Magazine article The Spectator

Food

Magazine article The Spectator

Food

Article excerpt

IT's been a quiet summer here at Dross Publications Inc., largely because the editorial team have proved themselves lazy and useless (BEYOND BELIEF!), and I would sack them all, was going to sack them all, but then remembered that I am the editorial team. I could sack myself, I suppose, but I'm reluctant to do so because I'll cry, and I truly cannot stand to see anyone cry. Don't know where to look and all that. So I'll just have to carry on working for myself, I guess, which does have some advantages, because when my copy is late and I insist the dog ate it, I do tend to believe myself. I'm good to work for, I'll give me that. Do I have a dog? I hope so, because I have always wanted one. Perhaps it's a chocolate Labrador with big, mournful eyes.

Now, on to bacon. Hang on, I can hear you saying, what's bacon got to do with anything? What the bloody hell are you going on about now? Ah, but the thing is, I do have some quite serious things to say about bacon, and it all ties up with Dross Publications Inc. because, such is my newly acquired expertise, I'm thinking of expanding into radio with Talk Pork (960 MW, or lower if you are using a fan oven). I've become quite an expert on bacon lately because it just makes me so cross. You know how it is: you put a load in the frying pan, but will it fry? It will not. It just sort of poaches itself in a white glue. Recently, even, I tried to save a panful by draining it - I think you know that someone has been messing around with your bacon when you have to drain it through a colander - and whacking it under the grill. But would it crisp up? No, it would not. It simply shrank further, leaked more white gunge into the grill pan, and then just sort of steamed. In the end, it went from pan to cat's bowl to bin, because not even our cat, Fatbelly - which shows you how fussy he usually is - would touch it. Actually, now I think about it, the fact that I have a cat probably means I don't have a dog ... I'm going to call myself in for a good talking to tomorrow.

So it made me think, which I accept is a novelty, and my head still hurts from it, but what exactly are you buying when you are buying most bacons? We all know modern, mass-produced bacon contains added water, but why? How? Well, traditional bacon is made by rubbing meat with salts and (sometimes, depending on the cure) sugars, placing it on trays for a few days to allow the juices to drain, then hanging it for a week or more. However, large-scale factory processors inject their meat with a saline solution (which often contains MSG, the artificial flavour enhancer which produces the white gunge) by pumping the meat with hundreds of needles. This process not only doubles the size of the meat, but also means you can cure pork in 12 hours as opposed to the three weeks it would otherwise take. So it profits everyone. Or would do, if only it didn't solely profit the manufacturer. I did try to speak to one of these manufacturers, but he wasn't having it. `Can you assure me it's not an article on how awful British bacon is?'

`Um ... noT I don't think we are going to keep in touch.

However, the thing I most wanted to know is: once you've cooked the meat and removed all the water, does it actually work out cheaper? What's the real price? To this end, I bought several bacons (all unsmoked back bacon as far as possible), weighed out 200g, grilled the rashers for five minutes each side, weighed the meat afterwards, then worked out the cost for 100g of cooked product. Here are the results:

Tesco Value: L0.78p for 200g. Cooked weight: 125g. Price per 100g cooked: 62.5p

Jack Scaife Ltd Dry Cure Bacon: L1.71 for 200g. Cooked weight: 175g. Price per 100g cooked: 97.7p

Waitrose free range: L1.80 for 200g. Cooked weight: 160g. Price per 100g cooked: L1.12

Royal Crest: L1. …

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