Once we started making sausage and hotdogs, we caught the provisions fever. Truth is, a simple seared steak is delicious, but a piece of meat that has been cured, spiced, and smoked is quite another thing altogether.
Not to mention that the supreme of these prepared meats — bacon — has been historically out of reach for Jews (and by consequence, much coveted by some).
So for Rosh Hashanah, Naf cured two beef bellies or “plates” — the fatty cut of meat used to make bacon, whether it comes from pig or cow. Ours came from cow, but in all other regards the preparation was similar: brine, cure, smoke, chill, slice thin, fry and watch the crispy pieces fly out of the pan.
Word got around at shul that Naf had some beef bacon, and somehow an additional 6 people showed up for lunch, trying to look casual as they hung around the kitchen, glancing nonchalantly every now and then at Naf standing by the stove. “How’s it going over there?” “Need any tasters?” Naf shooed them out of the kitchen one by one, until every piece was fried. And though the table was laden with delights, all anyone could really think about was the bacon.
“How is it?” “Does it taste like “real” bacon?” This last question was posed those at the table who may or may not have had the memory of another bacon to compare it too. They agreed it stacked up. A different flavor, perhaps. Maybe needs a little more salt. And certainly, the home-made version was sliced a little thick. But in the silence that quickly descended upon an otherwise boisterous table, we knew we’d hit upon something good.
A whole new world has since opened up. Flieshig breakfast! Bacon, eggs & toast — isn’t that how it’s done? We tried it, and agree: it’s worth the hype. Then there was the smoky flavor of the bacon grease, which we used to saute onions for chopped liver. Amazing. The split pea soup — traditionally made with a hamhock or salt pork, which we made with bacon chunks. And the finale last week, for Shabbat: a bacon-wrapped roast chicken, for our cousin’s birthday.
O – M – G, as they say.
The thing is, you don’t need a lot, and certainly those among us who watch our intake of meat fat might gasp at the look of a piece of beef bacon — thin strips of meat between thick slices of fat. But the flavor is indeed delightful, and plays well with others, adding a depth, smokiness and ‘umame’ edge that will bring the whole household into your kitchen to find out what’s going on. We don’t have any tips for how to hold them off — it might just be that you have to buy more, to account for all the ‘tasting’ that will happen before your dish ever gets to the table!
Our Artisanal Beef Bacon, made from Grow and Behold Pastured Beef, is available in strips (for frying, or wrapping around your other meats) or chunks (for adding to soups & stews).