Domesticated hog production dates as far back as 7,000 B.C., and bacon production is at least as old. It is speculated that Greeks and Romans brought knowledge of bacon production and curing back with them from their Middle Eastern conquests. Until about 500 years ago, the term "bacon"was used to refer to all types of pork, and it was considered a sign of great influence and wealth if a person could afford to buy and consume pork. This is where we get the term "bringing home the bacon."
The term "bacon" itself is a combination of French (bako) and German (bakkon) terms meaning "back of the hog." The U.K. still uses the back cut for bacon, but most bacon sold in U.S. stores today is made from pork bellies. "Arkansas-style" bacon is made from the Boston roast/shoulder of the hog, while Canadian bacon is made from the loin. Canadian bacon is leaner than U.S. bacon, but it is also usually unsmoked, resulting in a "hoggier" flavor.
How is bacon cured?
There are two primary methods of curing bacon: pumping and dry curing.
"Pumped" bacon is typical for mass-production, where curing ingredients are injected directly into the meat to speed up the process and add bulk. This type of mass-produced bacon is held for curing for 6 to 24 hours before being heated. If not properly drained, pumped bacon can exude white liquid during frying. Pumped bacon also shrinks significantly when cooked as the excess liquid evaporates.
"Dry-cured" bacon, which is the only method we use at Bespoke, has a pre-measured amount of cure mixture rubbed into the bacon belly surfaces. Additional cure is sometimes rubbed in over a number of days, depending on the flavor. The bacon may be left to cure for up to 2 weeks in order for the moisture to be drawn out. Because of the lengthy processing time and labor required, dry-cured bacon is more expensive than the more mass-produced, pumped bacon.
What about hormones?
No hormones are used in the raising of hogs. Hormones are not permitted in pork by Federal regulations; therefore, bacon cannot have added hormones.
Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in hogs. A "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered. This is so residues can exit the animal's system and won't be in the meat.
Bespoke Bacon sources all of our bellies from local family-owned farms that use no additives or artificial genetic modifications. We have several providers available to meet your dietary needs including antibiotic-free and organic.
How can I store bacon?
Bacon may be stored in your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below for up to 7 days. You can also freeze bacon for 3-4 months. To thaw bacon, it is best to plan ahead and allow the bacon to thaw in the refrigerator. If you must use a microwave to thaw the bacon, plan on cooking it immediately after thawing. It is also safe to cook bacon directly from a frozen state.
How do I cook bacon?
There are three main ways to cook bacon: on the stove using a skillet, in the oven, and using the microwave. The method you use depends on your personal preference.
Bespoke Bacon lovers are typically happiest cooking in a skillet or oven. Skillet-fried bacon is usually crispier, while oven-baked bacon maintains a meatier texture. Never cook bacon over a direct open flame, like a BBQ grill. Bacon fat is flammable and can easily ignite.
It is very easy to burn bacon. Therefore, we recommend the skillet be heated using medium or medium-high heat, and the oven should be on a setting no higher than 375 degrees. It is also a good idea to place foil on the lower oven racks to stop any splatters from hitting the hot oven surface and causing excessive smoke.