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Bacon: Can you improve an already amazing food?

GOSHEN, IN -- Bacon is such a flavorful food – probably more flavorful than most foods. One piece of bacon can go a long way. Since more people are further removed from the farm, the question of what bacon is, or where it comes from, is genuine, so I will begin with a lesson from a butcher's perspective. The cut of meat from pork that is used to make bacon comes from the side or belly of a pig. Next, food science works its magic, and the meat is cured and smoked and becomes bacon.

So why do you like bacon? I think it is the flavor; the abundance of fat gives bacon its sweet flavor and tender crispiness and of course the salt really helps too. I like bacon just about any way you use it in food, for many years a piece of raisin bread toast with 3 slices of bacon cooked in the toaster oven was my breakfast.

When you buy bacon it is typically sold in slices. If you have the pleasure of visiting any of our local meat markets you will often see bacon in its slab form and you can have it sliced at the thickness you want. To me bacon from our local meat markets has more flavor than what you purchase prepackaged.

When it comes to bacon I want real bacon. Products like turkey bacon, reduced fat/salt bacon just aren't the same, I would rather have one or two pieces of the real bacon. I know that it is convenient but the precooked bacon isn't my choice either.

Recently I was a guest in a restaurant that boasts local food and one of their specialty sandwiches was a bacon lettuce tomato sandwich. The bacon was what they called 'candied;' it was tasty but there was not much on the sandwich. So this provided me the opportunity on how could I make the flavored bacon at home?

But first let's talk about the ways to cook bacon, of which there are a variety of ways. The first way most people think of is pan-frying but even with a splatter control cover for the skillet it makes a mess. Broiling is another way where the bacon is placed on the broiler pan or a jellyroll pan, turning the slices at least once. Another way to cook the bacon is baking; I personally think this is the best way and for me the easiest. I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the cast iron skillet in the oven and then after a few minutes I lay the slices in the skillet and bake for 10 minutes and then turn, the total length of time depends on how thick the bacon is and how crisp you like your bacon. You can also use a roasting rack in the skillet or the roasting rack in a glass pan or a jellyroll pan.

You can purchase flavored bacon that might have been smoked with hickory or maple or had flavoring added to it somehow. Once I had this candied bacon my brain was thinking of how I could make this flavor or others. I know some of you are saying don't mess with the bacon, but this was good. I have red hot cinnamon syrup that I make from melting red hots and I mixed it with a little maple syrup. I spread the bacon out in a plastic bag and drizzled the syrup mixture over the bacon and since I like cracked pepper I also added some. I then placed the bag in the refrigerator for a day and then baked it in the cast iron skillet. Wow, what flavor. What a BLT I made! I used two huge slices of tomato, lots of spring mix, 2 toasted pieces of homemade bread and 4 slices of the bacon. To some people I didn't have enough bacon or others might say I had too much tomato or lettuce, but I liked it. The flavor was definitely worth the work.

I encourage you to create your own flavor combination and try creating some flavored bacon of your own. The effort and time will create some great flavor!