Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hog Jowl Bacon

Hog jowl bacon is a dish of the American South and very much a soul food kind of thing that I've not been able to find here in Baltimore. While perhaps we have butchers who could slice you up some hog jowl, it would have to be smoked for it to be bacon. Hog jowl bacon is interesting and, in my opinion,very much underappreciated.

The only commercial packager of hog jowl bacon that I'm aware of is the Cumberland Gap Provision Company, a processor of smoked pork products owned by Smithfield Foods. I called the company to find out if hog jowl bacon was distributed to the Baltimore area. A salesperson informed me that the only store nearby that could have it would be Food Lion. I checked at two of the handful of nearby stores, and didn't find any. My first encounter with hog jowl bacon was in Central Florida at a Publix west of New Smyrna Beach. Hog jowl was by far the least expensive bacon choice available.

On the other hand, if measured by the amount of meat rendered when cooked, it's possible that hog jowl bacon could have been the most expensive choice that Publix had available. Once the fat's been rendered, you end up with very little bacon, and it tends to fall apart into pieces, less so if you have a bacon press. Nuking hog jowl bacon has never worked for me nearly so well as for other kinds of bacon. Low moderate heat in a frying pan does a much better job. Properly cooked, the taste and flavor of hog jowl bacon are more pleasing to me than of any other kind of commercially packaged bacon I've ever tried.

An additional use for hog jowl bacon that you could be reading about here for the first time is to lard birds to keep them moist and flavorful through roasting. Last night I roasted another one of those "wild ducks" from the AA Supermarket for an uninterrupted 23 minutes at 500 F. Not only were the ducks cooked perfectly (better after one minute more than the 22 minutes originally recommended in that post), so were the little pieces of hog jowl bacon that I couldn't resist picking off of the duck and eating before even getting to the table.