure, it will be slightly challenging, but aren’t all good things a bit of work? Plus, the Baconology Kit will help make short order of this thing. Let’s get to it.
1. Start with the belly
If you’re going to take the time to make your own bacon, you’re going to need to get a good belly. You’ll want one with good size—a full pork belly weighs 10-12 lbs., so aim for that size (you might want to cut it in half to make handling easier, so if you can only find a belly that’s about half that weight/size, that’s fine, too). Do yourself a favor and look for an organic/humanely raised hog. It may cost more, but it’ll be worth it in the long run—treat the piggies well and your kindness will come back to you. And only purchase once you’re ready to prepare so you don’t have a pork belly hanging out in your refrigerator for too long.
2. Skin that thing!
Unless you ask your butcher to skin your pork belly (which isn’t the worst thing to do, by the way—it takes some effort), you will need to remove the skin, as it is tough and will block the absorption of your cure. Using an officially sharp knife, start at one corner, separating skin from meat. Note: Keep the blade angled toward the skin. Also note: Don’t toss the skin! You can use it for something equally delicious, like cracklings. Yum.
3. Find the cure
This is unquestionably the most important step of making our own bacon, which is why you will need to be armed with the best cure around. Comprised of the sweetest and savoriest of ingredients, the Baconology Kit cure will take your bacon to the highest levels of flavor, which is pretty impressive. Arrange your belly—well not YOUR belly, just your pork belly—on a rimmed baking sheet and rub it on both sides. Once you’ve rubbed your belly sufficiently, ahem, place it in a plastic bag on a roasting pan and cure that sucker for five days in the refrigerator, turning it every day.
4. Rinse, dry, don’t repeat
After your five days are up, rinse both sides of the pork with cold water to remove excess cure (you may want to employ a colander for this activity). Blot it dry and place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet (uncovered) in your refrigerator and let it dry for as little as four hours or as much as overnight, turning it here or there. This will form a papery, dry exterior skin called a pellicle (sounds like a pelican follicle but is not related to either of these things), which is what the smoke will latch on to, so, like the curing step, this is very important.
5. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em (and you do)
Smoking can be challenging if you don’t have the right equipment. Lucky for you, the Baconology Kit comes with a hickory flavored Camerons Smoker Bag, which is basically a complex smoker in simple bag form that you can use in the oven, on a grill, with a hot plate or even at a campfire should you find yourself making bacon in the great outdoors. This bag will do the trick no matter where you take it.
6. Chill, baby, chill
You’re almost there. Before you can cook up this porcine pleasure, you need to let it chill. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then tightly wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for four hours to overnight (overnight is preferred as the extra time will really let the flavor set).
7. Slice, cook, eat
And here you are, moments away from diving into crispy bacon perfection. Slice as thick or thin as you like and then throw that treat on the fire. You might want to enjoy your first bite in private as there is a good chance you may cry/drool/squeal with delight at the magical meal you’ve created with your very own hands. From there, it’s up to you—photos, diary entries, whatever you want to commemorate the event.
International house of bacon
Sometimes you won’t be able to make your own bacon, especially if you’re traveling. Now, the U.S. is definitely more fond of bacon than other countries—the average American consumes 18 lbs. each year—but just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you can’t ask for some of your favorite food. Use the language key below to call down a rush of rashers if you ever find yourself in one of these far-flung(ish) locations:
Czech – slanina
Dutch – spek
Finnish – pekoni
Hungarian – szalonna
Latvian – bekons
Polish – boczek
Spanish – tocino
Welsh – cig moch