Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013 Drone Wars in the News and Review of #1 and #2 in CR

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week just a few days before Christmas.

My older son Sam is thankfully home. What do you think he wanted to eat after nearly six months (college semester abroad) in India?  Steak and brussels sprouts with BACON!  I was happy to oblige.  Very Christmas-y, Holiday-ish dish.

I used the Consumer Reports #1 rated bacon in making this dish (review below): Kirkland smoked bacon.  Great stuff at a terrific price.

The recipe for this is simple.  Steam the sprouts until bright green (~5 minutes).  Crumble cooked bacon. Drain the sprouts and cut them in half.  Heat some bacon fat in a pan, then throw in the sprouts and bacon.  Add minced garlic during the last minute or two (stronger garlic flavor happens with the shortest cooking time, so make sure to add the minced garlic late in the cooking cycle), then salt and pepper to taste.   A key to this is to heat the pan and keep it hot, so the sprouts get crispy.  Easy, delicious.

BACON IN THE NEWS this week contains a few interesting stories.

Drone Wars:  A fellow in San Francisco has taken the idea of a drone to new heights.  He's developed a drone that contains mistletoe.  Obviously, this is only useful if one knows what it is carrying - if I saw 'twigs' carried by a helicopter drone, the first thing I'd think is that it brushed against a tree and was flying around randomly.  I wouldn't be compelled to grab the nearest female and plant a wet one on her.  But that's just me.  I do like a major competitor of this silly aircraft: THE  BACON DRONE.

A gentleman in the United States has created, and test flown, this breakfast delivery mechanism.  He claims that it will kick the mistletoe's butt and dominate the skies.  Check out the story.  At the end of the 'news story' on the NBC Technology News page (link above), they ask the reader to take a poll. I concur with its results.

Another couple has decided to get married at a Bacon Fest.  This is becoming boring. Brought to you by Huff Po, always good for some bacon news.

Another recipe worth trying: Broccoli with bacon and chestnuts.  A great addition to your Christmas/holiday feast, if you're cooking.  Seattle Times article.

ON TO THE BACON.  Today, I'm doing a cook-off "bacon-off" between the #1 and #2 bacons, as rated by Consumer Reports: 
Kirkland vs. Oscar Mayer Thick Cut

Here's the Kirkland Pork Smoked Bacon I used in the brussels sprouts recipe.  Nice smokey aroma upon opening the package.  Looks good cold in the pan, and you can see the progression from cold, to cooking, to completed, in the photo below.  Due to my haste, I didn't measure the bacon fat, nor weigh the bacon pre- or post-cooking. Outstanding classic flavor, strong crispness, and some good succulent spots.  The bacon cooked up flat, which is somewhat unusual; most of the time it's wavy - the prototypical slice of cooked bacon.  The flatness seems kind of odd, and it finished this way before.  I wonder what they do to their pigs to avoid the famous "bacon neck" syndrome?  Some shrinkage during and after cooking, but not at all excessive, and it did seem to produce less bacon grease.  No complaints on this one and highly recommended!  Certainly the price is right.  You can buy it in bulk and freeze it.

Next, I prepared the #1 most highly rated bacon in Consumer Reports:  Oscar Mayer Thick Cut Smoked. It weighed in at 15.9 ounces; I was gypped 0.1 ounces of bacon.  The aroma of the cool bacon was a faint, pleasant scent of applewood.  This bacon cooked up very, very quickly - so quickly, in fact, that some of the pieces burned.  This obviously will affect the crispness.  It also had high splatter, which is mitigated by wearing The Pit Mitt - a great investment for any cook. 

This bacon had a strong tendency to stick to the pan and it was difficult to scrape up and flip properly.  But it looked and smelled terrific as it sizzled away.  Look at the bacon waves in this shot:

I give it high ratings: a 4 in flavor, 4 in crispness and a 3.5 in succulence.  Overall, it's a great bacon and a great buy.  I rate it in ease of cooking as a 2 out of 5, however - check out how it crumbled.  Highly Recommended!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.  Next week:  A recap of the bacon I reviewed in 2013!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15, 2013: At the Army/Navy game, and a taste of Jones Dairy Farm bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with an abbreviated version this week.

BREAKFAST on Friday at Walker Brothers restaurant in Highland Park, IL was a treat.  Their omelettes are excellent - I had the "meat lovers" and a side of bacon.  The bacon they serve is from Jones Dairy Farm in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin .

The bacon was outstanding, and I'll be ordering some up for home cooking.  Great texture, some succulence, but excellent flavor.

Didn't have much opportunity for bacon cooking here in Philadelphia for the Army/Navy football rivalry.  Navy cooked Army's bacon again - very disappointing.

See you next week!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013: More Expensive isn't Necessarily Better but Bacon Can Extend Your Life

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES with a short post this week.  New news that bacon actually has live extension qualities (for those of you who are concerned for my health).  And I review a highly recommended web purveyor of bacon from New Hampshire and a pedestrian bacon from Jewel supermarkets.

BACON IN THE NEWS.  The only note worthy of mention this week is a news article that bacon is healthy and can extend your life.  I can't find the link right now, but trust me on this.

AUTHENTICO in Lake Forest is a relatively new Mexican restaurant here in Lake Forest.  A cool place that makes excellent Margaritas. They have a bacon wrapped shrimp dish that is awesome.  The guacamole sauce is a little bit sweet, but the smokiness of the bacon combined with perfectly cooked shrimp is always an excellent combination.  From their menu:

Camarones Envueltos en Tocino: 

Four grilled shrimp wrapped in jalapeƱo bacon, avocado salsa, roasted poblano white wine sauce

(gluten free)

On to the BACON BACON-OFF this week.


North Country Smokehouse is Claremont, New Hampshire.  It was suggested to me by some of my New England friends that I order some bacon from them.  The website talks about three generations of smoked meat purveyors and their great heritage.  It sounds great, so I ordered some bacon of the month from them.  I got a nicely packaged box with still-cold bacon, so I tested it today.  Obviously it was more expensive than store-bought.

The package label said 12 ounces, and that's what the gross weight was.  After cooking, it weighed in at 4.6 ounces and produced a scant 25 ml of rendered fat.

The bacon had an incredible smokey aroma out of the package, and as you can see, the color palette of dark reddish-browns was beautiful. The bacon clearly had more protein than most, and cooked very quietly as a result.  Not sure I like quiet cooking bacon.  The taste test results were a little disappointing. It was neither crispy nor chewy (2 out of 5) and not very succulent (average: 2.5)  The bacon did have a nice taste, complex yet without aftertaste or greasiness.  I'd rate the flavor 3 out of 5.  It was good, but not great, and I have three other packages to test in the coming weeks.  You can see the uncooked-cooking-cooked picture below.

Next, I tried a value line from Jewel Osco, called the "Market Pantry Naturally Hardwood Smoked".  Sixteen ounces on the label, and 16 oz is what I got.  Post cooking it weighed in at 5.0 ounces and produced a large 130 ml of rendered fat.  Obviously a much fatter choice than the North Country Smokehouse.

There was no pre-cooking odor AT ALL.  The bacon was very pink - just like a little piggy, as you can see from the picture.  LOTS of snap-crackle-pop and I thought someone poured some loud Rice Krispies next to me.  It did crisp up nicely; 3 out of 5.  Had nicely popping fat areas; succulence 3/5.  And the flavor, while different than the North Country, was also an equivalent 3.

The Jewel bacon is everyday fare.  The North Country Smokehouse could be for special occasions.  But I'm not seeing the value.  We'll see with the next batch!

Until next weekend, when I'm in Philadelphia to see Army beat the Hell out of Navy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1, 2013: Thanksgiving Bacon Extravaganza and Rick's smoked bacon from The Daily Grind

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with a Thanksgiving smorgasbord of bacon, including some Turkey silliness, and a great Bacon Drink at the Signature Room.

 BACON IN THE NEWS for Thanksgiving was rather quiet.  There were plenty of stories about bacon and turkey; the silliest was this: Bacon-wrapped Turkey.  Now, I'm certainly a lover of bacon, but it's just plain silly.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.  While I wouldn't make it for the family, I might just try it with a turkey breast...

APPLES ON HORSEBACK from Food & Wine magazine was a highlight of our Thanksgiving.  The recipe is pretty straightforward: Pink Lady apples, thin slices of pancetta ('Italian bacon' from Mariano's Supermarket), Manchego cheese, and rosemary sprigs.   See the recipe here.  GREAT tasting and an absolute re-do.  Picture above.

ON SATURDAY, Debbie's family tradition of a family reunion / Thanksgiving redux had us hosting a full day including an architectural tour in Chicago, a lot of walking, and a stupendous dinner.  I won't recap the personal details, except to mention that we stopped at Burke's Bacon Bar on Rush street.  I've been meaning to make this trip for a long time.  The bacon bar is a small, nondescript take-out joint with phenomenal bacon.  We grabbed several bacon flights, which included some Tennessee bacon, Nueske's bacon, as well as a Ghost Pepper Infused bacon, which sent everyone into orbit.  Here are three good looking kids about to partake.

OUR NEXT STOP WAS A TREAT.  We headed up to the 96th floor of The Hancock building; our elevator friend Darleen was kind enough to give our group of 16 priority treatment.  We grabbed a great seating area and ordered cocktails.  Among them was the below Bacon Manhattan, which consisted of Jim Beam Maple bourbon, bacon infused Buttershots liquer and crispy bacon.  Scrumptious.  Unfortunately our waitress Nina couldn't find out where the bacon came from, but it was spectacular, along with the views!

ON TO THE BACON OF THE WEEK!  This week, I grabbed a pound-and-a-half of butcher-smoked bacon from Rick at The Daily Grind in Highwood, IL.  His website appears to be down (and it might come back up shortly), but the Yelp site is helpful, with good reviews.

Rick sliced the bacon thickly; this obviously reduces the crispness; next time we'll get it a lot thinner.  It smelled and looked fantastic.  Here are some shots of pre-cooking, cooking, and post cooking.

Wow, this bacon was great!  The crisp rating is only 1, due to the thickness.  Succulence rating of 2, due again to the cut; however, flavor was a solid 4 out of 5.  Fantastic.  Enjoy, and we'll see you next week!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24, 2013: Lester's Bison Farm Bacon; Great Dinner Out and Kevin Bacon's Daughter

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a trip to Lester's Bison Farm in Wisconsin, a little bacon news, and dinner at Jillian's house.

BACON IN THE NEWS.  Just a few headlines

Kevin Bacon's Daughter Sosie Named Miss Golden Globe 2014 - worth a quick read.  

Bacon Fest Sacramento III coming in January - continuing the city-by-city adoption of a bacon fest.  In a bit of disappointing news related to the first story, "...the popular “Kevin Bacon Tribute Night” at Old Ironsides featuring bacon snacks and local bands playing songs from Kevin Bacon movies will not happen this year" 

Time Magazine comes out with their "Complete History of How Bacon Took over the World".  Instead of refuting each claim of a news story, as I did last week, I will instead sum it up with this: If you are new to the world of bacon, read the article.  Some great stats.  One of the last sections is entitled "Bacon Will Never Die", which is true.  The final thought is that the author quotes Chef Hugh Acheson, who says "I would like vegetables to be the new bacon."  Hey Hugh, are you a communist?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I visited my friend Ron Lester at his Bison Farm in Wisconsin yesterday. I picked up my 16-pound Thanksgiving turkey there, and of course, grabbed some great bacon.  Ron served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Korean War, and fought at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir

The road on his ranch is lined with American Flags on one side and Marine Corps flags on the other.  As you can see on the headline photo above, his Marine Corps flag is pristine and flying proud.

Ron offers a very wide variety of bison-derived meats at his store, on-site at his ranch.  I would encourage you to check him out online.  Previously, I purchased his Bison Bacon, which isn't really bacon.  I reviewed it in the past, and you can check out that story in my archives.

Thanks for your service, SGM Lester.

Last  night (Saturday), we had the pleasure of having dinner at my daughter Jillian's house.  Jill visited Germany this summer, and renewed her appreciation for German food (and beer).  We enjoyed Oktoberfest beer and some great wines, including a really great chocolate wine.  
The highlight of the evening, however, was the food.  A great schnitzel, along with my mom's recipe for bacon-loaded sauerkraut, complemented by some real German spaetzel (noodles) was the main course.  Excellent!  Thanks, daughter!  The bacon Jill used was a Dutch Farms varietal, and she cooked it in the oven.  Nice technique and well doneThe sauerkraut was outstanding with bits of this bacon.



I purchased a pound of both types yesterday, and cooked them up this morning.  Both packages were labeled 1 lb.  The regular weighed in at 15.6 ounces and the peppered 15.8. 

I started with the Uncured Smoked regular.  The uncooked bacon had a nice, even smokey scent.  The slices were very uneven, which is to be expected with an artisinal bacon.  This bacon had an outstanding, complex, rich flavor.  Nice, but not overpowering saltiness.  Great crispiness in spots, and terrific savory, fatty succulence.  I give it a 4 in flavor, 3.7 in crisp, and 3.5 in succulence.  It produced 90 ml of rendered fat and weighed in at 6.1 ounces.

The Uncured Pepper Smoked Bacon was even better.  I hesitated to buy it, because peppered bacon is usually too strongly peppered.  This one wasn't - a great balance.  It was a little sweeter than the plan variety, but cooked much, much more evenly.  It was a little more chewy, but had a better overall flavor.  I'm rating it 4.1 in flavor, 3 in crispiness and 3.5 in succulence.  It made 110 ml in rendered fat, a little more than the regular flavor on a post-cooking weight of 5.3 ounces.

Both are great!  On the left, the uncooked regular.  Center: cooked regular; right: cooked peppered.

On the way home from the Bison Farm, I stopped at the famous Mars Cheese Castle on I-94.  

This is a real landmark.  I picked up a bunch of cheese for Thanksgiving, and looked for some of the local bacons to test.  Turns out that the only bacon they offer - in a variety of packaging sizes and flavors - is Nueske's!  One of my all time faves.  Last week, I rated Nueske's, so I didn't buy any. 
Have a great week, everyone.

Read more here:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013: The Baconian Method, and The Fresh Market Bacon vs. Nueske's Applewood Smoked

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES with some great stuffed jalapeƱos (with bacon), a mostly-wrong news article, and a review of two popular local bacons.


Huffington Post reports on 9 Unfortunate Truths About Juicy, Scrumptious Bacon, an article that is MOSTLY WRONG.  Here is what it says along with my comments:

1.  "Bad news: Bacon has a lot of fat -- the bad kind."  Not true.  If you are a follower of generally lower-carb diets, or follow the blog of Dr. Michael Eades, as I do, FAT IS NOT THE ENEMY.  Watch his current video to get a different perspective on cholesterol and fat. 
2.  "Good news: Bacon and eggs is probably one of the best combinations ever."  Uh. Duh. Obviously.
3.  "Bad news: Bacon, like other processed meats, could contribute to heart disease and some cancers."  The jury is still out on this one.  This article calls the exaggerated bacon-cancer link storeie "scaremongering".
4.  "Good news: It's still better to choose bacon over sausage at breakfast."  Their logic is that sausage has more fat.  Dumb.  See #1.  It's really a matter of taste, and I choose bacon.
5.  "Bad news: Pigs are adorable."  OK, fine.  But ridiculous.  Why is that bad news?  Bambi is cute too, but I enjoy venison on occasion.  Who doesn't think baby chickens are cute?
6.  "Bacon on a Burger is one of the most heavenly pairs."  Sounds like someone commissioned another government study and came up with that conclusion.
7.  "Bad news: Factory-farmed pigs are more likely to get you sick than free-range ones."  Hmm, haven't heard that one, but it passes the 'sniff test'.  I'll have to research this claim.  
8.  "Good news: Pigs are great recyclers, even of  marijuana."  Seems that someone fed his pigs pot, and the meat thus produced is "very popular".  I would suggest not starting a new job and having to take a drug test after such consumption.  Same recommendation on poppy-seed bagels, believe it or not.
9.  "Some people in Canada would prefer to eat bacon than to have sex."  This study sponsored by a food company; "some" is a lot less than 50%.
10. Someone created bacon condoms.  And now we have bacon deodorant.  Bacon is made for eating, not silliness.
11. "Bad News: Bacon has a lot of sodium."  Hey, your body needs salt.  The connection between sodium and high blood pressure is also tenuous. 
12. "Good News: Bacon could help cure hangovers."  This quote sums it up quite well:  "
Bingeing on alcohol depletes brain neurotransmitters but bacon, which is rich in protein, contains amino acids that top these up and make you feel better."
13. "Bad news: Bacon, and other processed meats, may be associated with other unhealthy lifestyle choices."  Hey, correlation does not prove causation. <== click to learn more.
14. "Good news: The amounts of Vitamin B3 in bacon may help you live longer."    An empty statement.  Any study that uses the word "may" in it is suspect. 
15. "Bad news: Bacon could be linked to a lower sperm count."  This has been debunked.  And here we go with the another word "could".  The crowing of a cock in your backyard could also be linked to an increase in airplane traffic near an airport.
16.  "
Bad news: The "Bacon Explosion" has 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat."  So, don't eat it all.
17: "Good news: A component in bacon could make babies' brains healthier."  "COULD" again. 
18: "Good news: It probably tastes damn good."

THE ONLY OTHER NEWSWORTHY STORY about bacon is in name only.  You may have heard that a Francis Bacon painting set a record at auction for $142 Million.  Read the article link by clicking on his name.  He is a hero of the Western world, because he created the scientific method, also called the baconian. method.  Appropriate mention, don't you think?


Earlier this week, I visited the local Fresh Market and picked up some "Market Style" bacon, along with one of my all-time favorites, Nueske's bacon.  Click the link to see Nueske's astounding website.  In preparation for the football weekend, I took some of the market style bacon and used it as topping for my stuffed jalapeno peppers (below, before and after cooking).

The "Market Style" bacon appeared to be a little oxidized - protein edges looked a little dry.  There was no discernable odor.  On the other hand, the Nueske's really smelled of Applewood smoke.  To be expected.

You can see the bacons in their various stages of cooking - on a cold pan, halfway through cooking, and completely cooked.  The "Market Style" only produced five slices, because I used some of it in my peppers.

I knew the Nueske's would be incredibly flavorful and rich in presentation.  The Market Style was relatively bland, but had more crispiness and more succulence.  I'll take Nueske's every day of the week - the hands down winner.  But I wouldn't turn The Fresh Market bacon down, either.  I love this hobby.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2013 - Veteran's Day tomorrow; Bacon Deodorant and a Bacon-off: Smithfield Natural vs Dutch Super Premium

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a review of newsworthy bacon stories and insightful analysis, followed by a review of two commercially available bacons.

BUT FIRST, IN HONOR OF VETERAN'S DAY tomorrow, above is a picture of a panel in which I had the honor of participating yesterday, helping Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10, at far right) select candidates for our nation's Military Academies.  I'm in the front row, bracketed by my two female colleagues (if you don't know me) and the gentleman on the far left of the picture is Captain Jim Lovell (USN, Retired).  Yes, that Captain Lovell. One of the candidates we interviewed (numbering about 16 for a full day) had the guts to ask hm "are you the Captain Lovell".  Rest assured that our nation will be in good hands with the outstanding young men and women we interviewed yesterday.

BACON IN THE NEWS - a couple of interesting stories.

BACON DEODORANT - A STEP TOO FAR.  Hey, like many of you, I like bacon 'stuff'.  But this is a little too much.  There are a few stories out there about a "quirky little company" based in Seattle, that continues to roll out strange products.  This week's oddity is a bacon-scented deodorant.  Are you kidding?  While there are lots of stories out there, probably the best is entitled "How to Stay Single Forever: Wear This New Bacon Deodorant".  Probably a better analysis has never been so succinctly articulated.  Chicks generally like to eat bacon (even those brainwashed by the low-fat hysteria).  But they will only put up with the scent for a little while.  Even my wonderful wife, who puts up with my bacon mania, quickly opens doors and puts on the Lampe Berge to eliminate the odor.  The article says (emphasis mine):
Bring it on. Before you go ordering in bulk, however, be mindful of this caveat emptor. Maker J&D’s Foods warns buyers that using the deodorant, which does not actually contain any meat, will draw others to you, “like the most powerful magnet on Earth.” It will attract “dogs, bears, swamp alligators, lions and even pigs,” but probably not a significant other.

As reported by ESPN, Kansas State offered FREE BACON for all student attendees to the women's home basketball opener on Thursday.  At a previous event, K State announced that they were giving away free hot dogs, and they RAN OUT!  To ensure that they didn't make the same mistake, they cooked up 300 pounds of bacon. Give away free bacon = great turnout.  Great turnout = lots of cheering fans.  Lots of cheering fans = win.  K State won 85-53. A good plan well executed.  No word on whether any was left over.  Probably not.

CHICAGO IS KNOWN FOR DEEP DISH PIZZA, as everyone knows.  But with our family from the NYC to Hartford corridor, we prefer thin-crust, high quality, wood-fired oven pizza, like Grimaldi's in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, or Pepe's in Hartford.  We didn't think we could find that here, until someone turned us on to Piece Pizza.  It touts itself as "Hartford Style" and we just had to try it out.

The place is busy!  Just like Pepe's and Grimaldi's, we were told we'd have to wait at least 45 minutes.  However, the number of tables at Piece is probably triple that of Pepe's and probably 10x Grimaldi's.  Not sure if that is a sign of a good pie, but we were pretty excited.

Why do I mention this in a Bacon Blog?  Well, I obviously ordered a pie with bacon on it!  The wait staff couldn't tell me from whence the bacon came, but it was great on the pizza.  The pie itself had all the hallmarks of an excellent feast - think crust, nicely cooked, completely fresh ingredients.  We ordered three pies: a basic white pie, one with fresh garlic, basil, mushrooms and bacon, and a red pie.

I have to say that it is a fair facsimile of my eastern favorites and
highly recommended for any Chicagoan who wants real pizza, instead of a "pizza pot pie," which is what we normally see here.  Just take a look at the pictures.  Great stuff.  We'll be back!



This week I tested two different bacons as my son and I watched NFL pregame shows-

First up: Dutch Farms Super Premium Sliced Bacon (as if they would sell it unsliced)

The label says it's a "family tradition of quality" but as I opened the package, lots of liquid poured out.  Not a good initial sign.  The package indicated 16 ounces, and it weighed in at a soggy 16.2 ounces.  Post-cooking, it was 5.1 ounces with 125 ml of rendered fat produced.

The scent was almost non-existent.  A very faint scent of bacon, and no smoke smell at all.  Oddly, these were the widest slices I've seen in a while - about 2 inches! 
Once heat was applied, rapid shrinkage occurred (as opposed to the cold pool water in Senifeld).  Very rapid shrinkage.  The bacon nearly fell apart upon cooking, and didn't hold its shape.  Very visually unappealing.  Flavor was not really there (2.5).  The consistency was mostly chewy with a little succulence (2/5); hardly any crispiness (2/5) at all.  This bacon did not earn its moniker "Super Premium".  Caveat Emptor.  Will go on sandwiches this week.  Not recommended for bacon & eggs breakfasts.

Next up: Smithfield All Natural Uncured... Natural Hickory Smoked.

 Of course, I didn't have high hopes for this one.  My previous Smithfield reviews were all poor.  The label says "nothing artificial" (of course, arsenic is quite natural, so this doesn't tell me anything), "made with sea salt" (so what), and "minimally processed" (as opposed to maximally processed).  The labeling doesn't impress. 

The bacon weighed in at a true 12 ounces, per its label.  Post cooking it came in at 3.4 ounces with 80 ml of rendered fat.  

Once cooked, it had a consistency of a soggy potato chip, and about as little flavor.  It didn't even have the redeeming value of being salty. 

These were the fastest cooking slices I've ever seen.  And the Quality Control was poor - some slices were extremely thin, others thick.  Don't by Smithfield products.  We'll give them another try in a few months.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013 - Bacon News and The Fresh Market Natural Bacon review

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with two short news stories, followed by a review of The Fresh Market's All-Natural Dry Rubbed Uncured Bacon.  Sorry about the picture; it's really difficult to get the glare out, unless you're a professional organization like my friends at itemMaster.

BACON IN THE NEWS this week - I'll cover two stories:

BURGLAR BREAKS INTO HOME, COOKS BACON.  Yep, you read that right.  Guy breaks into someone's house, takes beer, cooks bacon, leaves.  He took a shortcut: bacon was cooked in the microwave.  Bad form.  I wonder if he cleaned up?  The newspaper headline was "Bacon, beer consumed in Bismark Burglary" - lot's of b's in there.  Huff Po reports that:
Last year, a Missouri man was sentenced to seven years in prison after breaking into a stranger's home and frying bacon in her kitchen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
And in 2011, three teens broke into a store freezer in Indiana and made off with $90 worth of bacon.
TWO BACON FESTIVALS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA IN 30 DAYS.  I knew there was more than one reason to like the sunshine state!

A plate of chocolate covered bacon strips and chocolate bark bacon at Peterbrooke Chocolatier on Park Ave in Winter Park on Thursday October 31, 2013. (Joshua C. Cruey, Orlando Sentinel)



At the top of the article is the front of the package.  Although not stated, the packaging looks like the colors of a black forest type bacon - and the picture above, of the clear side of the packaging, also reflects that theme.

The package label says it is a 12 ounce unit; the actual weight was 13.1 ounces - quite a bonus!  After cooking, its weight was 4.8 ounces, a very good ratio.  It produced a small 85 ml of rendered fat.  All good signs.

Upon opening, the bacon scent bouquet had definite notes of sugar and good bacon.  Here are shots of what it looked like on the cast iron, and also after cooking.  It has a unique, darker bacon color pallete - very attractive and rich coloring.  It looks like real specialty bacon!  See the fully cooked pic at the bottom.

 Flavor - it definitely tasted excessively sugary.  Very, very sweet, and it was almost maple flavored (although the ingredient label showed only 'raw sugar').  Too sweet - it essentially ruins the bacon flavor.  If you are serving a full breakfast with pancakes, waffles and plenty of maple syrup, this would be a fit.  But if you're making bacon and eggs, it's not recommended.

Scores?  Flavor 2.5 out of 5.  Succulence 3 (had nice fat pockets that did produce good flavor) and crispiness was 3 (nice crispness). 

If I were The Fresh Market, I'd tone down the sugar by half (the same recommendation I made last week to Abagail's Restaurant in Highland Park, Illinois upon imbibing their special 'Lumberjack' drink.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27, 2013: Abagail's Lumberjack and Hormel Natural Choice

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with a visit to a great neighborhood restaurant, and testing Hormel Natural Choice bacon.


This one falls into the category of "why didn't I think of that?"  Someone has come up with an app, including hardware,: that makes your smartphone send out a puff of bacon scent as a notification (such as when your loved one texts you).  This is amazing, and incredibly silly.  Apparently, there are actual business uses for this accessory - samples of scents for perfume, or cooking samples.  Go here to read the engadget article plus a video!  Remember "smell-o-vision"??  This was a technology that released smells during a movie!  It was a cool idea, obviously well before its time.  Smell-O-Vision had its one and only public use for a movie appropriately called "The Scent of Mystery," in 1960.  Read the article and also learn that a competitive technology, called "AromaRama" appeared around the same time, and the newspapers called it the "Battle of the Smellies!"  The things you learn while blogging...

GREAT DINNER WITH FRIENDS AT ABAGAIL'S in Highland Park, Illinois on Friday night.  The menu at Abagail's is phenomenal, and the service - well, really thoughtful and entertaining.  As usual, I gave the help a hard time.  Jeremy started reading the menu to us, explaining what "little things," "neither small nor large," and "bigger than the rest" things meant.  Of course, I took the opportunity to tell him how annoying I find it when people read their PowerPoint slides.  Jeremy quickly recovered and had a great attitude, and guided us through the menu.  Service was excellent; food flavorful and a great value; drinks excellent.  Thanks for the recommendation, Wendy and Lowell!!

Check out their site, and if you're in the area for lunch or dinner, do drop by.  Not on the menu, I ordered the bone-in ribeye (a monster), and my friends had corvina (fish) and a whole branzino (aka European Sea Bass).  Beautiful presentation and flavor.  Of course, I had to ask if there was anything in the house that used bacon as an ingredient.

Jeremy's eyes lit up as he began to explain that the resident mixologist created a version of the Lumberjack that included bacon (fat skimmed off), Old Fitz bourbon, and maple syrup.  It wasn't quite ready for serving yet, but if I really wanted it, I could be their 'beta test'.  You know my answer.  The drink tasted a bit like scotch, but was a little sweet; for their 'production version,' they will lighten the maple syrup.

ON TO THIS WEEK'S BACON: Hormel Natural Choice.  No preservatives, not cured.

Out of the 12 oz package it yielded 12 ounces on my scale - fair trade.  It had absolutely no nose whatsoever.  Looked good, though.

During the cooking process on my cast iron, it looked like a fatty blobby mess. 

Very unusual, it stuck to the pan excessively.

After cooking, my assessment was that it's a pretty average uncured bacon.  It had a pedestrian flavor (2.5), crisped up only minimally (2), and very little succulence (2).  We agreed that this bacon really had no character whatsoever.  It seemed like simple fatty, sliced ham.

Oh, it rendered 50 ml of bacon fat, which was a very small mount for 12 ounces.

Overall, I can't recommend this bacon; it commands a premium, which isn't warranted whatsoever.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013: Schmeissser's Bacon and Hormel Video Contest

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with a review of a famous Chicago butcher's in-store cured bacon, and some Bacon In The News.

THE NEWS THIS WEEK was pretty cool:  Hormel sponsored a video contest - who can produce the best short video on the subject of bacon?  They call it the 2013 International Bacon Film Festival, and the YouTube playlist can be found here.  The winner shouldn't have won, in my opinion. A young man with a banjo sings a hokey song about bacon, and waxes thickly about his bacon fantasies.  Make up your own mind, however.  BBDO did the work for Hormel, and they said it was a very efficient way to grab attention, declining to say how much the campaign cost.  A very cool banner image.

AN INTERESTING SITE CALLED FOODSPIN reports on a scientific study that concludes: bacon improves everything except pasta and desert.  They call it the "Ultimate Ingredient". The study can be found here, but it's one of those "I knew that" kinds of studies.  I'll even bet it got federal funding.

Quoting the article:
"It's a clever methodology: Cliff Kuang and his team broke down 49,733 recipes on the Food Network website by category (ex: "lettuce"), split the categories by whether the recipe called for bacon or not, and then used the site's 906,539 ratings to calculate the average score for the bacon and non-bacon recipes. Bacon generally improved ratings—as you can see in the graphic above—but it dramatically bumped up sandwiches and asparagus. Desserts and pasta (!) were the only two foodstuffs that saw a decline."
 The graphic tells the whole story:

FINALLY, NOT-SO-GOOD-NEWS, if you believe it.  Supposedly, men who eat a lot of bacon have lower sperm counts.  This study can be found here, but it's important to note that it's CORRELATION - NOT CAUSATION.  This one is based on a survey of what people say they eat, and we know from work in market research, that recall is very poor.  I can tell you anecdotally (which is not scientific), that I have five kids, so eating lots of bacon had no effect on me.

ON TO THE BACON!  Today, I reviewed bacon from my favorite Chicago butcher: Schmeisser's Sausage (it's just their name; they sell EVERYTHING meat-y).  I've purchased absolutely astounding meats of all types - from veal shanks to prime steaks.  They supply lots of restaurants and in addition to my personal experience, they have a great reputation.  A great looking website, too:

Schmeisser's bacon package was nice, and the weight was 1 pound one ounce, and it weighed in at 1.12 ounces; a slight bonus.  Post cooking, it came in at 4.3 ounces of finished bacon, and produced 125 ml of bacon fat.  No scent at all; couldn't tell if it was smoked or not.  But it was clearly cured.

At the outset, it looked a little over-cured.  The translucent fat gives that away:

It did cook up nicely, and had a marbled appearance.  Pieces broke apart as if they were crispy:

However, the taste didn't live up to my expectations.  Crispy factor, only 2.5 our of 5 - average.  Succulence was VERY low - minimal fatty pieces, and so it scored only 1.5 out of 5 there. 

Worst of all, this is the first bacon I've tasted that was DRY.  Very puzzling, since it didn't produce a ton of rendered fat.  It was kind of chewy.

Overall, very disappointing for the quality of the establishment.  Maybe I got an unhappy pig!

Have a good week everyone, and enjoy your bacon.