The Bacon Gospel : Bacon for Brooklyn

The last several weeks I have begun work on a huge on-going project, The Bacon Gospel. The first installment--"Bacon for Brooklyn"--is currently underway. In this project, I am traveling to different cities, custom-curing bacon to order for a limited amount of people, using only heritage pork, local when possible. This project has become much more than I ever expected. In giving folks the option to request flavors, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with 13 people on 10 new flavors of bacon! I have also been asked to teach a restaurant staff how to make house-cured bacon.

One thing I really hadn't anticipated was the connection that people would have to both the individual ingredients as well as overall flavors. What did the two people from Massachusetts request? Maple. Maple and nothing else, naturally. My West Indian roommate? Jerk. My food writer friend wanted seasonal fruit and herbs. One person even gave me several personally-sourced items such as ground cacao from his family's plantation in Trinidad and nutmeg from Grenada. As I begin to traverse the continent, I look forward to writing and curing at least 100 flavors of bacon! Traveling from Brooklyn to Seattle and Montreal to Austin, I don't believe that number is the least bit unrealistic. I am looking at continuing this project indefinitely, so if you'd like The Ethical Butcher to come to a city near you, don't hesitate to contact me!

To get your mouth watering and palate scheming, here are the flavors from The Bacon Gospel: Bacon for Brooklyn--

*Mole Poblano
*Pineapple-Black Pepper-Clove

Check back next week for photos and notes!

Good advice.

"There is but one season of the year when salmon should be served hot at a choice repast; that is in the spring and early summer, and even then it is too satisfying, not sufficiently delicate. The man who gives salmon during the winter, I care not what sauce he serves with it, does an injury to himself and his guests."
- Ward McAllister, 'Society As I Have Found It' (1890)

I want to share this quote from my fish supplier's newsletter, taken from an article explaining the opening of Spring salmon season. Almost 120 years later, this quote is even more applicable, and if everyone back in those days and more recently felt the same, we might not be in our current predicament. Only recently have people begun to re-grasp the concept of seasonality in fruits and vegetables. Realizing that one does not need to eat strawberries and asparagus in December is a pretty new concept to most people. The same is true for fish and meat. Wild fish have seasons, and demanding them out of season not only causes problems like overfishing and pollution from poorly-run fish farms, but the resulting product is inferior. Just as the flimsy, tasteless asparagus you find in Winter, (farmed or frozen) salmon in Winter can't hold a candle to the rich, delicious freshness of in-season wild salmon. Eating seasonally doesn't require you to go without or settle for less, it gives you an opportunity to experience the wide diversity of foods available to you year-round. It is the way people have eaten for all of human history, a time-tested and sustainable choice for your body, the animals and plants you eat, and the planet.


Hanger for Bronko

Today my 6-year-old Border Collie/Black Lab mix, Bronko, will eat big chunks of hanger steak for dinner. Yesterday he had a knuckle of beef--that's the knee-cap itself plus the collagen-rich cartilage, connective tissues, and bits of meat that are left of the Sirloin Tip. This is his favorite meal of the week. It usually takes him about 45 minutes of industrious gnawing and chewing to get down to the actual bone. Satiated, panting and on what I have dubbed his "Meat High", Bronko sits unaware of his fortunes.

I actually began feeding Bronko real food way back in my vegan days. I had always distrusted most pet food, but when I became vegan, I didn't want to support the industry at all. I couldn't have my dog benefiting from the worst of the worst industrial meat. Bronko is also highly allergic to most grains, a staple of almost all commercial dog food. He would get patches of dry, itchy, cracked skin that drove him nuts. Even with the most organic, holistic of pellet-form foods I could find, I felt I could provide him with a better diet. Really now, if nutritionally balanced, would you want to eat the same exact thing every single day of your life? It's like surviving on Ensure.

Until the last century or so, dogs ate whatever scraps they found, not pellets. They are omnivorous scavengers, and as such they should be eating all sorts of foods. This in mind, I began researching homemade dog food, learning what foods are never OK, what foods are and how to cook them, supplements, etc. I also found many ready-made fresh, raw foods in some of the nicer pet stores in my then home, Seattle. I first started with these, and found that he most enjoyed a raw ground turkey and veggie blend. Remember though, I was vegan, as in I-have-a-vegan-tattoo vegan. However, I didn't believe that my dog needed to be vegan. I just couldn't cope with the turkey part of the deal. I finally settled on eggs as his protein. Eggs I could handle as long as they were from the right find of farms. I found the ratio of dog's weight/eggs a day and bought a bunch of veggies and got on my way. Until I became a butcher and then began eating meat, I fed Bronko several eggs a day on top of a mix of cooked down or shredded veggies and sometimes rice. When I became a butcher, I saw all the meat scraps, pounds of it, that we threw out everyday. I began collecting and freezing them. I figured out Bronko really only likes beef, which works out because beef has the most waste. Nowadays he enjoys all sorts of beef scraps in place of the eggs, which are now a special treat every few weeks. There's always a good amount of garlic for the fleas and the veggies I change weekly. Sometimes he gets things like a bit of plain yogurt, nutritional yeast, or peanut butter. My buddy Bronko is the picture of health, according to his vet.

Reducing waste is an important part of the sustainability equation. Pet food isn't the only way to reduce your meat waste. Make stocks from bones and skin, don't just throw them out. The biggest culprit here is chicken. Buying whole chickens instead of chicken parts not only reduces waste, but is incredibly economical. You can get a whole chicken-that's 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 legs, and 2 thighs plus the neck and back for the same price as 2-3 boneless tasteless skinless chicken breasts. You can also make beautiful, rich stocks from the bones and heads of fish. But better than that is to eat as much of your fish as possible. Most fish skins are completely edible and delicious once cooked and hold much of the essential fatty acids and minerals we want to gain from eating fish. The cheeks and head meat of many fish are really the best parts, delicacies. You can then still make a stock with the bones and scraps of your meal. What recession?

We'll be talking more about reducing the waste involved in meat consumption later...