In this week’s post, local Nelson chef and guest Blogger, Grant Dicker is talking bacon. Take it away, Grant…
Bacon without a doubt, one of my favourite ingredients… Even as far as bacon and egg ice cream! I used to make my own lamb version at Mint Dining Room; but today is all about pork. There’s more to this delicious ingredient than sliced; hocks, chops, gammon steaks, bacon mince, speck, lardons, the list goes on… But here’s my quick guide to the sliced stuff!
- Middle bacon is cut from the loin. It has a portion of loin, with some streaky from the belly coming off it. Excellent for frying, also for cooking where it might will be kept whole. It’s the best option for cold sandwiches and salads as it only has fat around the outside and can be trimmed so you don’t get that greasy taste.
- Shoulder bacon is cut from the leg. It can be tough, but it has good flavour and is cheaper than the middle variety. Excellent for cooking in dishes where chopping is required. The rind on this cut can be quite thick.
- Streaky is cured pork belly. When choosing your streaky, it is important to check the fat content. Although my favourite choice for breakfast, it can be fatty. Most of the fat should cook out, but if it’s too fatty the bacon can disintegrate or not fully render. This is the one to go for if you want something crispy!
There are two main ways bacon is cured; dry cure, and brine. Brining is faster and cheaper but tends to leave moisture in the cuts, and some cheaper brands can become waterlogged. Dry cure is my preference. The basis for both is sugar, salt and spices. Brined includes the addition of water and immersion until cured. Dry cured is rubbed with sry sugar, salt and spices.
Farming methods are something else to consider. Free Farmed or Free Range are, of course, the more ethical choice. Pestell’s Rai Valley make a dry cured bacon in Stoke (Nelson). Their pork is free farmed, and the product is used by a lot of local eateries. Being dry cured there is no water loss during cooking so it crisps up very well. I recommend their streaky (with two poached eggs, and some grilled ciabatta). Hop down to Fresh Choice Nelson for your weekend brunch!