Monday, May 26, 2014

May 26, 2014: Memorial Day Bacon, Prices up 3% since January

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week, and I'm a day late with my post. However, it's Memorial Day and it feels like I should blog today. 

Bacon prices are soaring! Up a whopping 3% since january! However, as I've said before, I think that demand for bacon is pretty inelastic - it's not going to change much until bacon hits a big number.

First, though, a shout-out to the fallen in all our wars.  May you rest in peace. This great photo was taken at the wreath-laying ceremony at West Point, in 2012 by a blogger .

BACON IN THE NEWS The top story is obviously the price of bacon, which continues to rise each week.  Politico has an interesting article about the rising cost of the bacon cheeseburger.  They just about come out and say it's a national emergency.  They do say it's an all-out assault on the great American burger. Of course, that's just journalistic hyperbole.  But the chart below certainly proves that the prices are going up. Inflation is inevitable, and is going to accelerate in the coming years, and it's unfortunate that a confluence of events (droughts, the infamous Porcine virus, and high demand) have caused us to spend a few more bucks.  But it's not the end of the world. 

THIS WEEK'S BACON is from Lou's Garrett Valley Naturals.  The label says "gluten free" of course, all bacon is.  The package is only eight ounces but looks like a pound.  The top of the packaging has no bacon behind it.  It weighed in at 7.9 ounces, adding insult to injury, and cooked down to 2.4 ounces, which normalized to a full pound gross, would yield 4.8 ounces net, which is pretty high.  I anticipated great things.

Lou's says it "brings you all natural* meat products in their simplest form with no antibiotics added."  First of all, you have to question why you need an asterisk on the word "natural".  Tells me it's got a few caveats.  The label also says "PORK USED FED A VEGETARIAN DIET" and "NO NITRATE OR NITRITE ADDED". Their website elaborates; see a screen shot of it below.  Apparently the Wellshire Farms products are now Lou's.  A bit of marketing trickery.

Well, I was not impressed.  The aroma out of the package was non-existent.  From a flavor perspective, the bacon wasn't salty enough.  I NEVER thought I'd say that about bacon.  It was also very bland and a slight oily taste.  I give it average crispness, at 2.5, but below average succulence (2) and flavor (2).  I made some scrambled eggs with it for breakfast:

See you next week!  Make sure you have your flag out today.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18, 2014: Inovasi Bacon from Iowa

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with some locally prepared bacon, and weird bacon news.

BACON IN THE NEWS begins with another fraternity / sorority being kicked out of UCONN, my wife's alma mater.  Story here.  Seems a bunch of pledges were forced to lie on the floor and sizzle like bacon.  What a travesty.  And it didn't just happen once, but multiple times.  Of course, it wasn't the bacon routine that got the groups kicked out. It was the excessive drinking.  The bacon play was an accessory to the crime.

More news later today when I have time; check back this evening for an update!

THIS WEEK'S BACON IS FROM INOVASI, a local Lake Bluff restaurant.  Earlier last week, we received an email promo from Inovasi, which launched its "Bacon Tuesday" deal.  They guarantee that their burgers are the best on the North Shore.  Of course, we had to check them out.  And naturally, we expected that they would have a bacon burger.

I got the "Johnny Cash" burger with a side of bacon, and my wife got the bacon cheeseburger (of course, artisanal cheese and heritage bacon).  Inovasi is innovative and works the farm-to-table thing.  Great food, ambiance and drinks.  The burgers were excellent, the bacon 'interesting'.  The bacon had good crispness, but was 'brittle' and the edging had hard parts.  Chewable but hard.  The flavor was also fascinating.  Come to find out that the bacon is seasoned, and smoked, there in the restaurant. 

 And the bacon comes from a 'heritage' farm in Iowa called Becker Lane Organic (logo above).  If you're in Chicago in the summer, here's what they say:  "Stop in and see us in person at Green City Farmers Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago on Saturday mornings during market season."  Great site.

The bacon itself is sold across the street from Inovasi, at Wisma, owned by the same folks.  The bacon was labelled as a full pound, and weighed in at 16.4 ounces.  Post cooking there was very little shrinkage and came in at 7.9 ounces.  It produced only 80 ml of bacon fat. 

During cooking there was a lot of 'snap crackle & pop' - very noisy bacon.  From an appearance perspective, the bacon was brown out of the package, and once the cooking started, it had a very high degree of translucence.  This is an indication of over-use of cure.  Picture above.

The bacon seemed to cook too quickly, but I don't think those dark areas are actually burned.  It's the natural coloring, fully cooked.  Well, ok, there might be a few burned spots.  Just as in the restaurant, the bacon had hard edging.  The flavor was overly sweet, and had a spice taste that I couldn't quite place.  Overall, I give it a 3 on flavor, a 4 on succulence and a 3.5 on crispness.   Good bacon which will generate a lot of conversation at the breakfast table.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014: Mother's Day Bacon, and "Is Bacon Healthy?"

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a review of Boar's Head "SLICED BACON" on Mother's Day, and a brief tease about the question of the day.

BACON IN THE NEWS starts off with a Wall Street Journal article of last week, entitled "The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease".

In it, the author takes a look back at the history of the "low fat" movement's science (or questionable science).  It is a classic case of 'confirmation bias' - the original researcher (in the 1950's) simply used the data that supported his thesis - that saturated fat causes heart disease.  He ignored data that didn't support that conclusion.  Then, multiple studies of dubious quality through the 1970's came to his same conclusion: basically, that eating saturated fat causes cholesterol to go up and causes heart disease.  Here's a key quote from that article"
"Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys's hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense."
The goose was cooked.  Everyone believed that eating fatty and cholesterol-laden foods give you high cholesterol and heart disease.  Remember "Stop the Insanity" with that crazy lady, Susan Powter? Eveyone bought in.  Hence the advent of Lipitor and statin drugs, which some people believe are a big mistake.  Guys like Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple...

I get comments and questions all the time:
  • "I hope you're on cholesterol medication."
  • "With all that bacon, your arteries must really be clogged."
  • "You really have to be careful, eating bacon isn't healthy."
  • "Isn't bacon bad for you??"
Of course, just as people still think that butter and eggs are bad for you, they couldn't be further from the truth.  For some people, eating a paleo-type diet is much more healthy.  In a future post, we'll go into this in a lot more detail, but for now, if you want to do some reading, here are a couple of good links.  Start with the WSJ article, linked above, and then read an article about which I've written before on the 10 reason's bacon is healthy, and reasons not to worry.  Believe me, there are many naysayers, and I'll try to give the future argument equal treatment.  Stay tuned, the science is NOT settled on this yet (at least not in the public eye.)

MAPLE OAT NUT SCONE AND BACON was what I gave my honey this morning for Mother's Day.  Happy Mother's day to all mothers present and past!   I got up a little early, and baked her the scone which appears at the top of this post, and of course, bacon to go with it.  Maple icing and bacon sure do go together well.  The recipe for the scone came from here.  It's a replica of a long-out-of-production scone that Starbucks sold, but discontinued for some odd reason.  Good stuff!



The packaging was attractive.  Nice colors, and the bacon looked great through the 'window'.  The package doesn't say it's smoked, and I actually detected a slight smokiness in the aroma, but very faint.

The package label was one pound, and I got .4 ounces extra.  Post cooking, the bacon weighed in at 4.1 ounces, and produced a typical 150ml of rendered fat.

Quality control on the thickness was an issue, with some very thin slices, causing a loss of slice integrity while cooking.  But the good news was that the bacon did not have a high stickiness quotient, so flipping the bacon was easy, even with the thinner slices (although a few came apart).  The slice thin-ness caused me to prep the bacon in two batches; the photos are of the first batch only.

Flavor was blah - rate it at 2.25, below average.  It's crispiness was just ok, 2.5 and very little succulence, rating of 2 out of 5 in that category.  This was meh bacon.  I wouldn't throw it out, but it's on the lower end of the scale.  See you next week!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014: Incoming "Wake Up and Smell the Bacon" and Lake Geneva Country Meats

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with an update on the Oscar Mayer promotion, a lacrosse road trip (involving bacon) and some local fare.

BACON IN THE NEWS was light this week, with continuing stories about how the porcine virus is decimating piglet populations, thereby raising pig prices.  Everyone is sending me these stories.  Enough already.  We discussed the elasticity of demand of bacon, and I think that prices could go up 50% with negligible changes in demand.

LOYAL READER BILL UHLEMANN sent me his update on the "Wake Up and Smell the Bacon" device.  If you've been reading me for a while, you know that he won!  Below is a snip of the email he received.  Thanks, Bill, and I'm eagerly anticipating receipt of the box!  Full review to follow.

ARMY PLAYED NOTRE DAME in lacrosse yesterday at South Bend.  ND was ranked #5 and Army, #19.  It had all the potential to be an epic battle, and it lived up to the promise.  ND won in a nail biter, 18-17 - the most goals scored against ND in over a decade.

I mention this because on the way back, my son and I stopped at a Red Robin, which has some of the best burgers around.  Below my post headline is the A1 Peppercorn burger, with smoked bacon.  The bacon was awesome.  When I inquired about it's source, the manager came out and explained that it's no longer labeled on the box they receive, but that it used to be from Oscar Mayer!  Another Oscar plug - coincidental!  But it was an awesome burger.  This picture should be on the menu.


On the road last week, I stopped at Lake Geneva Country meats for some steak and bacon.  I'll review their steak next week, as I'm trying a new sous vide setup.

The package is labeled as a one pounder; it came in at .3 ounces over.  Nice job.  There were too many slices to fit on a single pan - that's rare.  It wasn't cut excessively thin either!  Post cooked weight was 4.7 ounces - a very nice net, and 125 ml of rendered fat.

The flavor was excellent (3.5), crispness outstanding [3.0] (although more 'breaky' than 'crispy') but great succulence too (3.5).  Overall, a great value and solid fare.  See you next week!