Bacon makes up many of our favourite dishes: it's slipped into burgers, laid out as part of a Full English breakfast, tossed into pastas, salads, on pizzas and then of course there's the good old bacon butty.
And so it was no surprise when I discovered that Bacon Connoisseurs' Week has been launched. And the organisers sent me a selection of bacon products that recently made the shortlist in The Great Bacon Revolution Awards. The whole point of the week is to challenge old attitudes about bacon and showcase some of the more unusual recipes and products out there. Here's a run down of some of the shortlisted products I got to try...
Ludlow Food Centre's Gloucester Old Spot and Black Pepper Bacon
Dry cured at Oakly Park Estate in Shropshire, this is one unusual bacon. It was a finalist in the 'butchers' category of the awards and has a nice pinkness to it, which you notice straight away, thanks, of course, to the beetroot. The black pepper isn't overpowering and the beetroot gives the bacon a slight sweetness. The texture of the pork is firm and not brittle after grilling. This was my personal favourite. If I'd had any more of it I'd have grilled it and snipped it into a salad, with lots of green salad leaves and perhaps some goat's cheese or Wensleydale crumbled in, too.
Wiltshire Cured Back Bacon flavoured with Sweet Chilli
This bacon, speckled with red chilli, was my husband's favourite of the four and was a finalist in the 'food service' category. You expect it to be quite spicy, but it isn't. The sweet chilli just gives a freshness to the bacon, kind of like a sweet pepper; rather than the spiciness of a chilli. Great to perk up a bacon sandwich or alongside some scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Heston from Waitrose Vanilla Back Bacon Rashers
We've tried this before, in another post. And, as before, the bacon rashers have a musky sweetness, a bit like when you walk between the candy floss stall and the hot dog stand at a fair - it's a combination that, unexpectedly, works. And that vanilla-scented bacon is right at home in a creamy Carbonara sauce, tossed with pasta.
Denhay Dry Cured by Hand Traditional Bacon (Smoked)
This product won gold at the Great Taste Awards in 2012. It's firm and quite thinly-sliced and is rubbed with sea salt before being matured and smoked over beechwood. A really good all-rounder for any day of the week.
Other notable shortlisted bacon products included: Gabbot's Farm Cherry Smoked Bacon, Tulip's Unsmoked Cooked Maple Cured Bacon and Morrison's Old Fashioned Cure British Back Bacon: Cured with ingredients including juniper, cloves and muscovado sugar.
Have you tried any interesting flavours of bacon, cured with unusual ingredients? Which flavours work best with bacon, do you think?