Tuesday, November 30, 2010

English Bacon?

On the weekend we headed out to the other side of town to Gartner's Country Meat Market because they claimed to sell 'English' Bacon. To our surprise, it was a real butchers with knives. Not the usual supermarket with shrinkwrapped pre-cut meats. We found the English bacon at the end of the counter, next to a couple of other types of bacon.

In Britain we don't call bacon 'English' bacon. We have a much more diverse set of bacon types than in the US. Back bacon, side bacon, streaky bacon, dry cured, wiltshire cured etc, etc. So British expats in the US soon begin to miss the good bacon from back home, when faced with the poor selection in the US. It is almost all streaky, smoked bacon. There is also 'Canadian' bacon, which isn't bacon at all.

So it was time to test it. I pulled one out of the wrapping and put it in a pan

The butcher claims it is like English back bacon. The first thing you notice is that it isn't shaped like back bacon. It is much larger and rounder, filling my small pan. Presumably this is because they cut up the pig differently in the US and just processed meat from the same general area as normal back bacon. It was cut very thick, which is fine. It certainly smelled right.

There is a lot less fat than you find on typical American bacon and it is mostly situated around the outside rather than running through the middle.

I started cooking it the usual way, first on high to get it going, then down to low to continue cooking. Three minutes later it started smelling like proper bacon and started to darken a bit. Being thick, the fat hasn't started rendering yet.

Another three minutes things start bubbling and it shrinks a little:
Another three minutes, more shrinking and fat rendering, it's time to turn it over:

So here's what the other side looks like. It doesn't cook like American bacon which turns curly and brittle and crispy very quickly. It cooks like a normal meat, browning on the outside and staying chewy in the middle.

This bacon then takes on the nice property of lifting up in the middle instead of curling up at the edges, so the sides cook well and the fat renders well. So it's much less fussy than American bacon to cook. As you can see, it's cooking nice and uniformly.
Three more minutes and its looking better with most of the fat rendered out.

Time to turn it over again and see what's happening underneath

Another 3 minutes and it looks done.

Pat it off on a paper towel. It's not crispy, it's proper bacon you can chew instead of the typical American bacon flavoured tortilla chip.

The taste test. Slap it in between some white bread and give it a go.

Success! It tastes like proper bacon. Even quick quality, fancy, thick, proper bacon.

There isn't an inch deep oil slick in the pan either. So we'll be coming back for more when the bacon we brought runs out.

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