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.)