This is a love-song. A poem, an ode, a paean. A meditation. A moment in the otherwise ceaseless blur of our busy city lives to be grateful for bacon, that noblest of all God’s meats. And I don’t mean just the breakfast meats, I mean all the meats.
I grew up in a bacon house. We had it every morning. In the summertime, I would lie in bed and listen to Dad running the bushhog in the front pasture and sniff the intoxicating smell of Momma Williams’ bacon wafting up to the second story of our old clapboard farmhouse. Few things remind me of home as powerfully as the smoky-sweet taste of a piece of thick, chewy bacon. (No offense to all of y’all who like your bacon crispy; there’s nothing wrong with that).
Bacon is tough in the city, especially if you live in an apartment. My place is almost permanently infused with a subtle aroma of apple-smoked pig—my windows are wide open right now to try to air out the smell of breakfast meats. This, however, is a small price to pay. I have spent years finding ways to integrate the apotheosis of culinary achievement into my everyday life. Allow me to share what I’ve learned.
6. Use it to season your cast iron
If you don’t have a cast iron, shame on you. In fact, if you don’t have a cast iron, I can’t help you. Go somewhere else, this is the wrong blog for you.
Anyway, now that we have that out of the way. Using bacon grease to season your cast iron is really easy, and somewhat of a personal artform. Everyone does it a little differently. I use Momma Williams’ tried and true method:
- Step 1: Start with a clean, dry skillet. Cook a bunch of really fatty bacon on low, low heat. Take your time with it. Nurse it along. Be gentle with the bacon, tender even.
- Step 2: Remove bacon, eat bacon.
- Step 3: Scrape any excess bits of bacon out of the bottom of the skillet—you want nothing but grease in there.
- Step 4: Put the skillet with the grease in the bottom into the oven on about 200 for a couple of hours. Really, the longer the better here.
- Step 5: Pull out the skillet and use paper towels to wipe the bottom clean of grease. You’re done!
5. Use it to cook snaps
Another thing that always reminds me of home is slow-cooked snaps with a pork hock. The beans are so soft that they practically fall apart, and when you pull them out of the fridge to nuke, there’s little flecks of congealed grease on them. (NB: I am 100% okay with this. Processed sugar, potato chips—that stuff’ll make you fat. A little bacon grease never hurt nobody.)
Of course, I’m a busy city girl now. I don’t have time to spend all day slow-cooking snaps. Fortunately, there’s a quick-and-dirty cheat that only takes about two hours or so.
- Step 1: Snap the ends off your beans, and break them in half, just like you did on your Grandma’s back porch when you were a kid and it was part of your chores.
- Step 2: Put the beans and a couple of pieces of really fatty bacon (notice a trend here?) into a big pot and bring it to a high boil.
- Step 3: Boil for as long as you have--the longer the better. (Seriously, I cooked some for almost two hours last night, and if I hadn’t been starving to death, I would have left them on there for another hour.)
These are delicious reheated, too!
4. Nom on some Vosges bacon chocolate
Available at Whole Foods NOW.
This is an $8 candy bar, but I don’t give a $*@%. There’s uncured hickory smoked bacon and Alderwood smoked salt in it. I like the milk chocolate version, but there’s a dark chocolate version as well. It’s not overly-bacony—the bacon lends a subtle, smokey-salty taste to the chocolate (yes, I realize all of those things are in the title). It’s worth the 8 bucks, is all I’m saying. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t dip your bacon in your maple syrup, this may not do it for you, but if you’re that kind of person, you need to seriously consider therapy for OCD. Bacon and sugar belong together. They’re like Jack and Rose, Johnny and June, Bogie and Bacall. There’s a long history of bacon and chocolate going together. Chocolate-covered bacon is the centerpiece of my favorite breakfast spot in Charlottesville, Bluegrass Bakery.
(A word on breakfast spots: I am morally opposed to brunch. I think brunch is bullshit. First of all, I can’t wait until 1 PM/11 AM to eat breakfast. I wake up, I want to eat. I want a giant mug of black diner coffee, sunnyside-up eggs with a runny yoke fried on a griddle, hotcakes with syrup and bacon, scrapple [also dunked in syrup] and a biscuit. I want it all, I want it right when I wake up, and I want to be able to wear last night’s make-up and pajamas to eat it. I do not believe in subverting—nay, bastardizing—the most important meal of a day by putting a fancy hat on it and calling it “brunch.” This is elitist and wrong. D.C., stop it.)
(Another unrelated word, this time on chocolate-covered bugs. Apparently, My Chocolate Shoppe in C-ville has these right now. Has anyone tried them? I NEED TO EAT THIS WEIRD THING. If you happen to be coming from C-Vegas to D.C. any time soon, I’m begging you, get in touch. Bring me some and I will make you all the bacon you want.)
3. Order the bacon at Founding Farmers
Seriously. There is nothing else I can say about this. Just go to Founding Farmers and order the bacon. Or, if you’re there at supper time, the bacon-wrapped dates. It is everything. Runner up: the bacon-covered dates at Mas in Charlottesville.
2. Three words: Bacon. Infused. Bourbon.
I am a fan of anything that allows me to combine my two great loves in life: Breakfast meats and bourbon. This is a delayed-gratification project, but it’s incredibly easy:
- Step 1: Strain out 1 oz. of bacon grease
- Step 2: Combine 750 ml of bourbon (As befits a gal who lived in Kentucky for a long time, I use Woodford, but you can use Maker’s if you’re in the red) with the bacon grease in a non-porous container.
- Step 3: Put the lid on the container and let the mixture infuse for 4 to 6 hours.
- Step 4: Put the closed container in the freezer overnight, or until all the fat has solidified.
- Step 5: Strain out the bacon grease. I recommend using a coffee filter for this so you capture all the tiny sediments.
- Step 6: Fix your cocktail! Shake 2 oz. of bacon bourbon, ¼ oz. maple syrup and 2 dashes of bitters with ice, then serve over ice.
1. Save your bacon grease
This should really go without saying, but you should always save your drippings after you make bacon. Momma Williams keeps a coffee mug by the stovetop and she drains it off every morning. When she needs some fattening, she pulls it out of the fridge and spoons out a big dollop. Uses include, but are not limited to: fried chicken, biscuits, anything you happen to be frying (seriously, anything that goes in a frying pan) and extracting a splinter (put the grease over the splinter, put a bandaid on it and leave it on overnight).
Bacon grease keeps for about a month. Any longer than that and it starts to get rancid, so be conscious of how long it’s been in your fridge.
Sources: WonderHowTo, Momma Williams’ good advice and trial-and-error.