Round one of Project Bacon is complete – but we are far from finished. Although the pork smelled like bacon and even looked like bacon, it did not cook up like bacon. I tried frying it, baking it, and frying and baking it – but to no avail. My hypothesis – my cut of pork was too fatty and there was not enough meat. In the weeks following, I compared my strips to those at Whole Foods and they look quite similar, but not as marbled.
With test round 1 done, it’s on to round 2. There is no giving up here until we have a sodium-free bacon and egg sandwich on the table. For round two, I’m going for a meatier piece of meat and a similar seasoning blend – cumin, smoked paprika, bonito flakes, pepper, brown sugar, cayenne pepper – maybe a little lemon juice?
It may be impossible to cure meat without sodium as the salt plays a major role in preserving and protecting the meat from developing botulism (no one wants that). It also breaks down the protein which gives it its texture and color. However, I have read that acids – such as vinegars and citrus – have similar molecular capabilities. So we will try a combination of a wet soak and a dry rub for the next go. And remember, it isn’t about creating an exact replica, but an approximation that is equally satisfying – and like the pickles I made this summer, sometimes even better than the salted version.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on the transformation of my pork blocks into beautiful slices of “could-be” bacon. I cannot wait until they taste as good as they look.
And to keep your appetite whet for other sodium-free, impossible possibilities, the recipe-box will feature the following how-to’s before the close of 2009:
PICKLING (salt-free, majorly successful, and really fun – also make great gifts!)
CURING OLIVES (just have to find some uncured olives to start…but I think I have my guy)
SAUSAGE MAKING (we have the grinder! now we just need the casing)
SOY and TERIYAKI SAUCE (you better believe it – it exists and it is delicious)