The word bacon usually refers to the cured meat from a specially bred pig. Most British bacon is cured in the Wiltshire style. The two sides of the pig are immersed for about five days in a tank of brine which is composed of salt, sodium nitrate, saltpetre and, sometimes, sugar. The bacon is then drained and matured for a further seven days. Many other cures, however, such as sweetcure and tendercure, have been developed in recent years. For the distinctive smoked flavour, cured bacon is hung over smouldering oak sawdust or chips for 12 hours.
Unsmoked bacon, commonly called green bacon, or white bacon, has a white rind and a milder flavour than smoked bacon, which has a brown rind. Country-smoked bacon is more heavily smoked than the commercial variety.
In Britain, a side of bacon is usually divided into the following cuts. From the fore end of the bacon, the cuts are called forehock and collar. Those from the middle of the bacon are called prime streaky, thin streaky, flank, top back, prime back, oyster back and long back. From the gammon, which is the hind quarter of a side of bacon, the cuts are called slipper, corner, prime middle and knuckle.
In America, there are only two types of bacon available. Smoked or hickory, smoked strips of bacon without rind, are very much like English rindless thin streaky bacon. Canadian bacon is cut from the eye of a pork loin and is more like ham.
The choicest bacon slices, or rashers, for frying or grilling are those from the back, which are called prime, long and top back. The fat and lean in these rashers are not intermixed, unlike streaky bacon which alternates streaks of lean and fat, but which can be fried or grilled.
Collar rashers are wider and leaner than streaky bacon. Often too coarse for grilling and frying, they are suitable for pies. Gammon rashers and steaks are cut thick and can be fried and grilled. Oyster or flank rashers are quite fatty and are used for larding poultry and meat.
The most suitable cuts of bacon for boiling or baking are the gammon cuts. A whole gammon usually weighs about 15 pounds and is divided into many cuts. The most popular are middle and corner gammon which are lean and boneless. The smaller, cheaper cuts, gammon slipper and gammon hock, include some bone.
Collar cuts of bacon, which can also be boiled or baked, are less expensive than gammon and include a good pro-portion of lean meat. The best collar cut, prime collar, is boneless and meaty. A cut called forehock has some bone and knuckle, is less tender than gammon, but is ideal for soups or stocks. It is also sold boned and rolled for boiling.
Bacon stored in a cool place should keep for 10 days in winter and up to four days in summer. Bacon fat can be kept in a covered jar in a cool place or in the refrigerator and used for frying eggs, liver, tomatoes or bread.
In many parts of the world, particularly in England and America, bacon is traditionally served at breakfast with eggs, either fried or scrambled.
To fry bacon, cut off the rind with kitchen scissors, make little snips in the fat to prevent the rasher from excessive shrinking and arrange the rashers in a cold frying-pan in one layer, with the slices barely touching each other. No fat needs to be added unless you are cooking gammon or collar rashers. The bacon should be cooked over moderate heat until it is crisp. The rashers should be turned frequently to ensure even cooking. Bacon is not properly cooked until the fat has entirely lost its transparency. Drain the bacon on paper towels for 1 minute before serving.
To grill bacon, put it under a hot grill and cook, turning frequently, until the fat loses its transparency. Another method of cooking bacon, which is easy and ensures crispness, is to cook the bacon in a moderate oven on a rack set in a baking tin.
Fried or grilled bacon is delicious in a sandwich with lettuce and sliced tomatoes or served with calves’ liver.
Cuts of bacon are frequently very salty and should be soaked in tepid water for at least two hours before boiling. The saltiness can also be removed by putting the cut of bacon in a saucepan of cold water and bringing it slowly to the boil.
When it reaches boiling point, remove the saucepan from the heat and pour off the water. Refill the saucepan with cold water and boil the bacon for the required time. Cooking time for boiling bacon is 20 minutes to the pound, plus 20 minutes over.
British cuts of Bacon i,
2, Q boneless forehock joints
3 prime streaky4 thin streaky
5 middle rashers
6 middle gammon
7 corner gammon
8 forehock knuckle
10 top back11 prime back
12 gammon knuckle
13,14 collar joints
15 long back16 oyster back
1 j slipper gammon
18 collar rashers
19 flank20 bacon chops
21 gammon steaks