BRING HOME THE REAL BACON
We do like a good rasher and where would the full Irish breakfast be without it. I had one lately in a guesthouse and between it and the miserable sausage this national dish had reached a new low. I know and appreciate that profit needs to be made but the bargain basement meat produce surely cannot get any worse now.
Visitors to Ireland would be wondering what all the fuss was about regarding our famous start to the day. The Irish bacon and sausages at the higher end of the price scale are truly fabulous to eat, alas quality costs and the food has to be factored into the price of the room. For such a quintessential Irish food it is a shame it has come to this.
In bygone days you kept a pig of course to eat all your scraps along with food waste and any wild food they could scavenge. When sufficiently fattened it met its maker with a visit from a man with a weapon and you could take all the meat back at once after being chopped up and then cure it yourself and sharing it around the neighbours afterwards.
You could also have the butcher just take it and sell to other customers in his shop and you would have credit tab to buy different meat for a few months. Curing of course was essential and it consisted of leaving the pork meat for a couple of weeks in only salt. Sometimes some sugar was added to the mix and later a small amount of preservative was used give it a pinky hue and this would extend its shelf life.
This type of dry curing concentrated the flavour of the meat and moisture would be drawn out. After another week of maturing it was ready for selling. A few artisan craft butchers will still practice but it reduces the amount of meat to sell and it takes longer to make of course and you will pay the relevant higher price.
Most bacon you buy now is a fast tracked industrial production process where it will have been wet cured with brine injected into the meat and it left soaking for a short time before it’s on the shop shelf ready for your pan and all that liquid spilling out of the meat as it cooks. The taste is not great either and it is a far cry from the good quality traditional method of curing bacon. You will see the dry cured variety in the supermarkets too however.
You will also notice you do not have to soak ham or bacon these days before boiling as there is less residual salt in the meat which is a good thing. We used to have to change the water a couple of times too during cooking.
Ham and gammon are the same by the way with the leg only cured separately for ham. If being smoked then this happens afterwards. So the real rashers as I call them will be dry and firm in fact when raw and the fat will crisp up nicely if they are grilled properly. If you are used to eating the inferior type of bacon then it will be a revelation to taste traditionally cured rashers. I would rather eat them less often and then treat myself to the real thing when I do fancy a fry up.
Around the world there is other similarly produced bacon too and probably the Danish and the Canadians are the two other main players on the international front. Streaky bacon plays a pivotal role in a lot of French and Italian cooking as lard and pancetta by both bulking up and adding extra flavour to dishes. The Germans and Spanish use it substantially too.
Bacon fat like all animal fat can be a very nutritional element in our diet too despite what the health police might say. The vitamins, minerals and protein in bacon are key requirement for our body. Bacon has some of the same fatty acid that olive oil has ironically. Moderation is the key and the cholesterol links are as much lifestyle and genetics as food choice in my opinion. So don’t deny yourself something that is a part of our food heritage and buy the good stuff and bring home the real bacon.