Guy Warner: There's something about bacon
PUBLISHED: 11:28 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 30 April 2019
The familiar smell of bacon cooking never fails to make the mouth water, especially when it's from one of these local producers...
What is it about bacon that gets us carnivores so excited? It regularly tops polls as the nation's favourite snack, best sandwich filling, and has long been the nation's 'guilty' treat. Apologies if you're vegetarian (next month's column is for you!), but I have to agree bacon is up there in my list of best inventions ever.
There are many reasons why it's such a popular product. It's quick to cook – five minutes in the frying pan or ten under the grill; it's versatile – bacon and eggs for breakfast, bacon butties for lunch or spaghetti carbonara for supper; but most of all, it tastes so darn good.
There's something about it that awakens all the senses: the sound of it crisping in the pan, the sight of the rashers curling up on the plate, the umami flavor as you take your first bite… in fact, you can almost smell it sizzling from this page!
It's no accident that we're all a little bit obsessed with bacon: scientists have discovered that when cooked, bacon satisfies a number of different 'tastes' that come together to make the perfect hit of flavour.
However, while we might agree that the majority of meat-eaters love a bit of bacon, exactly what we like and how we like it can be quite divisive. And let's not forget that not all bacon is created equally. The bacon I'm talking about is the thick-cut butcher's bacon where two rashers makes a meal. That's the kind of bacon you make a special journey to local butchers, farmers' markets and farm shops for. It's what many of our local farmers here in the Cotswolds are producing day in day out – it may be expensive but that just reflects the hard work, passion and flair that goes into producing it.
You can find such bacon at the award-winning L Taylor & Sons Butchers in Minchinhampton. Dry-cured by hand from old spot pigs raised on the Gatcombe Estate, it's thick, juicy and properly meaty. Taylors is a bit of an institution in the area – there's been a butchers on the site since the 1600s, and the bacon is still cut by hand using a traditional bacon slicer. As well as back and streaky, if you're feeling particularly piggy (pardon the pun) you can choose middle bacon, a combination of the two – it may be an old fashioned cut but you get the best of both worlds!
Smoked bacon is the biggest seller at Jesse Smith Butchers in Cirencester. Produced by one of the country's most renowned bacon producers, Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon, this traditionally-cured bacon is hung over wood chips for a deep and smoky flavour. For something a bit different, try the sweet cure which is marinated in maple syrup.
While it's got to be back for sandwiches, I am rather partial to the streaky bacon from Todenham Manor Farm, which makes a great addition to many recipes. All the bacon here is dry-cured and produced from rare breed pigs that are slow-grown. This means they develop a tasty layer of fat that magically melts away to give flavour to your cooking.
A more unusual cut is the collar bacon from Martin's Meats in Toddington. Taken from the shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot pigs, it's a darker meat, and offers even more flavour, especially once it's been dry-matured for six days in a Himalayan salt chamber then dry-cured by hand in a blend of brown sugar and salt for ten days. No wonder it's a multi award-winner.
There's no doubting that bacon is a serious business, not just here in the Cotswolds, but in the UK as a whole. In the face of an uncertain future, I say long may our nation's obsession with it continue!
Bring home the bacon: Todenham Manor Farm bacon is available at Warner's Budgens stores in Winchcombe, Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway and Bidford-upon-Avon. For other retail outlets, visit Todenham Manor Farm, Martin's Meats in Toddington, Taylor's in Minchinhampton and Jesse Smith Butchers in Cirencester.
Locally-owned company Warner's Budgens have six stores in the area - Bidford-upon-Avon, Moreton-in-Marsh, Quedgeley, Tewkesbury and Winchcombe. Visit the website here.