The side/belly primal is found below the loin. It has the highest fat distribution throughout the meat of all other parts of the animal. This is where we get the bacon or spareribs. This is the largest piece meat. It covers the entire rib area and around the underside of the belly.
Nitrates: Yes or No?
Are you concerned about how your ham, bacon and sausages are cured? Do you have health concerns about the additives that are used in the processing of these meats? When you purchase any of these meats in the supermarket it is guaranteed that they will be processed using potassium or sodium nitrate or some form of these preservatives. These preservatives are used to prevent unwanted bacteria growth and to give them their classic pink color.
As parents we were concerned out the use of these ingredients. We decided long ago to limit our consumption of meat products that contain potassium or sodium nitrate. Now that is not to say that we do not consume them at all, but they are not a normal part of our diet.
There is so much debate about the safety of these products that it is hard to know the true answers to the questions that their use poses.
When you purchase any of these meats in the supermarket it is guaranteed that they will be processed using potassium or sodium nitrate or some form of these preservatives unless they are labeled “certified organic”. These preservatives are used to prevent unwanted bacteria growth and to give them their classic pink color.
Old-Fashion Salt Curing
Years ago we learned that there is an alternative way to preserve meat safely. Instead of looking to the modern food industry for answers we looked back in time to our grandparents and great grandparent’s time. You can go even further back than this. Our grandparents consistently practiced food preservation methods that did not require the use of refrigeration.
When it was time to process an animal that was being raised for the family table there were a few ways they could preserve this meat.
First, it would be cut into very thin strips and dried. This was then rehydrated when it was required for cooking.
Second, it could be canned. It would be cut into small pieces, like the stewing cubes of today. Then it would be seasoned with spices and canned.
Salting and/or smoking are another method to preserve meat safely. This simple preservation method involves rubbing fresh sea salt into the meat every day until no more moisture is released from the meat. At this point it could then be placed in the smokehouse.
Salt brining is another method of salting. Meat is placed in a solution of sea salt and water then soaked for a certain amount of time depending on the piece of meat being brined. When the soaking time is completed it can be smoked also.
Here at Harmonys Way Family Farm we use old-fashioned methods of sea salt curing hams and bacons from our pasture-raised pork. Because we prefer to not eat meat with potassium or sodium nitrate as a preservative we make this option available to our customers. We use a dry rub mixture of sea salt, natural sweeteners like blackstrap molasses or honey and spices to cure the bacons. Like the hams, they are then taken to the smokehouse to enhance the flavor.
The meat from the side/belly that is left unaltered by salting or brining is called side pork. It does not have the same flavor as bacon, but when you add salt and pepper during the cooking process it is delicious.
Spareribs are also cut from this area. The difference is that the bones are left in. If you want spareribs, you will have to sacrifice bacon. Like the loin area, if you are purchasing a whole carcass you can have one side made into bacon and the other spareribs.
If, for some reason you don’t want bacon or spareribs the meat from the side/belly can be ground along with some of the meat from the shoulder.
Cooking Bacon Like an Expert
Shh! Don’t tell anyone! But, it is super simple. We have three ways we cook bacon in our kitchen.
First, by far is the most familiar. We use our cast iron skillet to fry thick slices of our salt cured bacon. We use a relatively low heat. We like our bacon to be thoroughly cooked but not too crispy. Then we pour off the excess fat into a jar that sits by the stove for other cooking requirements. This is our preferred way of cooking bacon
The second way is to line a baking sheet that has sides with parchment paper. Spread your sliced bacon on the sheet and pop in the oven under the broiler, turning once. Do this until they are the desired crispness.
Thirdly is to use a cast iron griddle that has raised ridges. Spread you slices over the ridges and fry as you would in a skillet. They only difference doing it this way is that your bacon isn’t cooking in the fat.
4 Fabulous Pastured Pork Recipes
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Just a reminder, we are currently taking orders for custom, bulk orders of pork just in time for the start of barbeque season. To order you can hop on over to our Product Order Forms page.