Friday, March 22, 2013

Truly Naturally cured bacon...coming soon

Amongst all the other tests we are working on, one in particular has quite a few customers sitting at the edge of their seats...  BACON!

Bacon has to be one of america's favorites foods.  Its popularity is unparalleled  both in health food circles and without. Those afraid of saturated fats see it as the one guilty pleasure they allow themselves. Those embracing the healthy saturated fats in their diets see bacon as the ultimate taste of a healthy fatty food... EXCEPT...

both camps (pro and anti fat)  see a united problem with bacon, chemical nitrates. While there are those that feel comfortable with consuming a steady diet of chemical nitrates, banking on the belief that our bodies can neutralize this chemical and the derivatives  produced in cooking.  Most people, the vast majority,  see nitrates as the one worst aspect in bacon.

Our first answer to this dilemma was to produce "natural nitrate"  bacon. This is bacon like that you commonly see cured with "nitrates naturally occurring in celery powder".  There is solid evidence that suggests this type of nitrate is in fact not as dangerous as chemically pure nitrates so often blamed for cancer causing.  We call this bacon option "natural nitrates" because it uses mother natures nitrates, just in larger quantities than occurring in nature.

The second answer was to produce bacon with NO nitrates... using only salt, spices, and sugar to cure it. This bacon has a decidedly different flavor, and relies on the sugars to offset the saltiness of the cure.  BUT there are zero nitrates. Unfortunately there s also a lot of sweetener in this type of bacon to make it palatable.

So, we are are a mission to overcome that. We are exploring a way to cure bacon the truly old fashioned way, with ZERO nitrates, and little to NO sugar. Our own family is sugar free so this is a personal as well as a business venture.

the trick, we think, is in using dry curing instead of wet curing. In wet curing  you inject the meat with liquids (salt, sugar, etc) to speed up the process. This is the method used in virtually all meat curing today to avoid the long waits of dry curing.  However, it infiltrates the meat so deeply and completely that the saltiness is overwhelming. The meat is similarly flavored through the cut.  With dry curing, the spices and salt are rubbed on the outside of hte cut, to draw the internal juices out while slightly infiltrating the meat from the outside in.  In theory this leaves the meat with a less salty overall disposition, allowing for lower sugar content throughout.

What about preservation of the meat? Well, traditionally salt cures were used to preserve meat  for long voyages (ocean crossings). Here's a reality, meat spoils from the outside in, never the inside out as long as there are no bones in it. Bacon of course has no bones, so it only spoils on the surface. It is the surface the interacts with teh outside world of bacteria, and other microbes.  If the outside is salted and smoked properly, it is protected from spoilage. In addition, the salt draws the liquids from the inside of the meat, drying it to a point. This drying effect further reduces the ability of pathogens from growing inside the meat. So you end up with a protective shell around fairly dry meat... in other words.. preserved.

So.. now have a few slabs of bacon covered in salt and spices slowly curing in the fridge. Within another week we should know how the flavor comes out in the end.  Let's all wish for the best.. so that we can all enjoy flavorful and healthy bacon!

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