As I sit here and write this blog I am thinking about my weekend of bacon. You might be a bit horror stricken, or envious to read what I consumed in bacon this weekend. Trust me though, it was all for a good cause and frankly I would do it all again.
Several years go (about a decade), I started making my own bacon. Before it became the internet sensation it is today, with the myriad of recipes and people making it, we were playing with bacon flavours like Black Pepper, Habanero, Jerked Bacon, Vanilla Bacon, Maple Bacon, and so many more. Customers were always given samples and we sold a bunch of it. Unfortunately when I built our meat packing plant I never took into consideration that I would get into dried and cured meats as much as I did. We had to stop selling our bacon as we just weren't set up for it. We have people ask us daily if we were bringing back the bacon, we always had to sadly say no.
Recently we purchased machinery and testing equipment that would allow us to make shelf stable products, and we did it mainly for beef jerky. My wife, Beth, asked me if we could use that same testing equipment to make a few other products I had dabbled with over time. It was like a wet smack in the face, YES. I could. So many great products. One of those products was Pig Candy, so we started experimenting with recipes, shelf stability, and bacon. Everything was going well except one final piece of the puzzle, most commercial bacon isn't really that great to begin with, let alone after long cooking and drying cycles called for with shelf stability.
I mentioned this to a colleague of mine that works for the Ontario Independent Meat Processors group I belong too and he mentioned a few companies I could try. The only criteria I had was they had to be dried cured, and it must be 100% fully Ontario raised pork. One of the companies I recognized through work we do with The Whole Pig. So I called Metzger Meats and talked to Gerhard and luck be had, he was coming down to Oshawa in a week and agreed to bring me a 5-6 kg box of their bacon. I waited like a kid waiting to eat his smarties, or in line to get ice cream. I was very excited as the Whole Pig had always told me how amazing the bacon was they bought from Metzger Meats.
Friday came, I received the call - the bacon is on it's way. At the time I was sitting with some friends at our downtown location and just exclaimed, gotta go, bacon and walked out. I met with Gerhard and had a great chat about business, life, and the future, he was as nice as I had heard. Which was great because I like the companies I do business with to be headed by that style of individual.
Now, onto the really important part of this long blog, the bacon! I always say bacon! with an exclamation, it needs it. I had to leave Whitby for downtown immediately after the meeting and took a few lbs out of the box with me. The smell was meat intoxicating, you know that scent that fills a room when a piece of meat requires that you eat it, yea, that one. I asked the staff if they wanted to try some of the new bacon we might be using, nobody said no. I cooked up a lb and we devoured it. OMG's and wow's filled our speech patterns. I had finally found a bacon that I could happily sell as a product to our customers, amazing. Now we had to try out the hard part, drying the product.
Turns out that's how I ended up eating so much bacon, I woke up, cooked 1.5 lbs and fought ruthlessly with Beth and my son over it. Threats were made, we all ended up happy in the end though and agreed, the bacon was pretty spectacular. Off to work, and I started by filling our smoker / dehydrator with bacon, couple kg's, testing it at different cooking times for texture, taste, chewiness, etc. Finally hitting that sweet spot where we could call the product shelf stable, and it still had all the hallmarks you would be happy to find when you pulled your bacon out of the pan at home. During this time we ran our lab tests during each phase to make sure we were within the specifications set forth by the CFIA for drying meats. I can honestly, and unashamedly say I have eaten more bacon, although it was when I was making it. 2-3 strips for each test, dozens of tests throughout the day, a bacon lovers dream really.
Finally, the last 2 products we tested for were Bacon Jerky, and Pig Candy. They both turned out delicious, more on the pig candy soon. So before Thanksgiving we will be introducing the following products, available on our shelves, and shortly in better butcher shops and stores. Fully Cooked Bacon Strips, Bacon Bits (full size bits too), Bacon Jerky, and Pig Candy. We will also be carrying the Metzger Meats brand of bacon as a 1lb retail product that you can take home and cook on your own stove.
We are expecting our first shipment in sometime this week, we will announce on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when it arrives. Follow us on any of those for quick peeks into our daily announcements.