Forget the beef, there is a bacon explosion going on, and if you are counting calories, bacon made from pork is a tough luxury to pass up without first salivating just a bit. The crispy texture and deep brown hickory color alone are aesthetically appetizing, and then there is that almost sinful aroma that wafts through the air when it is sizzling away to that perfect state that leaves it crunchy, but still with that meaty bite that insures that just one piece will not satisfy your cravings for it.
The fat content of bacon alone gives health conscience foodies good reason to omit it from their shopping list, but the edible meat from pork belly is actually what has given pork a jump start when it comes to consumers buying up pork products. However bacon has come a long way in the last few decades with choices of lower sodium and leaner varieties available that include the somewhat popular turkey and vegetarian bacons.
For centuries bacon has been savored by the wealthy and even peasants were allowed to enjoy its unique flavor due in part to the long shelf life of bacon and a huge abundance of readily available pig’s bread for slaughter. In fact it was a meat staple in households across Europe for years due to affordability, taste and the ease of preparing it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Bacon is one of the most universal foods available as it can be served with or added to just about any type of edible entrée. From soups and sandwiches to salads and desserts, the word bacon almost immediately causes hunger pangs, and once eaten it becomes highly addictive. Southerner’s love bacon so much that they save the grease as if it were liquid gold. The highly flavorful drippings are used in everything from salad dressings and gravy to cornbread and sautéing onions for the deep rich flavor that it instantly lends to food.
Bacon is cured in salt brine for several hours, and then it is often made even more flavorful by being smoked with wood or liquid enhancers. Bacon possesses savoriness aka umami that hits on one of our many basic tastes picked up by receptors that lend that special good taste detection that comes from the natural occurrence of amino acids that are found in meats like bacon.
There are several cuts of bacon that come from different parts of the pig. The most popular cut in the U.S. is the long “side” bacon with fat running parallel to the meat which comes from the pork belly. Other cuts are meatier with a heftier price tag that comes with the thicker cuts. These select bacon choices come from the middle of the pig’s back and are leaner then pork belly varieties, and the price is much higher per pound, but the quality is worth it.
There is no denying that the sound of bacon sizzling away in a heavy cast iron pan has an enticing effect that will make even the strictest of dieters become blatant cheaters, but bacon is so much more easily contained when baked. The mess is nothing more then a small puddle of grease, which can later be saved by diehard foodies that know that bacon grease, is as close to heaven as you can get without entering the actual gates.
Unfortunately; the American Heart Association states that 68% of bacon’s calories come from fat, almost half of which is saturated, and each ounce of bacon contributes 30 milligrams of cholesterol. This is where healthy choices concerning the fatty favorite come into play, and your taste buds will thank you for not passing. Options like lean turkey bacon are much lower in fat and cholesterol, and as with any food, smaller portions are encouraged when watching our caloric intake.
Famous Quotes from Bacon Lovers
“Special day! Oh, what have I forgotten now? Now, don’t panic. Is it Bacon Day? No, that’s crazy talk!” Homer, the Simpsons
“Uh, “Hello, room service? I’d like some bacon, a couple of cokes, and a bunch of whores.” Butthead, of Beavis and ButtHead
“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” Thomas Jefferson
“Our life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” Doug Larson
James Beard once said that if he were about to be executed and were given a choice of his last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. His reason was that few sights appealed to him more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. He further added that nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.” James Beard (1903-1985)
Bacon Dessert, Snack & Appetizer Recipes
1 pound thick sliced bacon
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place a baking rack over a foil lined and rimmed baking sheet. Thread individual slices of bacon onto the skewers. Lay the bacon slices on the rack in single layers. In a small mixing bowl stir the maple syrup, Dijon mustard and pepper together. Slowly drizzle half of the syrup mixture over the top of each bacon slice. Bake 12 minutes. Flip the bacon over and drizzle with the remaining syrup. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the bacon has reached the desired crispiness.
Cool Bacon Ranch Pizza
1 12 to 14 ounce prebaked pizza crust
¾ to 1 cup ranch dressing
1 cup cooked bacon, cut into bite size pieces
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into slices
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 small tomato sliced thin
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Spread the ranch dressing onto the crust leaving a ½ inch rim. Top with the tomato, lettuce, bacon, chicken and then the cheese. Cut the pizza into wedges and serve cold.
Bacon & Maple Syrup Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cups light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups real maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cups buttermilk
7 slices cooked crispy bacon, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the bacon until crisp, drain on a paper towel and set aside to cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon for the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the ginger. Set aside. In a separate bowl whip the butter and sugar in a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, maple syrup, and the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture by thirds, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the bacon. Line cupcake pans with 18 paper liners. Bake approximately 17 to 20 minutes. Cool completely and the frost.
Maple & Bacon Frosting
4 Tablespoons room temperature butter, unsalted
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons of the reserved crispy bacon
Whip the butter, syrup and sugar together slowly until smooth and creamy. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
Bacon & Shrimp Wraps
20 medium sized cooked shrimp
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ cup Heinz chili sauce
10 slices bacon, cut in half & partially baked
Set oven to 550 or broil.
Mix the garlic and chili sauce together and gently fold in the shrimp. Wrap the bacon slices around each piece of shrimp and secure with a toothpick. On a foil lined baking sheet broil the bacon shrimp wraps until the bacon is crisp on all sides. Serve immediately.
Tater & Bacon Casserole
4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
8 slices thick bacon cooked until crispy
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 can evaporated milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°
Lightly spray an 8-inch-square baking dish with PAM cooking spray. Layer half of the potatoes, onion, pepper, 4 bacon slices and ½ of the cheese into the sprayed dish. Repeat by layering with the remaining ingredients. In a separate bowl combine evaporated milk, egg, salt and pepper. Pour evenly over potato mixture; Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve.