Lissuns in the Galley

Bacon and Bacon Joints

Lissuns in the Galley
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Dick McEachern Asks...
Sara Waterson Replies
Lois Asks...
Sara Replies...
Jan Garvin Adds...
Gerry Strey Asks...
Sara Replies...
Irish Bacon - Gary Brown

Dick McEachern Asks...
What is a bacon joint? US bacon is from the belly. Is it the shoulder or the ham?

Sara Waterson Replies
It can be from either, but probably more usually the shoulder. A bacon or gammon joint is usually a half leg or half shoulder these days, and is usually boned, tho my local butcher sells bacon 'hock' every Thursday, which is the lower half of a shoulder joint, on the bone. It's not fattening Jan if you boil the whole joint, then cut the lean away from the fat and skin, and throw all that away.
Belly pork and loin is turned into bacon, ie the stuff which is thinly sliced and eaten, e.g. with fried egg for breakfast in the UK; but bacon joints are from the larger limbs. Bacon merely signifies the pork meat has been brined or smoked.
Boiled bacon is eaten everywhere in the British Isles, not just in Ireland. It's one of my favourites. The trick is to boil it at barely a simmer; I soak the bacon joint for an hour or two, then put the bacon with a piece of carrot, celery and onion in the broth with a bayleaf and some peppercorns, and simmer it VERY gently for a good while, an hour or two depending on size. You can add a dash of cider vinegar. It's great served in the traditional English way with plain boiled potatoes, and broad beans in a thick parsley sauce [ie bechamel/white sauce, with chopped parsley in it]. You can buy frozen baby broad beans here in big supermarkets. Boiled hot beetroot is good too with it, and carrots or peas of course.
Sometimes I soak the bacon joint overnight in lots of water then roast it very gently fro a couple of hours instead, after studding the skin with cloves and rubbing it with a mixture of honey and marmalade. Delicious! - much richer than boiled bacon, and best served with spiced sweet and sour red cabbage.

Lois Asks...
Sara, the fact that your bacon even has a "joint", means it's a far, far different critter from what we throw in the pan here. I've had American bacon, Canadian bacon, even French and Spanish bacon, and there was nary a joint among them.
Is this a leg of something porcine, a segment?

Sara Replies...
Yes, it's a boned piece of leg, or shoulder, or loin, which has been brined [and sometimes smoked]. An entire joint with the bone in is called a ham of course! I even have the old family 'ham kettle', a large tin receptacle, oval in shape, with handles at each end and a trivet for taking out the ham when cooked. I remember both my mother and my grandmother using it often - it was traditional in my class of family to have a whole ham at Xmas and at Easter, and it was often cooked at home. When skinned [which must be done hot] you leave the ham to cool then coat it with breadcrumbs
The smaller joints [also called gammon joints] are sold here either by butchers who brine their own, or more usually in supermarkets in vacuum packs. I'm amazed if you can't find them! You can of course brine or salt your own joints of pork. It's a bit of a bother though. I can probably rustle up a receipt if you really want one... We salted our own hams in France, it takes weeks rather than days... and you need an awful lot of coarse salt!
By the way 'joint' here means a largish piece of meat cut off the carcass - we say 'a joint of beef / pork / lamb / bacon' etc. also used for game including game birds, but not for poultry. As in "Mr Aubrey, would you carve the joint please?" Not sure when the usage started though. So it doesn't 'have' a joint [tho it may if to take my drift...]- it IS a 'joint'.

Jan Garvin Adds...
Ah, I think then, that what you call a joint of bacon must resemble what we call picnic ham--in other words, the front leg of the pig, instead of the hind leg, which is the true "ham". It is fattier than the ham, and of course, smaller. We do get them both cured and not cured, although I think it's probably more usual for them to be sold cured. My mother always just roasted them like she would have done any other ham. I don't buy them, even though I like them, because of the high fat content. I already have a much too genteel figger, I can't afford to add more, darn it.
Which brings to mind the scene in one of the Harriott books where James is invited into a farm's kitchen after he has tended their animal in the middle of the night, and offered a slice of the bacon sitting on the kitchen table, done up as you describe in bread crumbs. The piece that is cut for him is strictly fat, no lean at all, and he finds himself repulsed by it, but unwilling to offend his hosts. He solves his problem by slathering the slice with the lady's piccalilli preserves, which in turn gives her the impression that he loves the preserve. She sends him home with a jar.

Gerry Strey Asks...
And while we're on British meat terminology, what is a "scrag end of a neck of mutton"? Or the "best end" of anything?

Sara Replies...
Best end would be the lower end of the neck, adjoining the shoulder, which has the 'fillet' - ie the lean meat. Scrag end is much less desirable - it's sinewy and shot through with fat. Best end can be braised whilst scrag end is stewed for much longer to dissolve the fat.

Irish Bacon - Gary Brown
What tends to called Irish bacon in the US is just plain old bacon in the UK and in Ireland..... pork back rashers, as opposed to the pork belly mostly used for US bacon. I do believe that Canadian bacon is back bacon, but it's far, far less fatty than either US or Irish: seems almost devoid of attached fat. For myself, I don;t think the flavor or US belly bacon is so very different to the flavor of UK / Irish back bacon - the most common difference between the two being that US bacon is habitually cooked must crisper than is th case over the pond. That may be because US bacon, being belly, has a lot of fat to meat, and this needs to be rendered out (though "streaky bacon" in the UK / Ireland is also a high fat variant to the more expensive "back bacon"). You could always use Italian pancetta, cut thick..........

Corner image from Oak Smoked Bacon Whole Joints