Canadian Bacon

Sometimes called peameal bacon after the traditional practice of rolling it in ground yellow split peas, Canadian bacon is made from lean center-cut pork loin rather than the fattier belly meat used for American bacon. Unfortunately, real Canadian bacon is not commonly available in the United States: much of what passes for Canadian, or Canadian-style, bacon here is actually a formed product made from chunks of ham with corn syrup solids and other additives. (If that were not enough reason to make your own, consider the cost—real imported Canadian peameal bacon cost about $25 a pound online; the domestic formed product is around $10 a pound at my local supermarket. I can make it at home for around $2 a pound.) This recipe is not entirely authentic because I left some fat on loin rather like Irish bacon and I used a savory curing rub a bit like pancetta. Although Canadian bacon is not usually smoked I added a bit of smoked salt to the rub to give the finished product a hint of smokiness that I prefer. One more difference between American and Canadian bacon is that while the former is almost exclusively a breakfast meat, the latter is often served for dinner or in sandwiches. (And it also is an essential part of a “full Scottish breakfast” along with eggs, potatoes, baked beans, toast, and perhaps kippers.)

Ingredients

  • Center-cut boneless pork loin——————— 5 pounds
  • Kosher salt or pickling salt (non-iodized)——- 2 ounces
  • Dark brown sugar———————————— 2 ounces
  • Pink curing salt #1———————————– 2 teaspoons
  • Smoked salt (optional)—————————— 1 tablespoon
  • Coarse ground black pepper———————– 2 tablespoons
  • Grated nutmeg—————————————- ½ teaspoon
  • Ground cloves—————————————– ½ teaspoon
  • Bay leaves, crumbled——————————– 3 or 4
  • Juniper berries, crushed—————————- 1 tablespoon
  • Yellow cornmeal (optional)———————— as needed, about 1 cup

Method

Rinse the meat and dry well. Optionally cut it in half crosswise. Weigh out the salt and brown sugar into a small bowl. Combine with the curing salt, smoked salt if using, pepper, nutmeg and cloves. Add the bay leaves and juniper berries—I grind them in a spice grinder first. Mix the rub thoroughly.

Coat the pork generously with the rub then wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap. Place in a container suitable to catch any liquid that leaks from the package and place in the refrigerator. Turn daily for five to seven days.

When the cure is complete, remove the plastic and rinse the meat under cold water. Pat dry and return to the refrigerator, uncovered, for a day or so to dry somewhat. To make it into peameal bacon, rub the meat liberally with the yellow corn meal. Store, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks or freeze for later use.

The traditional way to prepare Canadian bacon is to slice it ⅛-inch thick and fry it at low temperature for 8 to 10 minutes. Canadians sometimes coat the sides with cornmeal after slicing.

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