If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just sit back and daydream about bacon. I think about the flavour and the texture, imagine putting a piece in my mouth right now, brainstorm new recipes and delicious bacon combinations. Whenever I find myself thinking about how wonderful bacon is, and musing over it’s many wonderful qualities, there are a few descriptions that always leap to mind.
In the first installment of this series on the Elements of Bacon, I took a close look at the smoky quality of bacon, where it comes from and how it is an essential part of what gives bacon its flavour. Today, I want to spend some time considering the salt.
Salt and Bacon
Ah, salt. It is one of the most basic flavours and most important seasonings that we know of, enhancing the flavour of almost every food in the world. While it is important to watch our salt intake and make sure we’re not getting too much, a little salt is absolutely necessary to ensuring that the food we eat is flavourful. Salt is what makes a potato chip so delicious; unsalted, they’re just crisp, bland potato wafers. Salt even enhances the flavour of sweet things by contrast, which is why salted caramel tastes so amazing. And, of course, salt is one of the most essential parts of what makes bacon so delicious.
Salt Curing Bacon
Now pork, just like any other meat, is not naturally salty. Bacon’s salt content comes from the curing process, where salt is added to the bacon to help preserve it. Salt is introduced to bacon in one of two ways: curing and brining.
In order to make sure that the salt penetrates the bacon fully and more quickly, some people advocate injecting the pre-baconified slab of pork belly with brine. Brine is simply a mixture of water, salt, and possibly other seasonings and preservatives. The brine is injected deep into the meat so that the curing process begins to happen from the deep side out.
What everyone agrees on, however, is that salt curing is a necessary part of the process that turns a side of pork into bacon. Salt, sometimes sugar, and other seasonings are rubbed onto the surface of the pork, which is then allowed to rest for a period of weeks (usually about six) until the bacon has cured. During the curing process, some of the moisture is drawn out of the bacon, and the salt has worked its way in. This both preserves the meet and gives bacon its salty flavour. Once bacon has been salt cured it is ready for the nest step: smoke.
Salty Bacon Treats
Because salt is such an essential part of the bacon-making process, and one of the things that makes the final product so delicious, some of the best bacon recipes are those that highlight or contrast that saltiness. This is why combining salty bacon with sweetness, like this candied salted bacon, is such a hit!