Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 27, 2013 - TEASER POST - More to follow later

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with the unboxing and tasting of the ubiquitous Bacon Freak assortment.  Of course, I've had their bacon before, but the offer this week was quite tempting (despite errors in their content, as you can the blue content "Bacon Freak Title", which should obviously be replaced with their real content).  

Here's the link to their website, and the Offer Code below is still valid.  How could I resist the headline, "We heard that you like bacon."  Uh... duh (fifty-something trying to sound like a twenty-something.)

Well, I ordered the bacon on Tuesday and it arrived on Saturday morning.  Saturday being my 17th wedding anniversary, and this morning chock full of 13-U baseball, I thought, "How am I going to get this done?".

Let me ask you this:  what wife would let her husband break out and cook multiple packages of bacon just in time to take a shower (to get the bacon smell off) and then go to a five-star restaurant on Michigan Avenue to celebrate her anniversary?  Only my wife - am I lucky, or what?

Later today, I'll post the cooking of the sampler I received yesterday - with mixed reviews.  Also, BACON IN THE NEWS has a couple of interesting topics....

Enjoy Bacon! See you later...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 20, 2013 Chicago Baconfest coming, Smithfield bacon review

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with anticipation of Baconfest Chicago, an annual gathering downtown to celebrate and consume swine meat of all varieties.  There are sister events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  Unfortunately, tickets sold out too quickly for me to get any this year!  I'll be trolling for good deals on the secondary market, however.  Check out their logo!  Obviously a take-off on the City of Chicago's flag, it's clearly bacon'd up!  Ever wonder about the stars on Chicago's flag?  Here's that story.

I TAPPED A GREAT FAMILY FRIEND, Jake Schneider, who is a Prep Cook at RPM Italian in Chicago to see if his high level foodie connections could scam me a ticket. Check out  RPM's menu - it's absolutely fantastic! Jake, who makes ALL the pasta at RPM from scratch every day, wasn't able to come through for me.  These tickets are a hot commodity! However, Jake recommended this DIY Baconfest-  a list of alternative Chicago restaurants with limited-time bacon-themed selections.


THIS WEEK IN BACON NEWS.  There were several stories about bacon recipes this week, but none of note.  However, I did run across this article in the Huffington Post entitled

The article is outstanding.  Here are the mistakes to avoid in case you don't want to click the link:
  1. Don't cook cold bacon.  Let it warm to room temperature (same is true of steak, by the way)
  2. Don't start bacon in a hot pan.  (You can see from my pics that I follow this rule religiously)
  3. Don't crowd the pan (they say it causes steaming of the bacon; I'm not so sure if the temp is right)
  4. Don't pile bacon on top of itself in the pan (true - you want all pieces to be touching the pan always)
  5. Don't buy cheap, sad, thin bacon (we test them all here, but don't try that at home!)
  6. Don't burn your bacon ('nuff said)
  7. Don't throw out the bacon fat (it has too many uses, like melted with butter on a great steak)
TO THAT LIST, I add my own "best practices" for bacon cooking:
  1. Cut off the curled pieces (I call them MJ pieces in honor of Michael Jordan's commercial) and cook them separately - in keeping with #4, we want all the surfaces of the bacon to be cooking on the pan.
  2. Use a heavy duty baster tool, made of metal and silicone, to suck off the fat as you cook, and put it in a chemistry beaker or Pyrex glass for later storage.
  3. Dont' use too high a heat setting - aside from burning the bacon, it tastes better if it's slow cooked, and is much less likely to curl up.
  4. Don't use the microwave!  It may be fast and convenient but nothing compares to pan frying.
Let me start by saying that nothing is going to compare to last week's post.  But here we go.
This week we're testing

Smithfield Naturally Hickory Smoked

The Smithfield bacon was thickly cut and looked mighty fine in the packaging.  Their website looks good, and they have a lot of bacon.  I think I'll test them again... smelled like it should; nice hickory scent.  Cooked up with a lot of character.  However, it totally lacked crispness as well as succulence, so it fails on both of those counts.  It weighed in at a full 16 ounces and post cooking was 5.9 ounces, well above average.  Generated 170 ml of bacon lard.

Overall, a bit disappointing.  For a thick sliced bacon that had great packaging and pre-cook smell, it was a let down. 

Hickory Smoked
Rendered Fat

THE POST IS LATE TODAY, because we had an 8am baseball tournament (13U).  The good news was that our son Jack was 2 for 2 with a walk, and drove in the tying run in the bottom of the last inning.  He pitched two innings and only gave up one run - lowest ERA of the team.  The bad news is that the game started at 8am, so we had to leave the house by 6:30.  And it's still cold here in Chicagoland - temp was 30 when I looked at the thermometer in the back yard.  On the way back, we had breakfast (at 11:15 AM) at the Wildberry restaurant in Libertyville, IL.  They had what they described as a 'thick, applewood smoked, great bacon".  Cooked up, it appears below.  It rates a one in every category.  Not good.  Flat, not crispy, no smell, almost flavorless.  Never again. 

Ever hear of Bacon Road?  Neither have I, but it would be cool to live there.  On the way back, we passed this street in Round Lake, IL.  Very cool.

Finally, check out this storefront picture, courtesy of one of Debbie's colleagues (via a tumblr user).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013 - The Swabian Bacon has Arrived!! Rustik Farms!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with the arrival of the Rustik Rooster Farms bacon!  I was beside myself with joy and anticipation, and texted a couple of buddies upon arrival.  JD was disappointed that we don't live across the street from each other and he can no longer avail himself of "bacon benefits".  Someday, JD, someday...  Click on the Farm link above for a treat of a pig website! The website says shipping could take up to six weeks, and for me, it was seven.  I'm sure it was because of their great coverage in the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets!

ON TO THE UNBOXING!  Just as techies post pictures and videos of the first unboxing of new cell phones, , I decided to do the same thing.  It was a nondescript box, and inside a nice insulated bag with the bacon inside.  The bacon was very cold, so it shipped quite nicely. Look at the marbling!

I'M QUITE PLEASED WITH THE FALSE ADVERTISING.  When you look Carl's website, he advertises 2x1lb of bacon.  However, I got 2.5 pounds!

Here it is in all it's glory on my countertop, ready to cook.  Wonderful color and smell of applewood.  This is uncured bacon, with "no nitrites or nitrates added, except for those produced naturally by celery powder."

Here are shots of the cooking in progress. Note the curl; I snip these off and call them MJ Pieces...

The final product, ready to eat.  Review below.

The results: totally outstanding.  A better bacon I've never eaten, and I don't say that lightly.   The package label weight was 2.5 pounds and it weighed, before cooking, 2 pounds 7.9 ounces, just a tenth of an ounce light.  It produced 450 ml of rendered fat, or the 180 ml per pound.  Weight after cooking was 9.5 ounces, for a reduction in weight of 73.1%.  Smell, flavor, succulence, crispness were all nearly off the charts.  

Rustik Rooster
Rendered Fat

So we had to celebrate with a vodka drink wrapped in a bacon cozy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

APRIL 7, 2013 - Easter Hiatus and COSTCO Bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues after a week off for Easter.  Don't think I didn't have any bacon, though!  Below is the crispy, but slightly overcooked bacon served at Brunch at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, IL.  Good bacon for a buffet.

And what a buffet it was!  You name it, they had it.  A good time was had by all.

An additional distraction from our bacon blog was my trip back to West Point with Jack.  We flew to Laguardia airport, rented a car, and drove directly to Grimaldi's in Brooklyn for the absolute best pizza in the world.  If there's anything to compete with my love of bacon, it's a great pizza.  And if the pizza is topped with bacon, so much the better.

Grimaldi's is one of the oldest families to do pizza, and in coal-fired ovens that get over 1,000 degrees.  They told us we had to wait a half hour, and since I timed it, the pizza arrived just ten seconds shy of the 30-minute mark.  We headed up to West Point through Manhattan and headed over to the Army-New York Yankees baseball game.  All the big names except Jeter and A-Rod (didn't miss the latter) were there.  It was great to see Mariano's smile like a 10,000-watt lightbulb illuminating the field.  Small crowd - just over 7,000.  What a great event.

THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM has a great section on the meat packing industry in Chicago, and what a great history it is.  I took one shot of the Oscar Mayer display, which proudly shows the Weinermobile I mentioned in an earlier post.

ON TO THE BACON.  This week, I'm evaluating two Costco-purchased bacons.  The first is the standard Kirkland Hickory Smoked; the second is a specialty bacon called Pure Farms...
Both come in bulk packaging (good stuff!) and the price is certainly right! 
THE PURE FARMS bacon crisped up nicely, and had only average succulence.  But the flavor was truly outstanding!  It weighed in at a seven ounces, but started at 24 ounces (1 and a half pounds).  It produced 170 ml of rendered fat.  I'd buy this one again and again!   Good thing I have another package.

THE KIRKLAND BACON weighed in at 5.9 ounces after cooking and produced the same amount of rendered fat as the Pure Farms, on 2/3 the original weight.  It had a nice cooked color and a lot of character, but was light and airy, and pretty much flavorless.  NOT RECOMMENDED.

I have a couple more bacons in the bank to show you next week.  And unfortunately, the Swabian bacon hasn't arrived yet!  But when it does, you'll hear about it.

This week's table:

4/7/2013 Costco Day

Pure Farms
Kirkland Hickory Smoked
Rendered Fat