Friday, February 24, 2012

Guess who's back? Back again?

It's been far too long, kids, but I missed this blog a whole damned lot. So now I'm back from outer space, and just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face. But fear not, for I have returned, this time for good. Why? A few things:
  • I miss blogging in general. I got busy with work and life and other junk, but the back of my brain the whole time was all, "Bitch, why aren't you doing any FUN writing?"
  • I miss blogging about bacon. It's nice to get paid for writing, but another part of the back of my brain was all, like, "baconbaconbaconBACONbaconBACONNNN..."
  • I miss EATING bacon...or I DID, until I realized that bacon is not totally horrible for you. Seven crispy strips of Nueske's finest has the same amount of Weight Watchers points as a Whopper Jr. from ol' Bee Kay; a BLT on light wheat toast with reduced-fat mayo is the same, calorie-wise, as a tuna salad sammich, and it's way more satisfying.
  • I'm entering the 2012 Nueske's Amateur Bacon Cook-off at Baconfest Chicago, and I am going to kick all comers square in the buttocks with my fabulous entry.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baconfest Chicago: Today's the day!

Bacon makes Chicago-based Top Chef
Stephanie Izard happy.
At 11:30 today, the doors will open to the UIC Forum, letting all the eager Baconfest Chicago VIP attendees into the bacon-scented air of their beloved festival. An insane number of pork-minded chefs (including Chicago's very own Top Chef Stephanie Izard, of Girl and the Goat) will be offering their wares to the assembled masses in the quest to be declared Baconfest's best by the baconeers. The lucky, lucky VIPs like Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni S. will get to try them all first. She's especially excited about dishes from:
Not saying who we're rooting for, but here's a hint: it rhymes with "fries hard."

For a full list of the chefs showing off at Baconfest 2011, click here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breathable bacon finally--FINALLY!--a reality

Editor's note: We were so enthused to get this press release from the folks at Bacon Salt that we couldn't breathe. Ironically, this product--if we actually had it in our hands right now, instead of just pining after it--would HELP that problem. Read on, baconeers...


J&D’s Foods set to launch BaconAir™ Refreshing and Savory New Line of Bacon flavored Oxygen
Three years ago J&D’s Foods made a much healthier bacon delivery mechanism called Bacon Salt. It’s a zero calorie, zero fat, vegetarian, kosher and low sodium seasoning that makes everything taste like bacon –to many, it was Bacon 2.0.

Since then, our team of research scientists has been working hard on making the next leap to Bacon 3.0.

Studies have shown that inhaling pure oxygen can boost energy, fight disease, increase mental focus, enhance sexual and/or sports performance, and increase mental alertness as well as save lives. 

After 2 grueling years of research, we are proud to announce the next quantum leap in bacon technology. We call it BaconAir™, and it’s a revolutionary new product that combines the deliciousness of bacon with the unrivaled health benefits of 95% pure Himalayan oxygen. Some of the benefits include:
* Convenient and Easy to Use
* No Calories, Fat or Stimulants
* Non-Prescription
* Maximum Deliciousness

J&D’s Foods is giving away a lifetime supply of BaconAir to one lucky Baconnoisseur  - just send us an email to with why you think you should be the first person to use BaconAir and we'll select a winner!

About J&D’s Foods

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, J&D’s Foods manufactures Bacon Salt®, Baconnaise®, BaconPOP®, Bacon Ranch, Bacon Gravy, Bacon Soda, Bacon Lip Balm, Mmmvelopes and Malt Salt™.  A leader in the specialty food industry, J&D’s is known for combing unique flavors people know and love and innovative bacon themed charity initiatives such as Bacon Kevin Bacon, Bacon vs. Mayo wrestling and the Bacathlon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bacon, business and boobs star at Ignite Chicago

Photo by Bridget Houlihan (aka @Wheelygrl)
Last night's Ignite Chicago--a series of short yet inspirational presentations--was a success. In addition to Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni S. discussing how one can make one's one bacon at home, other speakers addressed the pleasure of driving, the science of successful startups, pleasurable driving and the evolution of American attitudes toward the female form.

Since Jenni only had 5 minutes to present her presentation, she thought she'd expound upon it here and share her entire talk, with some added notes. Please keep in mind that while speaking, she interjected many funny, insightful comments, so you should laugh out loud periodically to best duplicate the experience of being there in person.

1. Intro: Making bacon at home is time-consuming, but fairly easy. You just need a few common household items to do it, and materials you can get at your friendly neighborhood supermarket. In addition, smoking your own bacon gives you the added benefit of making whatever clothes you wear smell like the inside of an old-time smokehouse. My cell phone even smells like hickory smoke--even four days after I did the bacon smoking.

2. Why make it yourself: In addition to being crazy simple:
* patronizing local butchers or groceries and making the bacon yourself, rather than procuring from a big corporate meat processor far, far away is good for the environment, and good for your local economy.
* it can be cheaper than store brands
* you can make your own flavors--you're not stuck with the small selection in grocery stories
* DIYing meat is fun

3. Pork belly: This is the star of the show. It's a long, thin cut of meat that looks a lot like a slab of ribs. Order it without the pig skin (or pork rind), if you can--however, if you can't or don't get it without the skin (sometimes you can encounter language barriers at grocery stores), don't worry about it--leave it on and we'll remove when we're done smoking the meat. Start with 5 lbs of meat.

4. Where to get belly: You can get belly at local butchers, ethnic grocery stores, or even farmers' markets. I get mine at HarvesTime on Lawrence. Some grocers sell belly in individual strips, but you want one large hunk to start with.

5. Curing salt: This is a mixture of salt and preservative, also known as "prague powder," and it's not on every supermarket shelf, but it's not very hard to find. Look at The Spice House, Paulina Meat Market, or meat-minded sites like Use 1/2 tsp of this.

6. Regular salt: Your salt could be sea salt, regular, iodized or not--just as long as it's salty. Mix 1/2 C of this with the curing salt.

7. Wood chips: You can really use any kind of natural wood chips, but they have to be soaked in wood (or beer, if you like) for at least three hours before you start smoking. If they're dry, they'll just burn right up without adding flavor to your meat. If they're wet, they provide the smoke that helps make bacon special. If you throw about 3-4 decent-size handfuls of chips in the water, you'll be okay.

8. The fire: You need a big charcoal grill, not just a weenie dinner-plate-size grill you'd take to the beach. Because you're cooking with indirect heat, you need a grill big enough for you to put the coals on one side, and the meat on the other side. Weber kettle grills work well. Also, briquettes.

9. Waiting: The process takes about three hours, not including the time it takes to start the grill, and you can't leave the grill unattended, so you'll need something to amuse yourself. I recommend a good book, and a good beer (or several).

10. Two days out: You'll start curing the meat by rubbing with the mixture of salts, then slipping into Ziplocs. If you need to cut the belly up to fit it into two or more bags, that's fine. Flip the slabs of meat over once a day to ensure even curing. You can also add...

11. Optional flavors: When you're putting on the salt, you can add flavorings--jalapenos, garlic, orange peel, spice blends or any number of tasty additions. A good rule of thumb is if you like it on pork, you'll probably like it on bacon. Feel free to get crazy with it. Each flavor should go in its own separate Ziploc, obviously.

12. Start the grill: Fire up those charcoal briquettes. Once they start getting less flamey and more glowy, you're going to push them all the way to one side of the grill.

13. Add the chips: Take a small handful and toss them right on top of the coals. They'll start smoking in a few seconds. I recommend standing downwind, if you can, to avoid irritating your eyes.

14. Get cooking: Cover your grate with foil, poke some holes in the half of the grate that's over the coals, and throw the pork on the other side

15. Total time: From the time you throw the pork on until the time it's done will take about three hours--you can go one hour more, or less, depending on how smoky you like it. If the smoke dissipates, add a handful of chips. If the heat's dying down, add a few coals. Look at the meat--if the fat is melting, your fire is too hot and you should get rid of a few coals, or remove the meat until the coals are a bit cooler.

16. You've got bacon: After three hours, you'll have a not-very-pretty looking hunk of meat. It'll be dark, brown, dirty, maybe even look burned on the edges. Don't worry--as with many other things in life, it's what's on the inside that counts. At this point, if your butcher didn't remove the rind, you can do that yourself--it works best when the meat is still warm. You can use two forks--one to hold the meat, the other to pierce and peel the rind. Discard the rind, or, if you're so inclined, use it to make your own smoky pork rinds.

17. Cutting it up: Use a sharp, long knife to cut about 1/4 inch thick. Thickness really affects flavor and texture--thick bacon cooks crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and is just overall more fun to eat than super-skinny strips.

18. Cooking it: There are two best ways to cook it. One, do it stovetop with a skillet (cast-iron works best) over medium heat until it's browned on both sides. Or, you could cook on a cookie sheet (with sides, to catch the grease) in a 350-degree oven--it'll take around 15 minutes, maybe more or less depending on the thickness of the bacon and your personal taste. Do not cook in the microwave, or the Bacon Police will come and take your pork strips away, because you don't deserve them.

19. Storing it: You can store your bacon in Ziplocs or other airtight containers. It lasts in the fridge about two weeks, or in the freezer for about two months. Store either sliced or whole, it doesn't matter.

20. Wrapping it up: If you  have any questions about how to make your own bacon, feel free to hit my blog (you're here right now) or drop me a line on Twitter: JenniSpinner.

Bonus post-Ignite tip: You can take this exact process, end to end, and smoke nearly any other kind of meat. Get fresh ham from your butcher to make homemade ham for Easter. Smoke your own Memphis-style ribs. Smoke your Thanksgiving turkey. You'll need to adjust cooking times, depending on the type, size and thickness of meat, but it'll work great.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An ode to the World's Best Food

A little more than a week ago, I had an "Oh, shit!" moment when I realized I had 20 minutes until the deadline for the Baconfest Chicago 's poetry contest. I quickly whipped up a Shakespearean sonnet and submitted it. It didn't win (some bastard named Joel did), sadly. Well, not TOO sadly--while it's definitely not my best work, I am quite proud of myself for rhyming "Izard" with "tries hard." Anyway, here goes:


O Bacon, thou art truly king of meat
Thy salted pork strips, all the world doth savor
We marvel at your taste whene’er we eat
No match is there to thy ass-kicking flavor

Bacon, you doth haunt our every thought

And your dreams are gorged with bacon when we sleep
Efforts to abstain would go for naught
For thy taste makes even vegans weep

Each Baconfester samples and then tries hard

To judge the best dish made with savory Nueske’s
We nosh cuisine by all-star chefs like Izard
While imbibing our Goose Island brewskies

No other meat is worthy of a fest

O Bacon, Bacon, thou art truly best

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nueske's cookoff finalist #6: Kick out the jams

Nueske's cookoff finalist
Irene Rivera
The bacon-wrapped date is a classic bacony nosh. The combination of sweet dates and savory bacon, of mushy fruit and crunchy meat, is a nearly irresistible flavor treat. For her entry in the Nueske's Baconfest Chicago cookoff, Irene Rivera took this most fabulous of bacon snacks and elevated it to new levels of greatness by putting it in cookie form. Here, Ms. Rivera tells us about her Date and Bacon Jam Thumbprint Cookie recipe, and why she thinks bacon is the king of meats.

BDJ: How did you come up with this delicious idea?

Irene: I started with a list of both savory and sweet possibilities. There are definitely dishes that you automatically think bacon: bacon and eggs, BLT, loaded baked potato, etc... I wanted to come up with a dish that you normally wouldn't find bacon in, yet it makes sense. One of my husband's favorite appetizers to order at a tapas restaurant are the bacon wrapped dates. Bacon wrapped dates are a perfect example of sweet and salty, all food tastes better if you hit different taste buds. So after much contemplation I definitely wanted to make something sweet. The fact that your dish has to be completely assembled and you can only warm it up on site, also influenced my decision. Some of my ideas were eliminated because I knew it wouldn't hold up to transporting then reheating. Besides, who doesn't love cookies? I even adjusted the size in my second batch that I made for people who voted for me. They are the perfect two bite cookie, so you are insured to get a bite of the sticky bacon and date jam center.

BDJ: Why do you love bacon?

Irene: I love the salt and crunch. I prefer to bake my bacon on a cookie sheet with a rack. It makes for very crunchy bacon. I also love how bacon fat adds so much flavor. If you ever made a stuffing and sauteed your onion and celery in rendered bacon fat, then made the same recipe with just butter. You would feel deprived to eat the latter.

BDJ: What's your favorite way to eat bacon (besides in this recipe, of course)?

Irene Rivera's Date and Bacon Jam
Thumbprint Cookies
Irene: BLT with a fried egg, roasted tomato preferably. Answering this question is making me want to make one for breakfast tomorrow.

BDJ: Why should you win?

Irene: The competition is fierce. Without having tasted my competitors’ dishes, I am going to say I'd like to win if I deserve it. Seriously, I'm up against Joe's bacon schnitzel. I think the first time I saw the picture of his dish I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. My cookies are good; the cream cheese makes them delicate and creamy. The bacon and date jam is delicious, so much that I have a small container in my refrigerator of just the jam alone so I can spread it on toast.

BDJ: Anything to add?

Irene: Good luck to all my fellow competitors. I'm just excited to be part of this awesome event.