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Baconholics Anonymous

by on November 6th, 2011

Bacon is addictive.  But, like caffeine, it is a drug that we couldn’t live without.

I don’t remember the exact day or hour where I had my bacon epiphany.  But I know it happened here in Wisconsin.  Once I tasted the bacon they sell at Nueske’s in Wittenberg, I vowed that I would never buy bacon in the grocery store again.

At some point in this bacon journey, I will call Bob Nueske, the current president of the company, and invite myself over for an interview.  Just sit and shoot the (bacon) fat.

Two things make Nueske’s bacon stand out.  One is its thickness.  Their bacon has an almost ham-like quality to it.  It is not the razor thin kind you buy in the store that falls apart in the pan on the stove.  Instead, it is thick slab bacon and two or three slices of Nueske’s bacon are all you need to satisfy your craving.

And, perhaps the most important thing about Nueske’s bacon – the key that gives it its taste and sets it apart from other bacon – is that it is applewood smoked.  Which is also to say that is dry cured.  Let me explain what this means.

There are two ways that bacon can be cured.  The old-fashioned traditional way is to dry cure it.  In other words, rub salt, sugar and sodium nitrate directly into the meat, let it cure for a couple of weeks, and then, if you choose, smoke it using different kinds of wood like oak, hickory or apple wood.  This is what Nueske’s does.

The other approach to curing meat – which is used by major food processors – involves pumping the cure into the pork belly itself (remember from the first bacon blog that the pork belly is usually where Americans get their bacon).  This is a cheap approach that speeds up the curing process.  The cure in this case uses sodium phosphate to hold the water in.  The trouble is, bacon cured this way often shrivels up when you cook it because it quickly loses water.  Hence, the reason I won’t buy store bought bacon.

All of this proves a point that is true of any good food – it tastes better and is more appealing when you take the time to do it right.  It’s like comparing the meal at a fast-food restaurant to a meal at a fancy restaurant.  Both can fill you up.  But you are more likely to enjoy the meal at the fancy restaurant because the chefs there take the time to appreciate the food they are making and prepare the ingredients in a way that brings out the best flavor and is more rewarding to the palate.

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