By Shirleon Sharron, HAI Archivist
Bacon is the fruit of the land. You can fry it, bake it, broil it, microwave it, air fry it. Wrap it around chicken, pork, apricots, There are BLTs, chocolate covered bacon desserts, bacon bits, bacon and eggs, bacon burgers – and that’s not it because let’s be real, bacon is good with EVERYTHING. But why do we love bacon? What is it about that savory, salty, greasy strip of meat?
Well, if we want to get scientific about it, the fat in bacon breaks down to create a sweet, buttery and salty taste and smell. The smell comes from something called the Mailliard Reaction which also gives the bacon its color and flavor. This reaction makes the sugar react to amino acids that then reacts with the bacon fat – creating the perfect taste and aroma we all know and love.
Did you know that bacon dates back all the way to 1500 B.C. and might be even older? It was the Chinese that salted and cured pork belly and this process, like so many other trends in the world, traveled across the globe. The Greeks and the Romans enjoyed bacon, too! But the bacon we enjoy today is a lot different than it was then. The sliced meat we mostly likely all have in our refrigerators right now (or freezer like this writer) wasn’t patented until 1924 – that’s 3,423 years after the Chinese first cured their pork belly. And who, you ask, patented sliced bacon? Why, Oscar Mayer of course!
Bacon is from a pig’s belly. It’s injected with a solution of water, salt, sugar, and a type of cure. The injection is left to marinate the meat and to add to the flavor for anywhere between a few hours to several days. It is then hung in a smokehouse where it’s heated – and the warmer the better! The warmer it gets the faster that delectable flavor starts to develop. This process takes two to four hours, sometimes 24 hours.
Why do people love bacon so much? We see the science in creating it, but that still doesn’t tell us the reason behind this obsessive love of bacon that so many people have.
Enter “bacon mania.” Cultivated over the past decade or so, bacon mania has taken over the world. While so many people are health-conscious, bacon somehow still ends up in our breakfasts, salads, desserts, and drinks! Thanks to the pork industry pushing the idea that bacon really makes everything better (it does) people started to realize that – while previously inexpensive – bacon really could go on just about anything and enhance the flavor. Not only that, but restaurants could also boost the price of their offerings by adding this simple ingredient to many of their dishes.
So how did this unofficial holiday, International Bacon Day, come about? Well, would you believe there are conflicting stories? But lucky for you, reader we found these two links, provided by National Today and Holiday Insights, to be helpful in sort of clearing it up and also gave us some fun ideas on how to celebrate this tasty day! It is celebrated on the first Saturday of September, happening just before Labor Day.
So, this September 2, 2023, go head and have that strip of bacon, that BLT, that bacon burger. You deserve it. (And let’s be real, EVERY day is a Bacon Day!)