Getting By

Thinking outside the sandwich with bacon

When discussing meat with vegetarians (I’m nothing if not sensitive) there’s always one variety most of them still find tempting: bacon. And for people in the UK as a whole, their first thought is The Bacon Sandwich.

Because of this ‘junk’ rendition – and its reputation for high fat and salt – bacon is automatically assumed these days to be a one-dimensionally naughty treat. But actually, the bread part of the treat is the main problem. Bread is one of the most addictive foods known to Man: and the moreish feeling one gets after the first bacon sarny invariably leads to a second one when, let’s face it, it seems churlish not to whack lots of bacon in that one too.

There is actually a lot more to bacon than this. It’s highly nutritious and, while it isn’t recommended for anyone in possession of a blood pressure problem, it can go one heck of a long way, have its fat vastly reduced….and make ordinary things into supper party talking points.

A lot of cheap bacon today is full of water to bulk out the weight, and can be tasteless apart from overwhelming saltiness. But it’s this very cheap stuff I’m going to recommend.

Producing bacon is quite wasteful, and in recent years several makers have hit on the idea of ‘bacon misshapes’. Oddly enough, not many supermarkets sell them, but most convenience stores and small local shops do. You can get half a kilo of this stuff for around £2. If you’re lucky enough to have a local independent butcher who knows what he’s doing, you could probably negotiate a similar deal from him for his offcuts.

It’s crap for traditional bacon sandwiches – too thick and irregular – but then it wouldn’t taste nice in that context anyway. This is what yer do.

Take a large saucepan, put it over a lowish light, bung the entire contents in there, and put the lid on. After about 15 minutes, you’ll find the bacon swimming in its own juices. Keep draining the liquid off into a container: you’ll be needing it later. When the liquid is nearly gone, empty the meat onto a flat roasting pan (or baking tray) and pop into the mid-height of a medium temperature oven. Cook it to the nearly-crispy stage, take out and cool. Pick at some of it. (That’s not an instruction, more what I’d call a certainty).

Once cool, take off any excess crispy fat (or don’t, depending on your need for dangerous hedonism) and chop the bacon into small squares. Set some aside for immediate requirements if you have any. Otherwise, put the bacon bits into a freezer box (I use cleaned old Clover packs), and mark it ‘bacon bits’ as a memory aid for when you reach in there three weeks later and wonder WTF it is.

Put the cooled liquids into the fridge. Next day, all the fat will have formed on the top, rock-hard, and be very easy to clip off and discard. What’s left is a jelly of salty intensity with about a million uses. With imagination and some help from Tim Geithner, you could leverage that into a trillion at least.

By and large, this is what I find your meagre investment can deliver:

A spaghetti carbonara’s bacon contents to feed six. (Supermarket chilled sauces are often abundant in the Reduced to Clear racks, especially on Sunday afternoons. They really have to go, so picking one up for 90p is not uncommon.)

The bacon bits for at least three large avacado, lettuce, chicken and tomato salads.

Enough bacon for four omelettes.

A delicious addition to a huge potato casserole on wintry nights with a large glass of beefy wine and lashings of chicken gravy with oh my God I got carried away, sorry.

Now for the salt jelly. You can keep this for quite a few days in the fridge, but it’s not like duck fat that lasts forever. I use it as a flavouring, or for preserving fish.

Add it to savoury boiled rice in the last few minutes of cooking time.

Use it as a braising medium for fillets of sea bass. (Fish too is another great bargain in reduced to clear: four bass fillets last Monday bank holiday evening for £1.30).

Take some haddock, pop it in a small freezer bag, add the salt jelly, slosh it all around in there, bung it in the freezer for a week or two. Take it out, and the next time you’re using rice as a carbohydrate, bung the salt fish on top once the rice is drying out. It salts the rice in an entirely different way (less intense) but makes the whole taste delicious with jumbo prawns stir-fried in sliced green beans.

Use it instead of anchovies to add richness to beef casseroles on wintry nights with a vat of Rioja and Guinness gravy plus sorry, sorry.Calm down Ward, calm down.

So there you are. All that taste experience for two quid. Ingenuity can be fun. You know it makes sense. Eatapoundaporkaday. Do try this at home.

41 thoughts on “Getting By

  1. Lidl do a kg for less than £2, and we have found it to be less watery, and, if you sift through the packs, often you can find some that have rashers in the normal sense, so the buttie can be had :)

  2. My daughter was seduced from vegetarianism after 5 years by a bacon sarnie. I like mine with mushrooms or brown sauce.

    As with the beer I buy local and if not that, British. Never Danish, anyone with the least respect for animals would be appalled at what Danish pig farmers do to their pigs. Of course pigs everywhere get slaughtered, thats not the bit I object too. Several years ago I took a belated gap year in the sticks and raised 2 pigs. They provided the best entertainment we’d had in years. Tasted fantastic too! When the collapse comes and local planning rules go out of the window I’m looking forward to having a couple in my town garden.

    • @PhilE: “I’m looking forward to having a couple in my town garden”
      Me too, I thought I would have Venizelos for one, can’t make my mind up on the other pig yet though…..

    • PhilE,

      Got some good news for you fella: keeping pigs is lawful now—along with any other domestic livestock. Oh, and so is erecting a building to keep them in. Google “SI 2008 No 2362″ for details. Trotters all round!

  3. Excellent stuff, John.

    I am one of those vegetarian PITA too. I find that finely sliced and flash fried smoked tofu is a more than acceptable alternative. With lashings of salt + HP sauce. Obviously.

    Years ago, we moved into an ancient cottage on Dartmoor and had to have the chimney swept (after filling the place with smoke for three days). The sweep managed to dislodge a great lump of something which came down with a bit of a thump and a further helping of crud to be cleared up later on. The lump turned out to be an entire side of bacon. We stood there inspecting this for some moments and, glancing at each other conspiratorially, had the same thought. Penknives were drawn, incisions were made (think “Silent Witness”) and bless me if deep within the stuff it appeared to be half-edible. I drew the line at further experimentation but he was made of sterner stuff – they breed ‘em ‘ard up there you know – and essayed a small piece which he declared to be most palateable. In a selfless spirit of neighbourly generosity I offered him the balance, but he reluctantly declined, observing that “the missus widn go fer un”. We fed it to the dog, who didn’t stop drinking water for the remainder of the day…

  4. Or, with the cheap bacon pieces, chop some up along with a red onion or two, couple large mushrooms, half a few small potatoes, some small chantenay carrots, you can add leeks and parsnips if you like, then, put the whole lot in a big roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil on top, throw on as much chicken as you like (you can use the really cheap stuff) and put in a hot oven and roast. One pot meal, again wash down with copious quantities of your favourite tipple.

  5. Sainsbury’s Basics cooking bacon is £1 for 670g and is usually very good. It varies as it is made up from various ends and mishapes, some smoked some not. As it is vacuum packed in a clear wrapper it is possible to tell, by colour, if most of it is smoked and it is also obvious whether there is a thick steak or two, a good proportion of decent rashers, or just a load of tiny scrappy bits.

    A good pack is the best value in the whole store.

    I use any chunky bits in a Spanish style meat and bean stewp.

  6. Oh, and if anybody is fond of smoked salmon, Tesco’s are doing a “value” pack, it’s 200gms for £2.70 I recall, it’s advertised as “different smokes but similar cuts” It’s very good value for money, all can be used for sandwiches or with pasta and a fresh tomato sauce.

    • KFC
      They are – but only via Reduced to Clear for the good stuff. The whole side for £7 i slightly better value.

  7. I’ve been buying Sainsburys Basic cooking bacon for years, however I divide the packs up and freeze the bacon bits raw. I never, ever use the fat/jelly/water that oozes out on cooking. Water is there, yes, but also loads of dreaded E numbered chemicals. Preservatives, anti-oxidants, emulsifiers and stabilizers, even colouring and flavour enhancers. That ‘salty water’ is probably E450 – polyphophates. No thanks, not for me. I throw it away.

    • I forgot to say, that if you want to avoid water/chemicals, I recommend trying British Dry Cured bacon, – thick sliced if you can get it.

  8. @kfc. Asda Smartprice Smoked salmon trimmings.
    90p. Great with Scrambled eggs and toasted muffin (of the oven bottom variety)

  9. your absolutely right about bread in my opinion – people eat a ridiculous amount and its not good for you

    • Until a few years ago I always felt bloated, sometimes feeling sick, after eating bread based meals.
      As I liked bread someone suggested that I make my own and see if this helped. It did and now I eat a fair amount of home baked (breadmaker) bread without problem. Start with flour, do not use bread mixes as these tend to contain all the artificial enhancers that are in mass produced bread.
      Added bonus is that a loaf is half the price, assuming that the machine lasts more than a few years.

    • I think ‘real’ bread is ok. Home baked without all the additives. What can be nicer that ‘real’ cheese in ‘real’ bread with pickled onions and washed down with ‘real’ ale?

  10. Maxi P.
    I’ve taken to making my own. Sometimes with a Store bought premix, but sometimes from scratch.
    Delicious and nutritious. You don’t need to eat a lot.
    Bloggers – I Seem to have been stuck in noabletocomment land for a while there – but been following every day.

  11. This is of course, the most powerful form of activism possible. Silently and without use of placards or protests people can shun the overpriced, overpackaged and oversold ‘premium’ products in favour of more practical solutions such as JW’s which demonstrates ingenuity and skill. If the occupy movement were to teach people how to cook with basic ingredients and simple techniques such as JW’s they might be able to achieve something without getting pepper sprayed. Today I enjoyed a home made pizza made from scratch with flour, cheese and vegetables did I pay £15 for someone to deliver me a box of trans fats and lard… No.

  12. Almost four months ago – and I can’t even remember why – I decided to stop eating all wheat products: bread, breakfast cereals, sweet and savoury biscuits, pizza and pasta. Wthin a day I was feeling more alert, within a month I had lost 3.5kg in weight, most of this from a layer of fat around the front of my tummy. I am quite fit and exercise regulaly (because I enjoy it as much as anything else) at the gym here at work, don’t drink too much and have a savoury rather than a sweet tooth. But, to bring this back to your entry, one thing which was very noticeable was that hunger pangs simply stopped. Yes, of course I get hungry, but it is a gradual feeling and I can eat anything up to three hours later without discomfort. I should add tha perhaps my new diet of compensating for the lack of wheat products by eating more fruit and vegetables and consumimg less milk, butter and sugar has something to do with it. It helps that I like cooking and enjoy preparing food such. A typical lunch at home might be very thinkly sliced raw leek with thinly sliced apple, freshly ground pepper and olive oil with soused herring or chicken breast or some other protein. I would advise anyone to try giving up wheat products. They will most certainly feel better for it.n Yes, I do miss pasta and pizza but what the hell, it’s not the end of the world.

    • @pfgp Each fall I walk for a month in France and/or Spain. I have to reduce weight and be reasonably fit. So, once the snow has melted I increase my exercise regime (gym and walking) and stop eating bread (and butter, marmalade, sandwich fillers etc). I lose 2-3 kg a month. Regrettably, our winters are hard and the weight returns. Mind you, the thought of a bacon sandwich…

    • pfgp
      Spot on. I succumb sometimes, but always regret it. I think it’s the yeast that does for me.
      Rice flour and oats makes a decent soda bread. Very filling indeed!

      • JW.

        Try sourdough. Not bought, but the make your own in the first place and keep the culture going (keep back a little of the dough each time to mix up with the new flour/water–rinse and repeat) Goes on forever. Lasted me 6 weeks at sea once. Deeee–lish and so easy.

    • I was going to give up bread/wheat too (honest injun), but just before I did, my better half bought a breadmaker. Just flour, water, yeast, oil. Perfecto. I fear I am doomed, fabulous bread, totally addictive.
      (My willpower, a fearsome beast, has been corrupted -and don’t even think about biscuits)

  13. Brill suggestion and recipe John. It will go well with my world famous Caesar Salad, too. I’ll let you have the recipe for that if you want. Damn it – even if you don’t want.

  14. JW your article made me laugh out loud in the office ,oops must get back to work…Your a gastronomic genius :o)….

  15. you just got me remembering that after our weekend joint of meat my mum would keep the fat from the roast and sunday night i’d ask whats for tea and reply would always be ‘bread and dripping’ .. i was never a fan myself but my mum and dad loved it spread thick on white bread.. sure its not good for you but hey ho.. i’ve been a veggie for over 20 years now but john your right for the first few years it was always the smell and sight of a bacon sandwich that tempted me back though cooked chicken skin was a close second..

    Wish i had space i’d love to have chickens.. free fresh eggs chicken poo great for the garden and they eat bugs if yo grow veggies.. and i would have fun naming them.. could have angela.. edwina …. christine

  16. JW: “A delicious addition to a huge potato casserole on wintry nights with a large glass of beefy wine and lashings of chicken gravy with oh my God I got carried away, sorry”

    I got carried away just reading that…….

  17. To all you Brit pork lovers…

    If you can obtain a pork shoulder with the fat layer still on it (far too many markets are now cutting the fat off), cut that fat layer off and cut into bite sized pieces. Put them on a shallow roasting pan or cookie sheet with tall sides and put them in the oven around 300-350 degrees F. They will make a clear to yellowy liquid lard which is the best cooking fat in the world especially in biscuit recipes that call for oil, diets be damned.

    In fact, most of the old ingredients, like butter, salt and whole milk, are probably better for you, if consumed in sane amounts, than the crappy products like margarine and cooking oils are like our Crisco which is an artery clogger for sure.

    The left over crispy portions are what we call pork rinds or ‘chitlins’ in the south.

    With a little salt or hot sauce and a beer and your favorite sedentary activity like football or bird watching and you have a great experience.

    As to the bacon, I buy a three pound package of ‘ends and pieces’ for under $5 which is cheaper than ‘perfectly sliced’ bacon. The larger chunks can be put in with string beans and onions like the southern cooks in my family did when I grew up. Or, you can take a few seconds and hand slice the pieces down to flatter pieces that will fry better.

    I like John’s idea of using the oven and freezing the bits for later use. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get from the oven or frying pan to the freezer without my bacon disappearing.

    I love my bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on good toasted bread with nothing but mayonnaise, especially if my tomatoes are home grown.

    My mouth is watering now so I have to get a towel.

    MY BLOG: http://goldtradercommentsaugust2010.blogspot.com/

  18. Here’s a good one – though perhaps not one that would work with the misshapes. Get a few bananas and peel. Slice the banana into 3cm pieces. Get some bacon and cut lengthways. Wrap the bacon around the banana pieces, securing them together with a cocktail stick, then put in the oven on a medium heat for 30-40 mins, depending on how crispy you like the bacon. Serve with mango chutney, but beware – the banana is like molten lava when you first take it out. A dish of these will not last long at a party.

    • Wondeful! We have the mango chutney from our own mangos…have our own bananas and bacon from our own pigs…always called Lawson and Lamont.
      Off to the oven…

      • nijs1 – that’s terrible, how could you? Those poor pigs .. naming them after politicians ;-)

      • Are they called that so their slaughter is slightly less hard to bear? Because there are more contemporary figures whose names would make it even easier. Brown, Mandelson, Clegg, Cameron, Osborne etc…

  19. Grill 2 or three or four or five- smoked streaky rashers of bacon- cut a banana lengthwise- grill it untill it sizzles- toast 2 slices of brown bread- spread one slice with mustard- bung on the cooked bacon and bananas- sandwich together- ohh delight- delish

  20. Dry cured, rind-on.

    Can’t beat crispy bacon rind.

    Being am ex-career soldier I ‘ve been around a bit and nowhere on earth eats UK style bacon. In fact, when my regiment was on Bosnia, the foreign press had a mysterious knack of being in the bases at Vitez and Gornji Vakuf just in time for breakfast. They all thought the British breakfast – in particular British-style bacon and British style sausages, was absolutely gorgeous.

    http://www.savepenrhos.com

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