Jan 25 2012
Who doesn’t love bacon? Everything is better with butter, but the same is true with bacon, right? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and even dessert (mmmm, chocolate covered bacon!). Bacon can be eaten at any meal, any time! And of course there’s turkey bacon, chicken bacon, beef bacon and pork bacon — but will the real bacon please stand up? Well, to me the real bacon comes from pigs of course. When I first started learning more about nutrition, over ten years ago, I stopped eating pork products. Pigs eat anything and everything, are supposedly full of parasites, biblically unclean, and oh, gasp! lets not even talk about the saturated fat content! While this may be true of factory farmed pork, I have since discovered that pork that has been organically and humanely raised, on pasture by small local farms is quite different.
Vitamin D and Pork
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, pork fat (lard) is the second richest source of vitamin D, with cod liver oil being the best source. In fact, there are 500 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon of lard. But, there is a catch. Since we know that vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, the pigs have to be outside, or on pasture, being exposed to sunshine in order for them to manufacture vitamin D. And because pigs are generally light skinned with little hair on their bodies, they have the ability to manufacture a lot more vitamin D from the sun than say, chickens, or cows. Pigs in confinement will not be a good source of Vitamin D. What is the big deal about vitamin D anyway? Well, we know from the studies Weston Price conducted on traditional peoples, that on average, those healthy cultures got ten times more vitamin D (and other fat-soluble vitamins) than most people do now. Vitamin D is important for fighting infections (one of the main reasons we catch more colds and flus in the winter), depression, bone health, cancer prevention, and so much more. It is estimated that 77% of Americans are deficient. (source)
Parasites and Pork
Pork meat is one we have been conditioned to make sure we cook thoroughly to kill parasites, specifically trichinosis. This is one of the main reasons I avoided serving pork to my family for so long. Even if you do thoroughly cook your pork and kill any potential parasites, the thought of eating dead parasites wasn’t exactly appetizing. Well, I found it curious that Dr. Weston Price, during his travels in the 1930′s, found several traditional cultures that ate pork and were in superb health. These cultures of course had no fear of the fat content of pork and ate of it freely. But, their pigs were pastured, which I believe makes all the difference. When an animal is living in a healthy environment and eating appropriate food for their species, they are unlikely to be infested with parasites. However, this may have still posed a problem from time to time, so traditional people also knew how to properly prepare pork to destroy any potential parasites. In the Fall 2011 issue of the Wise Traditions journal, this method was investigated. By using salt and or vinegar to cure or marinate pork, it was found to be effective in killing parasites in pork meat and make pork easier to digest. You can read the article here.
Saturated Fat and Pork
Pork has a bad rap for being high in cholesterol and saturated fat. For years now we have been brain washed into believing that saturated fat is bad for us and to avoid it like the plague for fear of clogged arteries, heart attacks and stroke! Thanks to the Weston A. Price Foundation, we now know that we have been lied to and that saturated fat is actually good for us. In her book “Fat”, Jennifer McLagan states that lard and bacon fat only contain 39% saturated fats, 45% monounsaturated fats, and 11% polyunsaturated fats. So, pork fat actually does not have a high saturated fat content, which I think is too bad! I personally try to eat the majority of my fats as saturated as possible, while trying to minimize the mono and polyunsaturated fats. Why do I do this? Saturated fats are the most stable and highly resistant to oxidation. The less saturated a fat is, the less stable it is and is therefore more likely to go rancid and create free radicals. And those nasty free radicals are what causes damage in our bodies. Free radicals = cellular death. Cancer anyone? No thanks!
Today I am sharing with you an easy recipe for making your own bacon. But why would you bother? First, cost. It is always cheaper to make things from scratch rather than pay someone to pre-make it for you. Second, chemicals. Since bacon is a preserved food, it almost always contains preservatives of some kind. Here are the ingredients in a typical package of bacon found in a grocery store: pork, water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphate, dextrose, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, smoke.
Of particular concern, and what I personally try to avoid in all cured meats are:
Sodium Nitrites/Nitrates – Used as a preservative, antibacterial, antimicrobial and coloring agent in many processed meats, are converted to cancer-causing nitrosamines in the body. According to nutritionist Mike Adams, when consumers eat sodium nitrite in popular meat products, nitrosamines are formed in the body where they promote the growth of various cancers, including colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. “Sodium nitrite is a dangerous, cancer-causing ingredient that has no place in the human food supply,” he explains. (source)
Sodium Erythorbate – A chemical version of vitamin C, used as a food preservative with no nutritional value. It has been found to cause general side effects such as headaches, body flushing, generalized fatigue and malaise, dizziness, lightheadedness and hemolysis. Has also been found to have gastrointestinal and renal side effects. (source)
By making your own bacon, you have the ability to procure the best quality pork available to you. If it is pastured, it will have a high vitamin D content (which many of us are lacking) and you will be able to control the ingredients while still making delicious, easy bacon! I am using both sea salt and apple cider vinegar in my recipe to cure, flavor and kill any potential parasites.
Easy, Homemade, Chemical-Free Bacon
- 1 lb pastured pork belly, fresh and uncured
- 1 TBS unrefined sea salt
- 1 TBS organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 TBS maple syrup, honey, sucanat or palm sugar
- 1 tsp organic molasses
- Optional: Spices of your choice, such as black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, etc.
1. Your pork belly may come as one whole piece, or for convenience, you can ask your butcher to slice it for you. Slip the whole piece of belly into a large zip-lock bag, or a shallow glass container.
2. In a small bowl, combine all the the ingredients together. It will have a paste-like consistency.
3. Smear the paste all over the pork belly or slices with your hands, or if using the bag, dump the paste into the bag, and use the bag to help smear the paste all over the meat.
4. Place the pork belly into the fridge and let sit overnight. By morning, your bacon will be ready to enjoy for breakfast. If your pork belly was not pre-sliced for you, use a sharp knife to slice pieces off as thick as you like.
5. Fry bacon slices slowly in a cast iron pan over low-medium heat. Be careful not to use high heat because the sugar in the bacon may burn.
Enjoy! And be sure to save that delicious bacon fat for another yummy dish!