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Bacon

A Brief Introduction
A traditional breakfast, the European style must consist of bacon. Bacon is the quintessential ingredient of all kinds of European breakfast be it Irish, English or French; mainly in the countries of the Anglosphere. Bacon may be eaten fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes.

In Europe, bacon is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient, valued both as a source of fat and for its flavour. In Italy, bacon is called pancetta and usually cooked in small cubes or served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. Many people prefer to have bacon smoked using various types of woods or turf. This process can take up to ten hours depending on the intensity of the flavour desired.

 

Definition
Bacon can be defined as a processed form of pork meat taken from the sides, belly, or back of a pig in variety of cuts with differing fat contents. Traditionally the preservation is done by salting or pickling and then drying with or without wood smoke. Gammon is bacon made from the top of the hind legs; green bacon has been cured but not smoked.

In the United States it usually means the side between the fifth rib and the hipbone. In Europe, the word bacon generally refers to one half of a fattened pig. Bacon has one of the highest fat contents of any cut of meat.

Bacon has become so popular as a sandwich ingredient and a favorite of chefs in fine dining establishments that bacon shortages have caused prices to soar. However, bacon is still a bargain that can't be beat when it comes to adding flavor. With low-sodium and lean varieties available, even the dieter can partake in moderation.

Manufacturing Process in Brief
The process consisted of soaking the pork in brine or rubbing it in a salt mixture by hand, then smoking the sides in smoke from an open chimney. It sometimes took three or four months. Bacon is still home cured in some rural communities, but the bulk of its manufacture is carried on in large industrial meatpacking plants equipped to slaughter, dress, cure, smoke, and sell on a large scale. This process is known as curing. Ingredients can be added or additional processes carried out to give the bacon the variety of flavours available today. The modern bacon production methods enable producers to offer a wider range of cures and steps have been taken to reduce the amount of salt in the production of bacon. This means that the typical salt content of bacon is now between 3-4 per cent compared with levels of 5-7 per cent 155 years ago.

Cuts
A side of bacon produces a wide range of different products for consumers to enjoy. Most rasher products come from the middle and side eg back middle and streaky, whereas the fore-end and gammon provide a wide variety of steak products.

Cures
The selection of different cures can often be bewildering to consumers but here is a guide which retailers could use to help them

  • Wiltshire Cure - A traditional cure using brine, which originated in Wiltshire.
  • Dry Cure - A traditional cure where dry salt is used, rather than a brine solution.
  • Mild Cure or Low Salt - In addition, the Danish Industry has been active in launching new 'low salt' bacon products which contain only about 2.5 per cent salt.
  • Sweet Cure - A cure in which sugars or syrups eg maple, are added to the cure.
 

Smoked Bacon - After curing, the bacon is smoked using wood chippings or other smoking processes. The rind is usually a dark golden colour and the lean browner than unsmoked bacon. It has a distinctive flavour.
Unsmoked Bacon - Cured bacon which has not been smoked is usually described as 'unsmoked'.

Meat from other animals, such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat or turkey, may also be cut, cured, or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon. Bacon may be eaten fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes.


Etymological Background
Until well into the sixteenth century, bacon or bacoun was a Middle English term used to refer to all pork in general. The term bacon comes from various Germanic and French dialects. It derives from the French bako, Common Germanic bakkon and Old Teutonic backe, all of which refer to the back. There are breeds of pigs particularly grown for bacon.

Popular Culture
One is familiar with the phrase "bring home the bacon." In the twelfth century, a church in the English town of Dunmow promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear before the congregation and God that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. A husband who could bring home the bacon was held in high esteem by the community for his forebearance.

Bacon - Part of Healthy Eating
There is a convincing case for altering the average diet by reducing fat (especially saturated fat), sugar and salt, and by increasing the amount of fibre. These recommendations were confirmed and re-confirmed in the recent past. In order to meet these conditions and ensure an adequate supply of all the essential nutrients, our diet should contain a substantial amount of fruit, vegetables, salads, pasta and bread as well as fish, low fat dairy products and lean meat. Bacon is now recognised as one of the least fatty meats due to improvements in feeding systems, ie. in the rearing of leaner animals, over recent years. According to an article in the Consumers' Association magazine a moderate amount of lean meat as part of a varied diet is a good way to ensure a balance of nutrients.

Deficiency of iron is the most commonly reported nutritional disorder encountered during childhood and contributes towards the high prevalence of anaemia. Bacon helps supply iron to the body in a form which is efficiently absorbed and used to make new red blood cells. Iron helps to prevent tiredness and breathlessness during and after physical exercise. Bacon not only contributes its own iron but also helps the body to make better use of the minerals consumed in other foods. The incorporation of bacon and other meats into diets from an early age can help to ensure that there is enough iron consumed to meet the nutritional requirements.

 
Bacon Bytes
Lean bacon is a highly nutritious food full of important nutrients including protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Bacon can be an important part of a healthy balanced diet when accompanied by vegetables and starchy foods, such as bread, rice or potatoes.

  • Oven Baked Bacon with Peppers
    • Serves:     4
    • Preparation time:     20 minutes
    • Cooking time:     45 minutes
    • Ingredients
      • 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
      • 2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into quarters
      • 2 green peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into quarters
      • 2 onions, cut into wedges
      • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • 60ml (4 tbsp) dry cider
      • 3 tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
      • 60ml (4 tbsp) fresh chopped coriander
      • 100g (4 oz) long grain rice
      • 225 (8 oz) rindless back bacon, cut into large pieces
    • Method
      • Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6).
      • Place the olive oil, peppers and onions in a shallow roasting tin. Stir until well coated and bake for 40 minutes, stirring once during cooking.
      • Remove from the heat and stir in the garlic, cider, tomatoes and coriander and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
      • Meanwhile cook the rice in a large pan of boiling water for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally until crisp.
      • Preheat the grill, lay the bacon on a grill rack and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally until crisp.
      • Stir the pepper mixture into the rice and divide between serving places. Top with bacon, sprinkle with chopped herbs.

  • Danish Pasta Bake
    • Serves: 4
    • Ingredients
      • 275g penne pasta
      • 50g butter
      • 40g plain flour
      • 600ml milk
      • 175g Cheddar cheese
      • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
      • 450g bacon back rashers
      • 1tbsp olive oil
      • 2 leeks washed and sliced
      • 25g fresh breadcrumbs
      • 1 clove garlic
      • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Method
      • Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes or as directed on the packet.
      • Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour.
      • Cook gently for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and gradually beat in the milk. Return to the heat and cook gently, stirring until the sauce thickens.
      • Add most of the cheese, stir until melted. Add the mustard and season to taste.
      • Cut the bacon into thin strips
      • Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently saute the leeks, bacon and garlic for 5 minutes
      • Drain the pasta, add the leeks and bacon and toss together.
      • Place in a flameproof dish. Pour over the sauce.
      • Mix together the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top.
      • Place under a hot grill for 2 to 4 minutes until crumbs are golden.
      • Serving Suggestion - Serve with a green salad and crusty bread
 
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