Technically, we don’t need to make bacon any more. We’ve all got refrigerators these days, so we don’t have to cure pork bellies to keep them from spoiling. But so what? The cure—whether it’s the dry salt-and-sugar rub used in the country style or the brine in the supermarket stuff—makes bacon taste…like bacon. (It also ensures that a pound will last in your fridge for two to three weeks if it’s well wrapped.) A few days in the smokehouse with smoldering apple or hickory wood also makes the flavor more bacony, and may have a preservative effect. As for the main ingredient, a hog will yield two fatty sides of bacon, each about two inches thick and 12 to 15 pounds. Some fat does indeed “melt away when you cook it,” as bacon producer Charlie Gatton says, so a crisp strip contains only about 40 calories and 3.5 grams of fat. (Canadian bacon is made from the leaner eye of loin.) The Grateful Palate, which has never billed itself as a health-food purveyor, sells more than 30 varieties of bacon, demonstrating the wide range of this deliciously unnecessary product (888-472-5283 or www.gratefulpalate.com).
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