Of all foods forbidden to a Kosher consumer, bacon holds the most allure. Why is that? Non-kosher eaters often hail it as the most tasty of all meat products. “Everything is better with bacon”, is a common refrain in modern food-writing. For those who ate bacon in their pre-kosher days, the craving makes sense, but what of those who have never eaten real bacon? There are a number of Kosher bacon-analogues (Bac-os, Beef Fry, Bacon Salt), but they must pale in comparison.
I have never been non-kosher, but I was exposed to the scent of cooking bacon when I took a class at the French Culinary Institute. The smell alone was enough to make me crazy for bacon. No stranger to complicated food projects, I decided that the time had come to try my hand at making beef bacon.
The beef cut used for making bacon is the plate or belly. It’s a very fatty cut, sometimes used for corned-beef or pastrami. To procure my beef-plate, I contacted Abeles & Heymann, a NJ based producer of deli products including Beef Fry, a popular bacon replacement. They were happy to sell me beef-plate for $5/lb. Once I got the beef home, the first step was to cure it. I decided on a maple cure recipe, found in Michael Ruhlman’s seminal work on the topic, Charcuterie. It consisted of maple syrup, brown sugar, kosher salt and curing salt. The meat spent 1 week in the cure before it was time to smoke it. I used apple-wood to smoke it for about 3 hours. After cooling down fully, it was time to slice. This was the finished product:
The first dish I prepared with my bacon had to be a simple bacon and eggs. It was super-delicious.
Next, I tried to go with the fad and make candied bacon. It wasn’t as sucessful as I had hoped, but there is hope for the future. I used a slab of unsliced bacon in that weekend’s chulent, and the flavor took my chulent to a whole new level. The smokiness made my usual chulent into a Texas-style-bbq flavored chulent. The uses for this stuff truly are endless. Recent discussions on Chowhound lead me to believe that breast of veal is another good cut for making bacon. When I run out of this batch, perhaps that will be my next project.