I’ve just been to the United States for the first time and I loved it. A snow storm in New York on day one was an amazing welcome, but one of the revelations of the trip was American bacon. Yep – not the Guggenheim or the Met, but bacon.
Their bacon was deliciously crispy, unlike any I have eaten in Australia. And yes I have been known to buy bacon at my amazing free-range butcher whose meat is a cut above pre-packaged supermarket offerings.
So what’s the difference and can I get US-style bacon closer to home? So I hit Google, as you do, and discovered there is a major difference between Australian/English bacon and American bacon and Canadian bacon and the list probably goes on. I never realised there was more to bacon beyond middle rashers, shortcuts and different smoking techniques. I thought any difference between countries was purely in the cooking, or the slicing.
So the bulk of our bacon – and my research says a lot of it is imported which doesn’t seem right – is generally from the loin, which is in the middle of the pig’s back where the meat is leaner. American bacon is from the belly, so is streaky with fat. Hence it crisps up far more quickly than a rasher ever would and has a more intense flavour, especially when it’s maple smoked.
In the US, the Department of Agriculture has a bacon labelling policy, which mandates that only “the cured belly of a swine carcass” can be called bacon. Cured cuts from other parts of the pig must be labelled accordingly, such as pork shoulder bacon, but are technically not bacon.
There are great debates online about which country has the best bacon, but my vote goes to the US every day. Pity I couldn’t ‘bring home the bacon’.
Love your bacon? Got a favourite cut?