I was perusing a sports bar menu recently. A burger perhaps? There were plenty of burger choices. Every single one of them included bacon. Can’t I just have a plain simple burger? Is bacon now a mandatory condiment, like ketchup? I know bacon is wildly popular, but this is a bit much.
Before modern refrigeration, salt curing was an important method of food preservation. Bacon is made by curing meat cut from a hog’s lower side, or belly. Pork belly was salt cured in China thousands of years ago. In Europe, bacon was produced locally by farmers or butchers, who used their own unique curing methods, creating a variety of flavors and textures.
Not much variety in grocery store bacon, which is made by brining. Pork belly is brined in a mixrure of salt, sugar, seasonings and sodium nitrite. Then the pork belly is either smoked or heated in an oven. When the cure process is complete, it’s sliced, packaged and shipped.
Bacon as a garnish
Is bacon inherently unhealthy? The short answer is No. Bacon isn’t any less healthful than other cured meats. Just don’t think of bacon as a major source of protein or any other nutrients. The grams of protein and fat are essentially the same, although over twice as many calories come from fat. There’s a smattering of B vitamins and minerals, nothing to get too excited about. Sodium content is significant, since bacon is cured using sodium.
Bacon shouldn’t be a major part of your daily diet. Think of it as a garnish. Bacon is a flavor powerhouse, so a little goes a long way. I like it as a flavor booster for dishes that are primarily plant-based; it can make plant-centric dishes more appealing. Grain dishes (such as risotto or grain salads), pasta sauces, vegetable salads, and bean casseroles can benefit from a bacon garnish. Pizza also comes to mind. I like using it in fried rice, made with lots of vegetables and either egg or tofu. Bacon on a burger? Occasionally. Maybe. I’m not opposed to bacon, but I’d like the option of not having it.