A Tale of Two Bacons

Well actually THREE! The first one is Harrington’s—the one I fell in love with when I went to the University of Vermont many years ago. My boyfriend at the time brought me there and explained how they smoked the bacon over corn cobs. Since I grew up relatively bacon-deprived (my grandmother who lived with us kept kosher—though my parents didn’t)—this deliciously smoky bacon reminiscent of wood cabins in the mountains utterly seduced me.I have continued to mail-order Harrington’s for all these years since bit have now added another bacon to my love list:

Arkansas Bacon with Balinese Long Pepper. I discovered it at the July Fancy Food Show in NY where there are what seems like millions of products so it’s a miracle this one caught my attention. It could have been the aroma that stood out against all the others. The flavor was slightly peppery from this special variety of pepper, and slightly smokey-sweet from being smoked with a light coating brown sugar. Determined to experience it again, I discovered that it was created by my long-time admired colleague Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s in Michigan. www.zingermans.com Ari told me that the tasting/recipe work on the bacon was done by him with lead work by Gauri Thergaonkar, one of the managers at the Deli, who has a great palate (For a full description of the special peppercorn and bacon from Ari see below.) Since the bacon needs to be shipped next day air the shipping was more expensive than one pound of bacon so I ordered 2 pounds and froze most of it in individual packages of 3 ounces each. The third bacon I adore is not actually marketed as bacon but it should be as it is a no compromise “kosher” variety. It is marketed as smoked goose breast! www.roastgoose.com Cut into thin strips it metamorphoses into ‘bacon’ so delicious it could serve as component to my bacon and eggs breakfast with absolutely no feelings of prior deprivation! From Ari Zingerman (on his Balinese Long Pepper Bacon) If you aren't already familiar with it, long pepper has been fairly hard to find in the Western world for the last few hundred years. In the Middle Ages it pretty much passed out of use in Europe, likely because it's slightly moister than black pepper and hence didn't have the latter's keeping qualities. But back in its day long pepper was actually more popular with Roman cooks than the now standard black pepper, and it sold for about three times the price (and black pepper itself often was priced higher than gold). In North America it still shows up with surprising regularity in recipes for sauces, vinegars, pickles and the like in Colonial era cookbooks. So bringing it into use with the bacon here actually has roots in early American cooking. Each pod of long pepper is composed of an inch or so long series of little black peppercorns that merge together into one cone as they grow. Its flavor is clearly in the same family as black pepper, but with some seriously interesting high notes and a sweet, round fruitiness that's really lovely. Where Telicherrry black pepper's flavor is a bit more direct with nice winy undertones, the Balinese long pepper is more of a roller coaster ride, sort of an accordion full of exotic flavors that play out in twists and turns as you eat it. Let me just say that it makes for some very interesting, very sensual, very spicy eating. The bacon is made at the foothills of Mt. Petit Jean in Arkansas by the same folks who make the regular peppered bacon that we¹ve been using in such good quantities for so many years now. In fact, if you didn¹t know it, the original black pepper bacon recipe has been in use there for over sixty years now. The pork slabs are cured in a wet brine of salt, sugar and spices for four or five days, the exact nature of which is a family secret. After a bit of time to dry, the slabs are smoked over hickory for just under 24 hours. They¹re then rolled in brown sugar and finally hand rubbed with cracked black peppercorns, or now, in this case, the coarsely crushed Balinese long pepper.