Luke Clayton: Have wild pork? Make Canadian bacon
Outdoors columnist gives advice on how to prepare Canadian bacon
I’m always on the outlook for anything “new” to make my outdoor lifestyle more fun and enjoyable and through this column, I have the opportunity to pass along these tidbits of information. Such is the case this week. Have you even heard or “peameal bacon?” I’m betting many of you have not. A good friend posed the same question to me a few weeks ago and my answer was something like “What’s peas got to do with bacon?” Let me explain!
Peameal bacon (also known as cornmeal bacon) is a type of back bacon made from lean boneless pork loin, cured in a brine, and rolled in cornmeal. It was originally developed by a Toronto ham and bacon curer, William Davies in the late 1800’s who owned a large pork processing and packing company in Toronto. By the early 1900s, it was the largest pork packer in the British Empire and it operated Canada’s first major chain of food stores. One of Toronto’s longstanding nicknames, “Hogtown,” is attributable to the millions of pigs processed annually by the William Davies Company.
William Davies couldn’t have had better timing. By the Victorian era, bacon was considered a necessity and demand for the Canadian export was high. Canadian cured pork continued to be an important food product in Britain well into the Second World War, when the Bacon Agreement stipulated that the U.K. would accept no less than 5.6 million pounds of Canadian ham and bacon each week.
I’m not sure if or where we here in Texas can buy real pea meal Canadian bacon, there is surely some places where it’s available. Most of the “Canadian bacon” I’ve tried tastes more like lunchmeat than the real deal that Mr. Davies perfected over one hundred years ago.
When introducing me to this “new” way of curing bacon my friend said that once I transformed a pork loin, wild or domestic, into peameal bacon and I enjoyed it at breakfast with fresh eggs and hash browns, I would be hooked for life. He was correct! This is the best breakfast meat I’ve ever eaten and super simple and affordable to make. It all starts with a “pea meal bacon kit” containing spices and cornmeal from Butcher Packer Supply www.butcher-packer.com. There are recipes available for making the brine used for peameal bacon but the kit is much easier and more economical. Back in the day up in Canada peas were dried and ground, thus the name peameal bacon. Today, corn meal is used.
So, “what” I asked my friend, does cornmeal have to do with Canadian bacon? “It makes it crunchy on the outside” was his reply! I often cure wild pork hams and have made all types of sausages. Hams take about a week to cure and sausage requires cutting, grinding and seasoning with the desired blend of spices. Peameal bacon requires only 24 hours and the process is very simple; all that’s needed is a plastic container that will hold 2.5 gallons of water with enough room left for the pork loin, the brining kit, an injector needle, a sharp knife and a refrigerator.
I calculated the cost of making this awesome bacon to be a little over two dollars per pound when buying domestic pork loin on sale. I actually cured a couple of loins cut into chunks about five inches long, the perfect size for a couple of breakfasts for my crew and then vacuum sealed them and placed them in the freezer. Compared to about six dollars per pound for good bacon at the grocery, I am saving a lot while greatly improving my dining experience! Domestic pork loin is quite a bit bigger in diameter than the loin from wild hogs. I am waiting to shoot a couple more hogs and then plan to brine six or eight of the wild hog loins and make Canadian bacon.
Simply mix the spices and cure from kit with 2.5 gallons of water in a plastic container, making sure to stir well until the mixture is well blended. Next, using an injector needle, inject each piece of loin with the brine. Place the container with chunks of loin in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then remove the cured pieces and pat dry with a paper towel. Pour the cornmeal out on a clean surface and coat every side of the cured chunks of loin. Bingo! That’s it. You now have the tastiest breakfast meat you can imagine. The smaller pieces of bacon freeze well and when you are ready to prepare bacon at camp or home, simply defrost a “chunk,” slice it to desired thickness and fry in a little cooking oil. You will find this type bacon to contain almost no fat compared to conventional bacon, which by nature contains a high percentage of fat. Rather than bacon made from “middling meat,” your Canadian bacon is made from the choice cut on the hog, the loin.
My friend says he also takes the chunks and scores the top with a knife and pours maple syrup on top and bakes the meat rather than frying. I plan to give this method a try soon on an upcoming hog hunt. About an hour in a Dutch kettle exposed to hot coals should do the trick!
Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton through www.catfishradio.org .