Buying British Bacon in Germany
British bacon really is in a class of its own, but what do you do if you can't get hold of the good stuff locally? That’s easy – buy from Geordie’s! But the bacon that graces your plate today bears little resemblance to the very first cut of cured pig. Want to know how the humble British rasher has become a part of history? Then read on…
The history of bacon
The origins of British bacon can be traced back to 1500 BC when the Ancient Romans had an early version – called 'petasto' – which was shoulder of pig, boiled with figs and served with wine or pepper sauce. In fact, we can thank them for spreading pork production throughout their vast empire!
This little piggy went to market...
In the 1400s, the Anglo-Saxons bred pigs domestically, with the meat and fat a staple ingredient in peasant diets. Then in the 1600s, British merchants started exporting pigs to North America, but bacon production remained very much a regional speciality.
Up until the 1900s, rural communities used traditional dry cure methods (and often a 'secret' ingredient) before sending their wares to shops in nearby towns and cities. But an Englishman called John Harris wasn't satisfied by this arrangement, so in 1770, in the Wiltshire town of Caine, he opened the first commercial bacon processing plant.
Already a regular resting place for the herds of swine that were imported from Ireland and driven across Bristol, by dint of location, Wiltshire became the Bacon Capital of the World, and the brined 'Wiltshire Cure' is still produced to this day.
Bringing home the bacon
As far back as the 12th Century, the various words for bacon – including 'bako' (French), 'bakkon' (German) and 'backe' (Old Teutonic) – all referred to the back of the pig. In the 16th Century, 'bacoun' meant any kind of pork, and it was only in the 17th Century that the English word 'bacon' was universally adopted and used to exclusively refer to the salted and smoked belly that we know and love today.
But did you know that the phrase bringing home the bacon is also English in origin? In the 12th Century, in a town called Dunmow, the local church promised a 'flitch' (side) of bacon to any man who could swear in front of the congregation (and God) that he had not argued with his wife for a year and one day. While the phrase has evolved, Dunmow has stuck to the tradition, and the town still holds the Flitch Trials every 4 years.
Bacon and the bomb
During WW2, the US government famously asked its population to donate excess bacon fat to the army. There was even an official department: The American Fat Salvage Committee, which was tasked with sourcing leftover fat to make glycerine for bombs. In Europe, however, it was more about rationing, with people in Britain encouraged to raise pigs themselves in order to supplement food shortages.
After the war, many former British soldiers opted to stay in Germany, bringing their cuisine expectations with them. But no matter how hearty their English Breakfast looked on the plate, the bacon simply wasn't the same. In fact, all these decades later, from Dresden to Dortmund, it’s still difficult to find a quintessentially British rasher in Deutschland...
From the trough to the table
The flavour of bacon starts in the curing process, and there are multiple ways to preserve this tasty meat. Combined with smoking methods – which are only limited by the imagination – the range of flavours are endless. But let's start with the basics...
Wet cured bacon
Wet curing involves immersing the meat in a mixture of salt, water, and other ingredients specifically chosen for their flavour. Also referred to as brining, the meat should remain in the mix for an extended period of time to retain moisture and absorb the individual flavours.
Dry cured bacon
The most traditional method of preservation, dry curing involves rubbing salt directly on the meat, leaving it to sit for a specific period of time, then smoking it to imbue an individual flavour. Unlike brining, you don't use water – instead, the meat's natural juices draw in the seasoning, giving it a more robust piquancy.
Sweet cured bacon
Sweet curing is a (slightly) more modern innovation. A mixture of salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate is rubbed into the trimmed meat. Sweet curing ultimately uses the same method as dry curing – the meat sits in its own juices for a set period of time before being smoked or packaged.
What types of bacon are there?
If, like us, you’re a big fan of bacon sandwiches, what should you consider when sourcing the filling? Like every internationally popular food, there’s plenty of variety available. Obviously, we think our British bacon is best, but there are other options if you fancy a little variety.
American streaky bacon
American bacon comes from one of the fattiest parts of the pig. Cut from the pork belly, it has a higher fat to meat ratio than British bacon and comes in 'streaky' strips.
Canadian bacon is typically cut from the loin on the back of the pig. Circular in presentation, it is leaner than British bacon and has a similar flavour to ham.
Pancetta is cut from the pork belly and generally seasoned with black pepper, although other spices can be added for flavour. It bears no resemblance to British bacon, but the 'stecatta' variant is often served grilled, and the 'arrotolata' used to make sandwiches.
German 'bacon' is actually cured pork slices. This 'breakfast speck' is much thinner than British bacon, tastes fattier, and isn't usually smoked.
British bacon rashers
British bacon is leaner, meatier, and has less fat than streaky bacon. The rashers are cut from the loin in the pork belly and have a higher meat to fat ratio than other variants.
Bacon and Brexit
Importing bacon from the UK has become incredibly difficult since Brexit. New laws have led to increasingly high costs, and the industry has changed immeasurably. Happily, Geordie's British Bacon is already in place to fill the gap. To make sure your pantry is always fully stocked, join our Bacon Club to enjoy a monthly subscription for less than 20€ per week, and get two extra packs FOR FREE!
Missing the taste of British bacon? Get in touch with Geordie’s to put an English Breakfast back on your table!