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Published: Tuesday, 9/1/2009

Makin' bacon

Earlier this summer while visiting my son in Columbus, he gave me a whiff of bacon lip balm.

"Who would want to put that on their lips?" I asked.

"That's what they gave you at the BaconCamp competition," he said of the fund-raiser he attended. Among the 17 bacon dishes judged at the event were Bacon Pirogi and Double Decker Bacon Tacos.

Then in August, while visiting my Texas daughter and son-in-law in Austin, we had Sunday Brunch at Lambert's Downtown Barbecue. It was among the best brunch menus I've experienced recently, with Apple Smoked Bacon that was so good that you wanted to savor every bite on your lips (forget the lip balm - give me the real bacon) and Niman Ranch ham on the eggs Benedict served with Tabasco Hollandaise.

I returned home to consult Ari Weinzweig's book, Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon (Zingerman's Press, $29.99). Bacon is a big topic in the Zingerman's News July-August issue. The article "Welcome to Camp Bacon: Ten Solid Reasons Why Bacon is the Olive Oil of North America" includes the promise that Zingerman's wants to be a source of the best bacons from across the U.S.

Mr. Weinzweig writes about wet-cured bacons such as Nueske's Applewood-Smoked Bacon from Wisconsin; dry-cured Bacons such as Edwards' Bacon from Virginia, and unsmoked Kentucky Bacon in Finchville Farms and others from Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. He also mentions Niman Ranch Bacon from Iowa; Burgers' Country Bacon from Missouri, and Nodine's Bacon from Connecticut.

That gives you a taste of the book that has 42 recipes to put bacon in your kitchen. Recipes range from German potato salad to Bluefish Fried in Bacon with Blue Grits to Wilted Salad. The book also includes international bacons such as Italian pancetta and Irish bacon.

"Bacon is a big part of this country's culinary history," says Pete Sickman-Garner, Zingerman's marketing manager.

Now comes word from the National Pork Board and cookbook author James Villas (who wrote The Bacon Cookbook) that Saturday is International Bacon Day. This marks the second anniversary of the holiday created by the Bacon Boys, a blogging duo from Colorado. There's even a Royal Bacon Society that works to keep the tradition alive.

The idea is that if you have overnight guests or brunch, start Bacon Day with a freshly baked Overnight Bacon Casserole or make bacon canapes. For dinner indulge in Barbecue Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp.

From Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon (10 Speed Press, $24.95) comes the recipe for curing bacon: Two pounds takes a time commitment of eight to 11 days. It is made with pork belly, sugar, blackstrap molasses, kosher salt, curing salt, and freshly ground black pepper. There are three ways to give bacon that familiar flavor: roasting and liquid smoke; smoking on the grill, which is the slowest way, and smoking and roasting. To store the finished product, seal it tightly in a freezer storage bag and refrigerate for up to 10 days or keep frozen for three months.

Author Eugenia Bone in Well-Preserved (Potter, $24.95) also has a recipe for making bacon. She is inspired by her father, who cures prosciutto and Ionza (tenderloin of the pig) so the spices tend to be more Italian (bay leaves, garlic, fennel seed, caraway seed, dried rosemary, and dried thyme).

As for me, I still can't see why anyone would buy bacon lip balm. All I can remember is the wonderful flavor of the bacon from the Austin brunch, or a classic BLT.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at:

food@theblade.com

or 419-724-6155.



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