When you purchase half a pig, your mind is filled with images of savory bacon. The thought of having an ample supply of bacon for months delighted my bacon-loving kids. It seemed like a brilliant plan to buy in bulk. However, it also meant making choices about which cuts of pork to include.
Among the options was a choice between bacon and fresh side pork. After conducting some research, I discovered that the bacon offered by the processing company contained nitrates. As someone who avoids nitrates, it didn’t seem like a favorable option to combine high-quality pastured pork with additives. This led me to consider whether fresh side pork, which comes from the same part of the pig as bacon, might taste similar.
To my disappointment, I was mistaken. Fresh side pork doesn’t possess the delicious flavor of bacon. Instead, it resembles the fatty part of a pork chop when fried. Although it may appeal to those who enjoy the fattier aspects, it lacks the distinct saltiness and bacon-like qualities. It was not the score I had hoped for.
The True Taste of Fresh Side Pork
Upon receiving our half pig, we discovered that we had around twelve packages of fresh side pork. At first glance, they looked identical to bacon. I left some out of the freezer, eagerly anticipating a taste of “fresh bacon” the next morning. However, as I cooked the fresh side pork, I noticed that the aroma wasn’t as enticing as cooking bacon. Although it looked somewhat similar, it fell short of expectations.
I mustered the courage to take a bite, only to find that it tasted like a fried piece of fatty pork chop. If you enjoy the fatty aspect, it might suit your palate. However, it lacked the salty and bacon-like essence. It left me feeling thoroughly disappointed.
Creative Ways to Cook Fresh Side Pork
Left with eleven packages of fresh side pork that didn’t fulfill my bacon cravings, I had to come up with alternative ways to use it. An internet search for ideas yielded very few results. Most people simply fried it up like bacon and enjoyed it with toast.
Considering that we rarely had toast in our gluten-free household, and because it didn’t taste like bacon, I pursued other options. I started incorporating bits of fresh side pork into soups alongside sausage or bacon. For example, a sausage, kale, and bean soup or a lentil soup that called for either sausage or bacon. This way, I hoped it would blend in and provide extra protein.
Unfortunately, the taste remained similar to a fatty piece of pork, leading some family members to remove it from their soup. It wasn’t going well until one fortuitous day.
Transforming Fresh Side Pork into Bacon
With some cooked side pork in the fridge, my intention was to cut it into small pieces and hide it in another dish. However, my husband mistook it for bacon and started cooking it to accompany some eggs. To enhance the flavor, one of us decided to add bacon fat from a jar to the pan. Miraculously, the scent of bacon filled the house.
We crisped up the side pork as much as we could, preparing ourselves for another potentially disappointing flavor. However, much to our surprise, it tasted like actual bacon and exceeded our expectations. Though I wouldn’t serve fresh side pork slices as a side to breakfast, we discovered that by cooking it in bacon fat and adding it to egg scrambles, sweet potato hash, or omelets, it imparted enough bacon-like flavor to brighten our day.
So, if you’ve searched for ways to make fresh side pork taste like bacon, I hope you stumble upon our solution. Ironically, I only discovered this trick when we had only three packages left, which reduced the opportunity to fully enjoy the bacon-like experience of fresh side pork without nitrates or other additives.
Side Pork vs. Pork Belly: What’s the Difference?
A kind reader pointed out that what I referred to as side pork is actually the same as pork belly. A quick google search will yield a multitude of pork belly recipes. This brings up the question: why did I try to make my side pork taste like bacon?
Pork belly recipes typically involve using a single piece of meat or cubed meat. However, the side pork I purchased came thinly sliced, like bacon. This made it unsuitable for those recipes, and I was under the impression I was getting a generous portion of healthy bacon.
If your side pork arrived as one large piece, I recommend exploring pork belly recipes. But if you accidentally purchased side pork, thinking it was similar to bacon, don’t worry! You can use our little trick to fulfill your bacon dreams.
The Benefits of Saving Bacon Grease
While some may joke about the elderly bacon enthusiast who miraculously reached old age, it’s important to set the record straight. Lard, often unfairly stigmatized, is over 50% monounsaturated fat, the same healthy fat found in avocados. It’s a valuable fat to keep on hand.
The fat rendered from bacon, essentially bacon grease, is not only flavorful but also provides an abundance of free cooking fat. For every pound of bacon, we usually collect between half to a whole cup of bacon grease. By incorporating it into dishes such as green beans, asparagus, and shaved Brussels sprouts, we encourage our children to consume more vegetables. Furthermore, cooking with bacon grease fills the house with delightful aromas, all while using it solely to cook vegetables.
Personally, I believe in saving bacon grease, and I encourage others to adopt this practice—especially if you use pastured bacon without nitrates. My preferred source for quality bacon is Butcher Box. After all, you need a supply of bacon to make your fresh side pork taste like bacon!
Other Delicious Pork and Bacon Recipes
If you’re looking for more mouthwatering recipes featuring pork and bacon, here are a few recommendations:
- Whole30 BBQ Boneless Pork Ribs in the Instant Pot
- Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage “Un-Rolls”
- Gluten-Free Bacon and Green Onion Muffins
- Puerto Rican Chicken
- Cheeseburger Soup (with Bacon!)
- Simple Paleo Breakfast Hash (cooked in bacon fat)
- Homemade Sausage Seasoning
- Instant Pot Apple Pie Pork Chops
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