If you were to ask me what the number one benefit of purchasing a half or whole pasture-raised hog, my answer would be, without a doubt, the bacon. Now almost any bacon is good under normal circumstances, but thick-cut bacon from a pastured hog elevates bacon to a whole new level of awesomeness. The sort of thing that inspires one to wear a t-shirt such as this…maybe even with a pair of Underoos and a cape?
Unfortunately, there is a downside to how good this bacon is; there isn’t enough! A whole pig yields only about 10 pounds of this delectable treat, so we’ve got to hoard it, savor it, and serve it only to very distinguished guests (or just keep it for ourselves). We’ll serve everyone else the hams, chops, and roasts. Don’t get me wrong, those are good too…but they’re not bacon. So now you know how to tell if you’re special when you have breakfast at our house…
All kidding aside, pastured bacon is darn good. And it also contains something great for adding a little extra flavor when cooking other things – the leftover fat. You just need to be diligent enough to save that precious stuff when you are done cooking. And you want to keep as much of it from splattering all over the kitchen while you are cooking too. So how do we go about this in our kitchen? We BAKE it.
- 1 lb thick cut pastured bacon
- 15×10 stoneware “bar” pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bacon with as little overlapping as possible. Notice the nice “patina” on my stoneware? That’s called seasoning…and this happens to also be a great way to accomplish that as well.
When the oven is heated up (or even a little before…it won’t hurt anything), toss it in. Set a timer for about 20 minutes and check on it when the timer goes off. If it’s not done to your preference, then keep checking it every few minutes until it’s where you like it (I prefer chewy rather than crispy myself, and about 20~25 minutes is just right).
Transfer the bacon to a plate that has been covered with paper towel so that the bacon can drain a little. Set it aside until you are ready to serve. If your house is anything like ours, setting aside means putting it in a strong box with a padlock to keep the “pickers” from stealing a piece before the rest of their breakfast is ready! Set the stoneware aside to cool down a bit and go about enjoying breakfast.
Now comes the important final step. When you’ve finished eating, and the stoneware pan (with all that golden goodness in it) has had a chance to cool, grab a heavy-duty glass or ceramic container and pour all of the leftover bacon fat into it. Use a nylon scraper and get every little drop that you have the patience to collect (without getting too many of the little “crumbs” and such). Put a lid on it and store it in the fridge for the next time you are:
- browning meat (for anything – soup, stew, chili, pan-frying, etc)
- cooking eggs or omelettes
- sautéing veggies
- looking for a substitute for butter in a recipe (probably not for cookies though!)
- making pemmican
- needing a little “fat” snack (seriously…just a half teaspoon all by itself is SO tasty)
There you have it. An easy way to make bacon and save the fat to use for other recipes too. Enjoy!