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Bacon From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Bacon From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Are you a bacon lover? Here's a list of facts and figures about bacon you can't miss: recipes, nutritional facts as well as some oddities.

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Australia (plus New Zealand) and America. Bacon is a popular food at all latitudes, especially in English-speaking countries and those influenced by their culture, so the methods for making it can vary significantly from one nation to another. In the Southern hemisphere, for instance, the most widespread cut is "middle bacon", which comprises the streaky fatty section from the side of the belly and the loin. Another common bacon cut is the one known as "short cut bacon", which only consists of the leaner, less fatty loin. The most widely consumed American cut is made from pork belly, while the Canadian cut is taken from the loin in the middle of the back and is called “back bacon”.

Bacho. The term "bacon" can be traced back to the Middle English word "bacoun", which in its turn derives from the proto Germanic word “bacho”, meaning the backend of the pig, or ham.

Chocolate. Bacon and chocolate? Indeed. Also known as "pig bacon" (Minnesota State Fair), or "pig candy" (New York), it consists in slices of bacon entirely or partially coated with milk or dark chocolate and, according to taste, sprinkled with salt, chopped pistachios or almonds. A similar speciality is also to be found in Ukraine, where it is known as "salo in cioccolato".

Denver (Colorado). The homeland of the celebrated Fool's Gold Loaf, a huge sandwich filled with peanut butter, grape jelly and generous amounts of bacon. According to The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley, the king of rock ‘n’ roll, was induced by a sudden craving to take his private jet and fly from Graceland (Tennessee) to Denver to indulge in a “light” night-time snack in the company of friends, washed down with litres of Champagne.

Explosives. During the Second World War, the US government set up the "American Fat Salvage Committee” to urge housewives to keep the fat left over from cooking bacon because it was useful to the war industry: in fact, one pound of fat contains enough glycerine to produce an equal quantity of explosives.

Flitch. Unsliced bacon is commonly known as “slab", but in times gone by it used to be called "flitch".

Gammon. In the United Kingdom, the hind leg of pork is processed in the same way as bacon and, when boned and sliced, is sold as “gammon steak”. Talking about the British, they call the bacon made from belly meat, with its alternate layers of meat and fat, “streaky bacon”, while “back bacon” normally comprises a bit of streaky bacon and a leaner oval section.

Heston Blumenthal. Last Christmas, the three-starred chef of international fame created a special trifle exclusively for Waitrose: in short, it consisted of caramelized bananas, rum-soaked trifle sponges, caramel sauce, chocolate and rich bacon-flavoured custard. Before serving, it was sprinkled with a topping of crumbled bacon bits.

International Bacon Day. In the United States, Bacon Day is celebrated on the Saturday before "Labor Day". This year, pots and pans will be sizzling away on September 2. Even though there is nothing official about this festivity, it is observed everywhere by cooking bacon all through the day, from breakfast to dinner, comprising dessert.

John Fargginay. It is narrated that, in 1920, this Parisian butcher invented a cologne capable of diffusing the unmistakable aroma of bacon, albeit in an elegant and subtle form, by combining an extract of this ingredient with essential oils and herbs. Apparently, it was capable of reawakening childhood memories and its enthusiasts included cinema celebrities and heads of state.

Kevin Bacon. In 2010, an artist called Mike Lahue created a bust representing the protagonist of Footloose. Onto a polystyrene support, the eclectic sculptor first glued an indescribable quantity of bacon pieces, fixing everything with several layers of primer to preserve it. The bust was then auctioned and the proceeds donated to a charitable organization engaged in providing medical care to children.

Lop yuk. This is the Chinese equivalent of bacon, an uncooked smoked variety aromatized with soy, unrefined sugar and spices.

Mania. Bacon mania has broken out in the United States and Canada, with recipes on the brink of weirdness: bacon ice-cream, bacon-flavoured chewing gum, doughnuts with bacon and maple syrup… Not forgetting the "bacon explosion" (in which a slice of bacon is wrapped around a spicy sausage in its turn covered in pieces of bacon), "chicken fried bacon" (slices of bacon that are battered and fried in the same was as chicken) and even candied bacon.

Numbers. For 89% of Brits , bacon is a must in any “Full English Breakfast” (or "fry up"), which, as well as bacon, comprises eggs, sausages, beans and toast. Over 50% of Americans have bacon provisions in the house, while bacon is to be found in 90.4% of British larders.

Origin. It would seem that, 3000 years ago, the Chinese, were the first to have cooked and preserved the belly pork we now know as bacon.

Petaso. In Ancient Rome, this was a piece of pork shoulder cooked with figs and spiced with a pepper sauce, rather similar to today’s bacon.

Quality. Pork must be processed with particular care to preserve its taste, aroma and nutritional properties. Generally, it is rubbed with salt, sugar, preservatives and spices, and can be either “wet cured” in brine or “dry packed” for varying lengths of time depending on the size of the piece. Then it is dried or smoked using a hot or cold smoking method.

Recipes with bacon. Bacon processing recipes vary considerably, also from one country to another. US bacon, for example, comprises many varieties that are smoked with wood (hickory or maple) or corn cobs before being aromatized with treacle, honey, brown sugar, chilli pepper or cinnamon. They vary in sweetness or saltiness from one State to another. There is one Canadian recipe that is particularly unusual: "peamel bacon" is first placed in brine and then coated with a layer of maize flour (in olden times dried pea flour was used) and maple syrup.

Star system. Apparently, many celebrities have an obsession for bacon: Catherine Zeta Jones, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Gavin Rossdale, Padma Lakshmi...

Terminology (a question of). In the US and Canada, the actual bacon slice is called "slice" or "strip": by "rasher" they mean a helping of several slices. Conversely, in the United Kingdom, "rasher" means one fine slice (up until the XVII century they were called "collops"). Bacon slices are also referred to as rashers in Australia and New Zealand.

Umami. It would seem that bacon contains six types of umami, in other words six different nuances of what is now defined as the “fifth flavour”. Having been discovered in Japan where this term means “tasty”, it could play an important and beneficial role in keeping us healthy. However, it is also thought by many to be addictive!

Vodka. Nowadays, bacon is used to aromatize vodka, along with many beers and bourbons. Even today’s cocktails exploit its smoky notes: Bacon Bloody Mary for instance or Bacontini and Candied Bacon Martini, in which slices of sugar-coated caramelized bacon are used as garnishes.

Wiltshire. This is the county of South West England where the first large-scale bacon factory was opened. The event dates back to 1770 and, apparently, it was all thanks to one Sarah Harris. Her son John, on the other hand, is said to have conceived and implemented the famous “Wiltshire” technique, a wet cure that is still highly appreciated today by those who like their bacon with a sweeter flavour.

Xxx. A survey carried out by the Canadian company Maple Leaf Foods reveals that: 43% of male and female respondents prefer to indulge in a serving of bacon rather than a night of sex (hmm!); 23% of male respondents also declare that bacon is, without a shadow of doubt, their favourite smell (the fair sex should take note!) Finally, of all those who define themselves as passionate lovers or incurable romantics, 82% declare their unfailing love for bacon. Could there be some connection?

Yakitori. The typical chicken skewers of Japanese cuisine contemplate slices of fresh uncured (just pre-cooked) bacon, which is (pronounced "bēkon") in this part of the world.

Zero. 100 g bacon contains 0 g sugar and food fibres. But this is the only "zero" because the other figures on its nutritional fact sheet inform us that: 100 g of bacon amount to 541 kcal, 42 g fats, 110 mg cholesterol and 1717 mg sodium.

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