Here’s double smoked slab bacon from Tip Top Meats. Will Owen from the LA Chowhound board dropped me an email, and we got to talking about Tip Top in general, and slab bacon in particular. He had recommended sources from his old stomping grounds near Nashville, and I’ll post his choices after I’ve dug up more information.
I was surprised to find the rind left on: that is, the pig skin, shown on the left side of the cutting board. This needs to be removed, because it’s too tough to eat. Dry cured bacon is considerably dehydrated, and was easy to slice, especially when cold, right out of the fridge. It got a little wiggly as it warmed up, but still much easier to work with than raw pork belly, which squishes around under the knife like the slab of blubber it is.
I made thicker slices than most store bought bacon, and got a little variation, as you’d expect when doing it by hand. I should note it sliced easily because I just sharpened my thin carving knife. Don’t try this with dull knives. Of course, the smart thing to do is to buy the slab, and ask the butchers to slice it for you, but I never claimed to be smart.
I see now that old fashioned bacon tastes much more meaty and natural than chemical-and-salt overtreated commercial product, say, like Farmer John brand. This bacon tastes intensely smoky, the sort that comes only from long exposure to cool wood smoke, and not of meat soaked in acrid liquid smoke flavoring. It still tastes of meat because the salt doesn’t overwhelm it. Though this product was cured with nitrites and sodium erythorbate, it didn’t taste chemically processed. I imagine they use just enough of these curing chemicals to keep the raw bacon pinkish instead of the dull grey of non-nitrited meat.
Would I buy this again from Tip Top Meats? Damn right I would. At $4.95 / pound, it seemed like a bargain for handmade bacon of this quality. I’ll be seeking out some other mail order sources, and plan on writing a report in the upcoming months. If you have any favorite artisanal sources, let me know.