Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Bacon – A “The Bacon Project” Post


TJsBlackForestBacon-Package

Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Bacon

The packaging is impressive, and definitely carries with it a “Rustic” feel. At least, it does to me. It intrigued me, and I’ve been eyeing it for a few weeks. So I finally took the plunge, so to speak, and picked up one package of it. I generally like the flavoring of the “Black Forest” branded hams and pork products. There aren’t many which use Paleo acceptable ingredients, so it’s been some time since I’ve had any. But this is a great looking product, and except for the serving size (small serving sizes indicate hidden sugar!!) I was quite impressed with how it looked overall. I was, no surprise, quite excited to give this a try!

TJsBlackForestBacon-PreCut

Opening The Package:

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  I always take a moment to smell the bacon first, giving my nose some time to get used to the flavor of the bacon before it starts to cook. I think it’s a useful way to get myself in the mode of the bacon – no, not the mood; I am always in the mood! It smelled peppery, and had an earthy undertone. The coloring of the bacon could have something to do with what I thought I was smelling – the coloring is strikingly different from what you might expect of any other bacon. The dark colors bleeding in from the outside of the slab of bacon are more reminiscent of a smoked cheese than a cured meat product. Of course, despite that it is most certainly a cured meat product, the FDA, as we learned some time ago from our friends at Vermont Smoke And Cure, have decreed that cured meat products which are not cured using commercial curing salts must be called “Uncured”. And since this bacon uses Celery for the naturally occurring nitrates, this is required to be labeled as “Uncured”. Silly? Yes.

As I started to take the pieces of bacon apart, I noticed that they had been sliced quite thin. Recalling that the package suggests 1-slice of bacon as a serving size, this just served as a reminder as to how much sugar must have been used in the processing of this bacon. Remember the rules of bacon: a manufacturer may put “0g” for carbohydrates, provided the serving size is small enough that the actual amount of carbs in that serving are less than 1. Of course, the sugar must still be on the ingredients, but it doesn’t have to be included in the Nutrition Facts as long as there is less than 1 gram per serving. So for 13 slices of this bacon in the package, I would estimate that there is more than 12 grams of sugar used in that bacon. This is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Even a person on a Ketogenic diet can afford 6 grams of sugar accounting for their half of the package. But it’s important to keep track of!

TJsBlackForestBacon-Cut

Cooking:

I cooked this slow, taking about 20 minutes of total cook time. When I do my Bacon Project bacon, I often cook the meat slowly, giving the bacon plenty of time to reach my perfectly cook state, and plenty of time for me to notice that it’s there. This cooked quickly, as I expected given how thin the slices are. I would keep this in mind if I were going to cook this on a griddle – it will cook fast. The cooking smell was quite unique for bacon – it smelled like some of the korean barbeque sauces that I’ve had. Kind of a combination of sweet and peppery. It was a pleasant smell, and my wife and I both enjoyed the aroma.

TJsBlackForestBacon-CookingThe Taste:

The smell and the taste didn’t match up at all! It had the hint of sweetness that you may have expected from the smell of the cooking, but there was no pepper in sight! At least, not the spicy kind that the smell hinted at. That was OK though – the well-spiced version of bacon was delightful. The flavors of the spiced, smoked meat danced around our palates in a way that we truly have not experienced before. As the Vermont Smoke And Cure was the smoke in smoked meat, this was the cured in cured meat. The flavors of the “Black Forest” were excellent, and I look forward to having more of it!

Presentation:

Here is where things get interesting. One of the ways that I keep an eye on my bacon (pun definitely intended!) is by watching the change in color as the bacon cooks. Usually, the bacon starts out with a ruddy orange coloring, with just a bit of the bright red in the center of the meaty portions. Then, as the bacon cooks it gets darker, and you can pull it out when it reaches the optimal color. This bacon, on the other hand, starts out so dark that coloring in the meat is deceiving during the cooking process. You have to be careful with this bacon to make sure that you don’t overcook it.
I’ve mentioned that I am quite careful with my Bacon Project bacon, and I cook it on relatively low heat to make sure that I don’t miss that “Just Right” moment. With this bacon, I had to add another dimension: I stirred the bacon frequently as it got closer to my “Just Right” level, and instead of paying attention to the color, I had to pay attention to how firm the bacon was while I was stirring it.

Serves and plated: the bacon is a very interesting departure from normal bacon. As you can see in the picture, it is quite dark, and looks overcooked. That turned out to be just fine, however, as you noted what my thoughts were on the taste. As long as you give the extra cook time, and pay close attention to how much you want it to harden before you take it off the heat, you will likely end up with a very pleasing result!

TJsBlackForestBacon

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the first three categories. I did my research on the fourth category, and I can’t find information on Trader Joe’s website about where this bacon is sourced from, and so I don’t know if these pigs are sustainable pigs, or if they’re raised in something closer to CAFO style setups. I like Trader Joe’s, and I generally approve of their organic products. But “Conventional” is conventional, and this package does not promise anything but. My guess is that these pigs are raised in something closer to CAFO style setups, and are not anything approaching “Pastured” or “Sustainable”. It’s good bacon, but because of the sourcing issue, I will only resort to it in a pinch.

When Bacon Doesn’t Work Out – A Bacon Project FAIL!


ArtisanalBacon

I’ve been doing “The Bacon Project” for some time now. I am not sure if I am just doing good work, or if I’ve been lucky, but so far I’ve had only top-quality bacon to report on. I’ve enjoyed it! And I suppose only time will tell whether it’s luck or good choices that has led me to some really great bacon. The difference between Vermont Smoke And Cure bacon and Niman Ranch bacon is miniscule compared to, say, the “Great Value” bacon from Walmart. And my general assumption is that the various brands and styles of bacon that I am purchasing will be in the same relative quality. Well, every hypothesis needs to be tested from time to time. Enter: “Aux Delices des Bois” and their brand “Artisanal Uncured Bacon”.

ArtisanalBaconPackage

Giving them a bit of the benefit of the doubt, I waited several days before writing this post just to see if I ended up with food poisoning, which might indicate that the bacon had been damaged in transit. But nope: my health is tip top. And this remains the worst bacon I can possibly imagine within the class of bacon I have set out to test in the Bacon Project. Needless to say, looking at the above label, I was quite excited to give a try to this package of bacon! It looks fantastic, the presentation is top notch, and the meat, though quite high in fat, seems to be the right colors! Alas, it was not to be.

The cooking:

My wife wandered in to the kitchen, as she generally does, while I was cooking the bacon. We were both hungry, and we were very much looking forward to another Bacon Project test run. “It smells like popcorn…” She mentioned idly, scrunching up her nose in curiosity. This was a novel smell for bacon. I agree, the smell strongly resembled that smell you get while microwave-cooking a bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. It was strange. But we’ve had great success with the top-tier bacon in the past, and didn’t think much of it other than to note the smell and move on.

The final product:

It was truly unsettling. Neither of us could finish our plate. And that’s not just because it didn’t match our exptectations. It was just not good bacon. I actually think I might prefer the “Great Value” bacon from Walmart to this stuff… I can’t really describe the flavor, because I didn’t eat enough to get a thorough description. Needless to say, I was not pleased. As I stated above: I’ve waited a few days, and no food poisoning. It still could have been a bad batch; which means it’s possible that this bacon is usually as good as the packaging suggests. But I won’t be trying any other batches of this bacon to find out.

Do not buy this stuff. It’s not worth your money, nor your disappointment.

Vermont Smoke And Cure Slab Bacon – A “The Bacon Project” Post


VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-Package

Have you ever tried a slab bacon? They’re not easy to find on the grocery store shelves. In fact, without ordering slab bacon, or asking for it from the farmers directly, I think I’ve probably only seen 3-4 different brands of slab bacon commercially available ever. My guess is that they don’t sell too terribly well, considering people are often concerned with how much fat they eat. Which is a shame. Because slab bacon is absolutely amazing! And you can take that as a generalized statement. Every time I’ve ever had slab bacon, I’ve been glad that I did. In fact, there is a restaurant here in Manhattan that I frequent for the sole purpose of eating the slab bacon they serve me. The bartender knows me and my wife so well that when either one of us walks in the door, they cue up an order of slab bacon for us before even taking our drink order! So, if you haven’t had a slab bacon before, go get one. Follow my general Bacon Project rules, of course, but go get some slab bacon!

Vermont Smoke And Cure Slab Bacon

The previous Vermont Smoke And Cure bacon that I bought and reviewed for my Bacon Project was so good that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try the slab bacon they sell. I love slab bacon, if you haven’t gathered that yet. So I had every expectation that the combination of a slab bacon, and the best dern commercially available bacon ever would be unimaginably phenomenal. And I was not disappointed!

Opening The Package:

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent was more complex than the scent of the pre-sliced Vermont Smoke And Cure bacon was. It had the same lightly smokey smell about it, but I could detect some other scents in there as well. My sense of smell is not world-renown, but it is pretty good. I smelled just the faintest flavor of vinegar, which I expect was my interpretation of the corn-cob smoke mixed with the maple wood. Like the pre-sliced Vermont Smoke And Cure bacon, the smell did not carry a strong maple scent. I asked my wife to take a few sniffs as well – her sense of smell is world renown. Her general thoughts were similar to mine though she did correctly identify the flavors of the maple wood, and didn’t mistake it for vinegar.

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-Uncooked

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-CookedCooking:

I cooked this long and slow, taking more than 60 minutes to finish the cooking process. I started out on high heat with the fat side down, as you can see in the photo. I let the pan heat up all the way until the fat was sizzling and popping, then turned the heat down to low, about a 2 out of 10 and covered it. Using tongs, I came back to the kitchen about once ever 10 minutes and turned the bacon on to a different side, making sure that eat side got even coverage.
I planned ahead, knowing that the smell would be absolutely torture if we didn’t have something to distract ourselves with. So I made a nice salad to eat while we waited. And we were waiting. It seemed interminable! The smoked maple smell was wafting around the house, driving us almost nuts. And that’s despite the fact that the salad I had made to distract us was really quite good! My wife and I were both nearly climbing out of our skin in anticipation when we finally served up the bacon…

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-Plating

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-Pre-SlicedThe Taste:

The smokey flavor was astonishing! It had a hint of sweetness, as though the maple wood used was green, and cut in the spring with the maple sugar still in it. Very subtle, but it really enhanced the smokiness that we expect from a premium bacon. Unlike the Vermont Smoke And Cure sliced bacon, this bacon had a much heavier emphasis on the smoke flavor, and the maple flavor was nearly non-existent. I figure that’s generally ok, though, since it’s maple wood smoked bacon – the extra maple flavor would be the bonus, not the focus. Of course, this is a different product: it’s slab bacon.

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-SlicingVermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-SlicedPresentation:

This is a serious piece of meat, and requires a serious amount of consideration while preparing it, serving it, and eating it. I did the best that I could to satisfy that requirement for seriousness, interspersed with the childlike anticipation of Christmas, by cooking it very slowly on low heat, serving it on a large wooden cutting board, and cutting it, as you can see in the photos with a rugged pocket-knife (of course, I cleaned it first!). I think this would be equally well served being cooked on a grill over the hot coals at the end of a grilling session while everyone is eating their steaks and, like my wife and I did, wait impatiently for the bacon to finish. In fact, if I didn’t live in the urban jungle that I do live in, I might have rigged up something similar to a campfire popcorn cooker, and cooked this slab bacon over a camp fire.
Regardless, the presentation of this slab bacon, when done right, was unbeatable. I could serve this to any guest at any time. It would be appropriate, served as I have done, with even the most white-tie guests. Ok, perhaps I’ve gone just a bit too far – maybe we should cut this off with black-tie guests and events?

VermontSmokeAndCureSlabBacon-Sliced2

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the all four categories. I have researched Vermont Smoke And Cure products in the past, and have even been contacted by one of their representatives on this site about the quality of the pork they source for their bacon (see the comments in my original Vermont Smoke And Cure post). I am confident that they are a top-quality producer for commercially available bacon.

And finally, where did I buy it?

Whole Foods – I picked this up at Whole Foods. I am extremely pleased, and will reiterate that this is the best commercial bacon I’ve purchased so far!

Niman Ranch – Maple Uncured Bacon


NimanRanchMapleBacon-InPackage

Niman Ranch – Maple Uncured Bacon

Returning to the “Uncured” label on bacon, I owe a big thanks to Chris from Vermont Smoke and Cure for his explanation. Apparently I should expect “Uncured” to appear on most of the bacon products that I will be consuming, since I tend to go for the ones which are void of unnatural products, which the FDA has determined requires the labelling “Uncured”. This likely has something to do with not eating the bacon directly out of the package, or something like that. My thoughts on that are not very nice things to say, so I’ll just not say them.

The Ingredients:

This is a new section, but one I will be sure to include going forward. I took a careful look at the ingredients, the serving size, and the amount of sugars. This is an important consideration, since a lot of times the makers of bacon intentionally mislead their consumers. Here is what the package has to say:

NimanRanchMapleBacon-Ingredients

So to break this down:

  • There are four types of sugar: “Turbinado sugar”, sugar, brown sugar, and maple syrup
  • The 1 lb package has 10 servings in it.
  • Each serving has 1 gram of sugar; so the package has 10 grams of sugar.

You have to do this math EVERY TIME you purchase bacon! I can help you a bit, by laying it out for you here, but this is important. What this means is:

  • Realistic serving size: 2 servings per package.
  • 5 grams of sugar in each serving.

That’s not bad, which is why I bought it in the store. For a premium meat, raised by sustainable family farms (on the package and website), I don’t mind a bit of sugar. But let’s be clear: in my opinion the added sugar does not improve the product.

Cautionary Note: Some bacon producers will reduce serving size further so that they can put a “0” in the grams of sugar per serving under the nutritional facts. Do not buy these bacon packages! Because they put a “0”, there is no way to actually know how much sugar is there.

Opening The Package:NimanRanchMapleBacon-InPlastic

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent carried a heavier “smokey” scent than the previous two bacon batches that I’ve had. It wafted out from the bacon powerfully, and I could tell that the cooked smell would fill the house, and water my mouth! Perhaps because of the strong smokey smell, I didn’t smell any of the maple. I thought that was strange at the time, but elected to note it and move on. As I said, there’s a reasonable chance that the smokey scent overwhelmed the maple scent. Maple, even concentrated as syrup, is not a strong smell.

The coloring was excellent. The red of the meat was striking, and bold. It was almost like it had been painted! Now, that could easily be a perception based on contrast. The meat was more marbled than most of my other Bacon Project posts, so it could be that it merely appeared strikingly red. Reviewing the pictures of my previous Bacon Project posts, it would seem as though that’s likely the case. Either way, I was impressed by the coloring.

NimanRanchMapleBacon-Cut

Cooking:

I cut the slices in half, so that each slice of bacon was about 5 inches long, rather than the 10 inches that they would be out of the package. Heating the bacon up, the smoky smell that I first smelled began to waft about the house enticingly. My wife, not the most patient of people, started walking in and out of the kitchen, doing “food laps” as we are fond of calling them. The bacon was definitely getting our mouths watering, and our stomach juices gurgling! On a slight down-note, the maple flavor that I was hoping would start to come out in the cooking was still not present. My wife’s sense of smell is superb wasn’t able to smell it either. I’m not sure if this is a batch-thing, of if the maple used was a less aromatic batch… Anyway, while the smoky bacon smell was quite appealing, I was expecting to get some of the maple smell as it cooked, and didn’t.

The Taste:

The smokiness of this bacon was sublime! I am very impressed by how well the meat and fat held on to the smoking process that Niman Ranch put it through! They must have had a higher water-vapor level in their smoke house, because the smoke flavor is deeply satisfying, and carries the flavor of the pork very well. As was true of the smell, the maple flavor was definitely missing in the bacon. I’m not terribly surprised by this: of the four sweeteners used, maple was the last of them, and in 5 grams of sugars, there isn’t a whole lot of room to skimp on the maple if you expect the flavor to come through. I understand: maple is expensive. But if you want to compete for repeat business, you’re going to have to step up your game.

NimanRanchMapleBacon1

Presentation:

The bacon was very good. As bacon products go out there, this definitely qualifies for the “premium meat” title. The smoky flavor was top notch. The coloring was excellent. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of the reason for the coloring was the way that they smoke the meat. As I mentioned, a higher water-vapor level in the smoke house will transfer the flavor better. This will also transfer the nitrates from the celery, and make the meat red. So it could all be related.

On the downside: I felt a little disappointed by the complete lack of maple flavor. There was clearly maple syrup in their product, it’s on the ingredients. But the ingredients also show that price was a more important consideration than flavor for the producers: they skimped on the maple in favor of other, cheaper sweeteners. My advice: get rid of all the sugar, it’s completely unnecessary. Use only maple syrup for the flavoring, and use only enough so that the flavor comes through. There’s no need for 5 grams of sugar in a 1/2 lb serving – 2 or 3 grams will do just fine, and if it’s all maple syrup, it will taste incredible!

NimanRanchMapleBacon2

My conclusion:

This bacon does not compete with either of my previous American Style bacon reviews. If you have either of them available to you, skip this one and buy those. For my Bacon Project posts on the other, better brands, please take a look at the Bacon Project page.

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a baseline for evaluating my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for all four categories! This is only the second time a Bacon Product has earned a check-mark in all four categories! This is impressive, and deserves a bit of patronage. Fortunately, my guess is that the other, better brands are also more challenging to come by… So when you can’t get Vermont Smoke And Cure, Niman Ranch is an excellent second choice!

And finally, where did I buy it?

Whole Foods – I picked this up at Whole Foods. Because this is sustainably farmed pork, I will keep my eyes peeled for this at Stop And Shop, Shop Rite, Pathmark, A&P and the other major chains. If any of you stumble across this, let us know so that we can keep track of where it’s available. Thank you all for reading another of my Bacon Project posts!

NimanRanchMapleBacon3

Vermont Smoke And Cure Bacon – Another Bacon Project Post!


VermontSmokeAndCure-package

Vermont Smoke And Cure Uncured Bacon

On a side note: I’m seeing the “Uncured” label on bacon a lot lately. Perhaps I should do a separate post on this. But despite “legal definitions” I am curious how companies believe that calling their clearly cured products “uncured” will improve sales. I mean, anyone who’s buying a top-quality bacon product like this one already knows that ALL bacon is cured, right? So what value is there in calling it “uncured” despite that the idiots in the FDA have decided that there is a minimum requirement for curing salts, smoke time, water left in the final product, or some other silly measurement to call your product “cured”. Anyway, if I decide to go down that road any further, I will write a post on it. IF you want to see a post on it, let me know in the comments!!

Opening The Package:

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent was lightly smokey. Despite that it is flavored with maple, the smell didn’t carry a strong maple scent, though it was there if you take several sniffs. It was a very subtle flavor, as was the smell of the meat. The curing process (though it calls itself “uncured”) was clearly different from what I am used to.

VermontSmokeAndCure-cooking

Cooking:

I cut the slices in half, so that each slice of bacon was about 5 inches long, rather than the 10 inches that they would be out of the package. Heating the bacon up, the smell of the maple started to come out. It seemed to have been hidden in the meat, or fat, somehow, and wasn’t anywhere near as obvious when the package was opened as it was once the bacon started to heat up! My wife wandered in to the kitchen several times, saying things like “It smells good in here!” Like many other games we play with each other, her wandering in to the kitchen is another one. It’s her way of telling me that she’s hungry, and that she wants to eat. Often that is triggered by the good smells I’m creating (at least, that’s what I hope is going on!). I cooked it slow for Bacon, like I have for previous Bacon Project posts. I cooked it at just under medium (4 out of 10) and covered. I’ve come to find that I really like the extra control over the level of cooking I can give to meat by cooking slowly. The juices and flavors of the meat come out much better if I give it the time to really express itself. That’s especially true with a great bacon!

The Taste:

Wow, that maple flavor turned out to be just incredible! It’s not overpowering, more like a great job spicing a shrimp dish. The scent of the maple curled around my nose as I slowly ate the slices of bacon. The smokey smell of maple-smoked meat came through too – and they did a really amazing job! The overall flavor profile was similar to a perfectly ripe avocado: a combination of the sweetness of the ripe fruit and the smokiness of the perfectly aged fats in the body of the fruit. This bacon was just like that: it was a perfectly ripe avocado! Perhaps next time I eat it, I’ll combine it with avocado.

Presentation:

I realize that my last Bacon Project post stated that it was the actual ideal of American Style bacon, but it will have to move over. There are now two brands of bacon sharing that crown! As you can see in the picture below: The coloring is perfect! The thick strips of red with the thin strips of white snaking through them – it’s really quite impressive! And it holds up against the green it is plated along with as well, as you can see.

VermontSmokeAndCure

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the first three. I have done some research on the fourth point, and can proudly give this a half-check. They don’t tell exactly where the pork is from, so it’s hard to give a full check. But the website does have a full list of the farms that it might be from, and they all seem, on the surface, to be pretty good! But some internet research turns up the regions that the bacon is purchased from (and the package actually says they buy only from VT and Canadian farms) so I can do some further generalized searching to see if there are any CAFO style pork products from those regions, and the result is that there are not. So that is promising, though no guarantee. It’s pretty close though!

And finally, where did I buy it?

Whole Foods – I picked this up at Whole Foods. I am extremely pleased, and will go so far as to say that this is the best commercial bacon I’ve purchased so far! With that in mind, definitely take a minute and look for this bacon in your local Whole Foods – it’s worth the look!!

[UPDATE: 11 April, 2013]

Thanks to Chris Bailey from Vermont Smoke and Cure for his comment on the post with information on Bacon and on their Vermont Smoke and Cure Bacon.

“Hello – Thank you for the review!
To answer a couple of the questions and comments –
I agree the “uncured” is inaccurate – but the folks at the USDA out-thunk themselves a while back and it is required language for any product that typically is cured, but which lacks sodium nitrite. So although celery juice and sea salt do cure this bacon, we’re required to call it “uncured” (right down to the relative font sizes!)
On our web site it explains that the pork for our uncured bacon and ham is all from DuBreton, a great outfit in Canada working with many family farms in their region.
Thanks again for reviewing our bacon and for helping spread the word about healthy balanced diets and great tasting food!
Chris at Vermont Smoke and Cure”

This is great stuff! And: It’s good to know that the “uncured” label is from USDA, not FDA. Their a little silly with that regulation… But oh well. And It’s amazing to know that they’re using smaller local farms – this validates my half-check above! Small farms typically produce the highest quality meat, which is incredibly important!

The Bacon Project – Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed Bacon, Wellshire Farms All Natural


Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated

Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed, Wellshire Farms All Natural

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated2Opening The Package:

After cutting it open, I smelled it.  The scent was smokey and bordered on sweet. I was so surprised by the sweet smell, I called my wife over to smell it and she agreed. Looking at the bacon, my first observation was that the slices were very meaty, lean even (well, lean for bacon), which was really exciting considering the smell. I know that the smell of bacon is typically in the fat, so a great-smelling bacon with a lower fat percentage means that the flavor is in the meat.

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-SliceCooking:

I cut the slices in half, so that each slice of bacon was about 5 inches long, rather than the 10 inches that they would be out of the package. Heating the bacon up, the sweet smokey scent wafted lazily through the kitchen and dining room. My wife wandered over, pulled by the magnetic scent of the bacon. I cooked it slow for Bacon. Just under medium (4 out of 10) and covered. I’m not sure if I did that because it’s leaner, or to savor the smell. We ate it as desert, a full 90 minutes after dinner, intentionally focusing on the experience rather than combining that with hunger. Not that bacon is better on a satisfied stomach, but we had planned ahead for this particular package of bacon, and this was what we wanted. It started out with great color – a color some more processed bacon would be happy with as a finished color! Cooking started to bring out the deeper reds, making my mouth water. Cooking slowly has it’s drawbacks – you have to be more attentive, since the extra time is so likely to draw you elsewhere. But this bacon deserves the extra effort and consideration. Also, the leaner cut means that it can go from done to overdone quickly, and I prefer my bacon chewy – so I paid close attention!

The Taste:

Wow, that smokey flavor turned out to be just incredible! It’s not overpowering, more like a great job spicing a meat dish – not overpowering, right there if you’re looking for it. The scent of the smokiness rolled around my mouth as I lifted the slices of bacon. It was intoxicating, and I wasn’t drinking! The sweet smell came through as a flavor too. It was almost like some of the chutneys I’ve made; the sweetness is there, but very subtle.

Presentation:

This bacon makes the ideal of American Style bacon proud, and jealous. The last two bacon products I have had here on The Bacon Project have been Irish style and Canadian style. I left the American styles for a little later, intentionally putting some of the really good stuff first, to set the bar. Well, this bacon rises to the challenge admirably! It smells amazing, filling my home with a sweet smokey bacon smell, it plates well, and could be served alongside any meal, and it tastes incredible!

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_Rubbed-Plated2

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Wellshire-Classic_Dry_RubbedFurther reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.

  1.  No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2.  Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3.  Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the first three. The fourth rule is a tough one, because I have yet to find a Sustainable Farm Raised commercially available bacon product. But I will keep looking!

And finally, where did I buy it?

Trader Joe’s – I picked this up at Trader Joe’s. Bacon seems to be one of the very few products that Trader Joe’s will sell non-Trader Joe’s brand products. I am not sure how much longer that will continue, or if perhaps that will expand? Either way, this was a Trader Joe’s purchase. I have seen other Wellshire Farms All Natural bacon in Pathmark and Shop Rite, but not the Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed bacon.

The Bacon Project – Canadian Style Bacon, Applegate Naturals


ApplegateCanadianBacon

Canadian Style Bacon, Applegate Naturals

ApplegateCanadianBacon-PlatedThe critique:

My initial thoughts as my mouth watered, examining the packet of bacon was that it was going to be delicious! Most of the “canadian bacon” I have had in the past was really just cooked ham, no fat, cut in a circle and fried hot to serve. This, however, was obviously real bacon, and it looked delicious!ApplegateCanadianBacon-Cooking As I opened the package, I noted that the slices were quite thin, and that was going to require care while cooking – if the pieces stick to the pan at all, they would tear. Also, for better or worse, there did not appear to be much fat on the bacon slices. Obviously that could turn out to be a good thing, but it also meant that I may have to account for that while cooking.


ApplegateCanadianBacon-CookedWhile cooking
, I paid close attention to the amount of bacon fat that was converted to cooking oil. This was especially important because, as I mentioned above, the slices were thin and might end up tearing if they stuck to the pan. I noticed that there was a distinctly “roasted ham” scent while cooking the bacon. This was a good thing, because I really like the scent of roasted ham. I did end up adding some coconut oil to the pan because there just wasn’t enough bacon fat to cook itself, but I added it later, as the bacon was starting to get sticky on the pan.

And finally, the taste: My first impression was a great cooked ham flavor, not much like American bacon. Again, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. There was little of the “smokey” flavor that most American bacon has, although the way that I cooked the bacon did supplement with plenty of the carmellized flavor that happens when you cook meat without much oil. It was an acceptable substitute. I noted that despite that the slices were thin, they still pack a lot of flavor. As I mentioned above, I really like cooked ham, and when fried properly that extra carmellized flavor can be quite nice on cooked ham. Also, as seems to be a theme for this package of bacon, it was quite lean. This presented a challenge while cooking, but one easily solved. Similarly, it changes the flavor, since a good amount of the vaunted flavor of bacon comes from the fat. Though, while it changes the flavor, it certainly didn’t make it worse, but notably different.

And as for presentation: Honestly, I think it presents better than American bacon. Sitting on the plate, my thoughts were that it looks more like a ham dish than a bacon dish. Also, the coloring of the bacon was quite vibrant: more like fried ham than bacon. There were lots of pinks, reds; it was a light hearted coloring. There was less of the deep red coloring you see in most bacon.

ApplegateCanadianBacon-Plated

For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I will be using as a base for evaluation of my bacon. I will include the following in each of my Bacon Project posts, as well as some of my thoughts on that particular bacon.

  1. No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
  2. Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
  3. Pork raised without antibiotics
  4. Sustainable farm raised

This one gets a check-mark for the first three. The fourth rule is a tough one, because I have yet to find a Sustainable Farm Raised commercially available bacon product. But I will keep looking!