The unfamiliar cuts: what to do with uncured bacon and jowl

When we took our first piggies to the slaughter house, the first thing I thought of was how absolutely delicious the bacon would be. I am a complete sucker for bacon. I could easily eat a pound of the stuff in one sitting. Just ask my mother in law about when she made BLTs for me when Ben and I were dating. ;) 

Imagine my dismay and disappointment the very first time I tried to cook my very own bacon straight from the processor. Oh the sadness in seeing the beautiful pink and white strips turn to a sad grayish brown and flop out of the pan onto my plate. Further sadness followed when I tasted these sad hunks of meat and they had virtually no flavor. The little flavor they did have tasted pretty much like a pork chop. I was so let down that it would be 4 years before I had the courage to try again. 

But today was that day. The day I said, “Dangit! I WILL make those slabs of raw pork taste good!” I believe I have discovered several important keys because holy cow (or pig) did I get a surprise this afternoon.  

I have been googling my heart out trying to figure out what the heck I’m missing. I keep hearing from folks that uncured bacon is the bestest. Whatever, dude.  

After about an hour of reading various posts on cooking blogs and forums, I found someone that suggested adding smoked paprika. Okay y’all. Confession time. It’s probably only been in the last year that I actually started regularly using paprika or even considering it an actual spice instead of just a topping for deviled eggs. But seriously, the paprika is the key. That and a healthy (...maybe not so healthy...) amount of salt. and of course pepper. The other tiny thing I did that was a little different was to increase the temperature and cook time. I have a plain ol’ electric stove, nothing fancy, that we got for literally $5 dollars at an auction. Anyway, usually I set the temp to 5 (or medium) but with the uncured bacon, it seemed to cook and actually get crispy at a higher temp. It also seemed to take a little longer than “normal” bacon. Really, it’s okay by me because it. tastes. so. good. I shamelessly ate the entire package. Granted it was small, but I’d say it was close to a half a pound or so. IT WAS ONLY 7 STRIPS! DON’T JUDGE ME! 

The next day, I wanted to make more because I wanted Ben to try this wonder I had found. So we made chicken, bacon and ranch subs for lunch with caramelized red onions. Well that tasted like I’d died and gone to heaven.  

Propelled by my success the previous week, I bravely decided to attempt cooking up some jowl. Jowl looks pretty much just like bacon. The strips are shorter and wider. Bacon comes from the belly of the pig and if you tell your processor to leave your bacon as a full pork belly cut, you can make an unreal delicious roast from it. The jowls are the cheeks of the pig.

The jowl meat looks quite like the bacon. I decided to give it a go and make up a package for myself. I cooked the jowl the same way I did the bacon: slightly higher heat, salt, pepper, paprika. I was nervous because several customers had said that the jowl is different and the lady that runs our processor said that the jowl is more suitable IN things than by itself.

well it tastes just like bacon to me. And it’s in the perfect sandwich sized slices. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! (That could be a side effect of the intermittent fasting we’re trying...)

I hope this helps someone else not fear uncured meats. Because dang. I may never go back!  

Just to make your mouth water a little, a photo of our chicken, bacon, ranch sub: