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Everything's Better With Bacon

Everything's Better With Bacon

Meet a Truly Southern Meat

by Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Meet a truly southern meat.

It’s tough to beat a BLT. The simple combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato on a sandwich is pretty close to perfection. Great flavor, great texture, guaranteed to please. The original is a masterpiece, but if you’re feeling adventurous, sweeten the deal with Brown Sugar Bacon.

The key ingredient to a good BLT is the meat with the most attitude—bacon! If you aren’t familiar with the joys of cooking with bacon, then you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. Stick with us, we’ll show you the ropes.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or hail from north of the Mason-Dixon, you have probably been cooking with bacon since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Maybe you’ve noticed that food television, magazines, and cookbooks recently picked up on what Southerners have known for years: everything’s better with bacon.

Here’s a little back story on America’s favorite cured meat. Farmers in ancient times discovered that wild pigs, or boars, were easy to tame, and their meat was easy to preserve. Unlike its competitor, beef, pork’s small size made it ideal for preserving on small farms in brining barrels and smoke houses, while its high fat content made it more flavorful and less fibrous than cured beef. Until refrigeration became widely available in the early 1900s, fresh meat was expensive and preserving meat was necessary for all but the wealthy elite. Bacon, the fatty belly of the pig, became a favorite of American average Joes. Originally dry-cured, the more efficient wet-brining process took over after the early 1900s. The advent of refrigeration, efficient slicing, and convenient packing processes led to a boom in the bacon industry. Today, the pork belly is soaked in or injected with brine and smoked. Saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, has been used as a brining agent since the Middle Ages, but today most bacon is processed with the cheaper, more hygienic sodium nitrite. All are naturally occurring chemical compounds. Don’t worry, there won’t be a chemistry quiz at the end!

Until recently, cured pork was never more popular than in the post-Civil War and the Great Depression-Era-South. With no room in the budget to be wasteful, the versatile pig provided many meals with variety and flavor. Southerners cooked pork in some form in most every meal, and the strong smoky flavor of bacon covered many sins of poverty. Leftover breads made sweet and savory puddings like Paula’s Cornbread, Leek and Bacon Pudding. Cooking vegetables a bit past their prime tasted better cooked in bacon grease like Green Beans with New Potatoes. Cheap meats like bacon added protein to carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts like Eggs, Bacon and Skillet Fried Potatoes. Necessity created a cooking style unique to the South. Over time, bacon, and Southern cooking, found its way onto tables across the country.

Today, bacon is everywhere. Whether due to a resurgence of traditional cooking, or a backlash against the flavor lacking low-fat foods flooding grocery stores, bacon is back in a big way. No longer content to sit on the side of a breakfast plate, bacon has moved to the main ingredient in desserts, snacks, and even old favorites like pizza (Scallop and Bacon Pizza), salads (Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing) and pie(Vidalia Onion Pie). All over the country, restaurants, bakeries, and everyday home cooks are getting creative with bacon. Why don’t you buy a pound and fry something new?

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Reader Comments:

 

I love putting into new things that people wouldn’t expect, like cheeseballs, casseroles, lasagnas and cold bean salads. 

I have my jar of bacon grease sitting in my fridge, and use it all the time.  Something my grandma taught me.

Greg Kantner of Tampa, Florida on March 08, 2010 09:47 AM

I Love bacon going to try spinach salad as soon I buy some bacon love the dressing but did not know hao make it.Also how long will it keep.

ramboe30 on March 08, 2010 11:51 AM

I love Bacon   !!!!
It makes any meal Better

Phil of Longwood, Florida on March 08, 2010 12:34 PM

I loved watching Paula on Craig Ferguson, but cannot find the twice-baked potato recipe anywhere!

It had bacon, shrimp, and chives, but don’t know what else.

Can anyone help?

Jessica of Ohio on March 08, 2010 03:17 PM

Hey Jessica of Ohio! I believe the recipe you are looking for is Michael’s Deluxe Twice-Baked Potatoes with Shrimp. It is in the new Deen Family Cookbook.

Libbie Summers, Paula Deen Food Editor of Savannah, GA on March 08, 2010 04:58 PM

I just want to say my mom and I finally tried your southern fried chicken…sooo yummy

Susan Clemson of Pennsylvania on March 08, 2010 09:44 PM

I use bacon (grease) as we call it to season all those old timer meals. How can we fix pinto beans without it. Leaf lettuce,tomatos and green onions are great with hot bacon grease to wilt it.I love it with cornbread and buttermilk.I do jowl for seasoning in a lot of meals.I guess I am just from the old school.

Darlene Carter of Waverly, Ohio on March 08, 2010 10:01 PM

I was watching Paula and Craig Ferguson’s show and she had a french bread recipe with (I think) turkey and cheese that you baked but I can’t remember the whole recipe.  Can anyone help me with this?

martha1959 of Nicholasville, ky on March 10, 2010 04:59 PM

In your new family cookbook you have a recipe with french bread and turkey and cheese that you bake.  Could someone tell me what the sauce was she put over it?

martha1959 of Nicholasville, ky on March 10, 2010 05:16 PM

im a young’in from the ol’ school a transplanted north carolina girl. Paula, I try 2 do u proud. as per my momma and grandma and her mother before, the bacon greasr container is ALWAYS in the middle of the stove!! u cant cook without bacon!!!

Katie Andrews of Trenton, New Jersey on March 11, 2010 06:59 AM

Where’s the 30 recipes? I counted 7 or 8?!

Carrie on March 11, 2010 04:01 PM

Paula I love you and your show!! I too love butter and bacon!! Please keep your dishes coming my family enjoys our meals..But they think I came up with them on my own..LOL..Please don’t dare tell them..After all I’m the best cooker they know!!    Love and best dishes,
              Tiffany Harris

tiffany harris of north carolina on March 12, 2010 09:41 AM

Carrie, go up to the site search box and type in bacon, it will take you to 10 pages of recipes with bacon.

April of Southern Indiana on March 12, 2010 11:19 AM

You are so right! Everything is better with bacon. My husband isn’t always open to trying new dishes, but when bacon is involved, I can be sure he needs no convincing!

I’ve already printed off two recipes for this weekend. He is going to be one happy hubby!

Lindsay Rudolph of Winchester, VA on March 12, 2010 04:13 PM

Hi Paula!

Although I grew up in the northeast (as my Texas cousin would say “the other side of the Mason-Dixon line” .. hahaha), my maternal grandmother also loved to use bacon in many of her recipes. She also kept a small stone crock/dish full of bacon grease covered with foil in the back of the fridge. We used it for fried potatoes w/onions, hot zucchini salad (I hope to submit that recipe very soon), and so many others. Talk about yummy!

Take care, Paula .. love ya!

Diane from Texas

Diane Milligan of San Antonio, TX on March 14, 2010 06:40 AM

Hey Diane Milligan! I can’t wait to see your recipe for hot zucchini salad. Sounds amazing!
Libbie Summers, Paula Deen Food Editor

Libbie Summers on March 15, 2010 10:48 AM

@Libbie Summers, I’ll have to call my sister for the hot zucchini salad recipe. I know it in my head what’s in it, but I can’t remember the proportions. I do know that you can adjust the proportions based on family size, and you can also adjust it for a church pot-luck as well. I’ll get back to you soon. grin

Diane Milligan of San Antonio, TX on March 15, 2010 09:59 PM

@Libbie Summers and everyone else here, including Paula: Here is my grandmother’s recipe for:

Hot Zucchini Salad

This recipe proportions are approximate and can be adjusted according to family size. It can also be made for church pot-luck dinners, bridal showers, and other parties.

Ingredients:
1 to 2 lb. Italian sweet or hot sausage (bulk)
½-1 C carrots cut into matchsticks
2 C fresh zucchini, washed and cut into cubes (you can also use half-zucchini and half-summer squash when in season)
½ C green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 C fresh green beans (you can either chop them or leave them whole)
1 large can (20 oz) Italian stewed or crushed tomatoes (I’ve also included 2 fresh tomatoes cut up – adds body)
Bacon grease or vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste when browning all vegetables


Instructions:

Brown sausage in hot skillet; remove and put into a large stew pot; using sausage grease, add carrot matchsticks and saute’ until just barely soft (should have a little crunch); remove and add to sausage in stew pot; if you don’t have much sausage grease in the sauté pan, use bacon grease or vegetable oil from this point and continue same process with zucchini and/or summer squash, green pepper and green beans until all vegetables are soft. Note:  Zucchini should have a little browning on the flesh before adding other vegetables. Once you have browned all your vegetables and added them to the stew pot, add stewed or crushed tomatoes. I sometimes have added 1 or 2 extra tomatoes (cubed and seeded) for added body, but that’s just a personal preference. Cover stew pot and bring to a simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft. The tomatoes will create a nice broth. Test for additional seasonings if needed.
This dish is wonderful with homemade bread or any store-bought artisan crusty breads. My favorite is Italian bread with roasted garlic compound butter. YUM! grin

You can also experiment with different seasonings or vegetables based on your personal preferences

Diane Milligan of San Antonio, TX on March 15, 2010 10:55 PM

Diane, this recipe sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us. How do you think it would be served over some sort of pasta?

Libbie Summers, Paula Deen Food Editor of Savannah, GA on March 17, 2010 10:12 PM

Libbie, I’m not sure about the pasta ... my family never did that before because the broth is quite “soupy” .. however, anyone can experiment with this recipe and make it their own ... I’d say go for it! grin Enjoy!

Diane Milligan of San Antonio, TX on March 18, 2010 02:20 PM

Paula, loved the artical. Also wanted to share with you a dish to try if you already haven’t tried it, it’s yummy. Cook up a mess of bacon, set the bacon aside, add diced onions to your bacon drippings, cook till tender, then add can or two of spinach and a TBS, of vinegar, crumble in the bacon and let simmer for about 20 min. I’m sure you.ll love it. My grandson of 10 does.

Katie Harmon of Dover, Ohio 44622 on March 19, 2010 06:53 AM

I too love bacon!! Here Jacksonville we have a pizza place called AL’s and they make a BLT pizza. So yummy I might have to go get one for dinner.

pcoll on March 20, 2010 02:52 PM

OMG!!!! BACON!!!!

Savannah of Chester on April 30, 2010 11:08 AM

I grew up in the North, although I claim I’m a Southern Girl because I was born and raised in southern PA.  We loved our bacon.  So many dishes that the south claims, we had in our home.  I don’t think they had to do with the area of the country but more the financial status of the home.  You call it sawmill gravy we called it milk gravy ... you call it chicken and dumplings, we called it chicken pot pie (as mother grandmother used to say it is a pie made in a pot ... nothing like those frozen meat pies they call pot pie).  But whatever you call it or where ever it’s made if it’s made with bacon it has to be GOOD.

Clairean of Hamlet, NC on July 06, 2010 10:37 AM

Regarding my recipe for Hot Zucchini Salad (March 15, 2010, 10:55 PM) - I forgot to include the bacon (approx 1/2 lb.), cooked until crispy, then chopped and use as a topping on the dish. YUM! smile

Diane Milligan of San Antonio, TX on July 06, 2010 10:09 PM

Help, I need to buy an old fashioned tin Bacon grease catcher!

deborah of Florida on October 24, 2010 07:04 PM

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