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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Real Deal

According to Picasso, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” It imparts fresh perspective, reveals heretofore hidden truths, and paints the dull greys of quotidien routine in fresh, vibrant colors. Need proof? Look no further than the 1997 magnum opus Booty Call, a cinematic meditation on love and human relations that taught me a thing or two about desire: sometimes the chase is more interesting than consummation.

That being said, when it comes to Canadian Bacon I disagree. The Porkchop Express spent nearly half a year trying to figure out what the stuff really was, and where to “get some” in New York City. And we had grown weary of the hunt... until Ken Haviland intervened. Ken Haviland being none other than the president and founder of The REAL Canadian Bacon Company. The very same president and founder who came across our last CB post and decided to help a Slab out.

A little background: Ken was an automotive design engineer who grew up on a farm in the Ontario province. About a decade back he was lured to Michigan, where he took a position managing a team of 50 (responsible for everything from dashes and panels to mechanical analysis). One day Ken walked into his local Meijer's Grocery looking for Canadian bacon. But all he found were perfectly round, rubbery, processed pink slices. Confusion reigned; this wasn't the stuff he had grown up eating.

Ken had been mulling an exit from the car industry, and his inability to find CB paved a path. It gave him some direction: bring peameal to the people... the American people, who for too long had been duped by the likes of Farmer Jones and Oscar Meyer into thinking Canadians ate round rubbery slices of ham with their eggs.

Far from it. Real Canadian bacon–dubbed peameal or back bacon up north–is a lean, relatively nutritious loin taken from the hog's back. Trimmed, pickle-brined and rolled in a cornmeal crust, it is neither smoked, cooked, nor processed. And, we should note, it dates back a couple hundred years to Wiltshire, England.

Wiltshire was a town on the English trade route where folks started curing pork in salt brine to extend its shelf life. (Hence my buddy's astute observation that CB tastes a lot like gammon.) Settlers brought the meat to the New World, and Wiltshire Cured Back Bacon gained a loyal following from from Ohio to Ontario.

Fast forward to the years following WWI and the infamous English pork shortage. To compensate, benevolent Canadians rolled some of their own Wiltshire-cured loins in peameal (for preservation) and shipped them to the Old Country. Their valor did not go unnoticed. From this point on, the porky treat gained international fame, and Canada was granted permanent custody.
The Science of Flavor: Peameal or Back Bacon, brined and trimmed lean, with great marbeling

I am pleased as punch to announce that this Canadian spirit of pork-generosity is still alive. To wit, after coming across our first Operation CB post, Ken Haviland promptly shipped a box of actual Canadian Bacon our way. Yes, good reader: Peameal. Back Bacon. Ontario loin. Vancouver valiant. The full Montreal monty. The real deal. And when it arrived, we were excited and nervous: excited, because it's not every day The 'Chop tastes a new pork product; and nervous, because, well... what if it sucked? There was only one way to find out: open the box, see what's in there, cook it up, and get to tasting.
No worries, friend. It just so happens REAL Canadian bacon is pretty great, and not at all what I was expecting. It was juicy (the brine/marbeling combo works wonders). And very porky. Saltier than I had imagined, and not as sweet. Not at all smoky. And extremely tender. Fresh and moist. I even liked the residual cornmeal (which I hear you're supposed to rinse off); it gave a nice, light crust to butter-fried slices.

So what was in the box, and how did we fix it? Ken sent three types (sliced, whole loin, and butterflied chops); results below!
Sliced peameal fried in butter, with farm fresh egg over easy.

Where to begin? Peameal and eggs seemed as good a place to start as any. And it was. Especially tasty dipped in a little yolk.

Peameal sandwich on kaiser roll, with lettuce, tomato and avocado

Round 2? A Canadian Classic: back bacon on a bun. From what I hear, this is a popular sandwich up north, at either lunch or breakfast. It was also one of our unanimous faves. The veggies really complement the pork, which (being so juicy and porky and salty) really shines in a bun cradled by lettuce and tomato. The avocado was our own wacky innovation, but it added a creamy sub-plot. Good stuff.
Grilled French-cut Peameal Chop

Next up: one of the peameal pork chops. This inch-thick delight took extremely well to grilling. Actually, I think pictures say more than words in this instance. Take a look above, then think about the last pork chop you ate, then take another look. This had all the merits of the sliced peameal, but it was even juicier. Grilling carmelized the surface ever so slightly, and the trimmed bone made for a mighty swank presentation. What a great idea: showcasing the meat's deliciousness, and adding a touch of ass. I mean class.
Pan-fried peameal pork chop, with maple reduction

Time for another chop, eh? I cooked it in butter, which was a great idea. Look at the crust on that bad boy. There were fine pan-drippings ready for action, so I went with my own version of an RCB recipe: a maple syrup/lemon juice/mustard pan sauce. The sweet and (slightly) sour combo pairs perfectly with peameal. Plus, it sounds way more “la-di-da-di” than it is; this was a fast, simple, delicious preparation.

Sliced peameal in beer-butter sauce

We still had a loin. So we decided to bake it. But that was gonna take awhile, so I sliced off a piece and fried it up in butter. That sauce on top is sauteed garlic, a little thyme, dry mustard, the beer I was drinking, a little maple syrup, and a bunch of butter. Not as good as the previous sauce, but I think the beer/butter/back bacon combo has potential.
Baked peameal, “Aunt Doris” style

As for the rest of the loin... we wanted to end on a high note, and went with a Haviland family recipe. Ken's Aunt Doris turned 90 last year, so I figured she knew a thing or two about Canadian Bacon. Her tip? Bake it in milk, slow and low. Well played, Doris. The meat arrived plump and juicy, with a golden crust that formed as the liquid evaporated. Milk fattens the loin, and also mellows the saltiness. We served this one with some mashed potatoes and leeks, to unanimous approval.And there you have it, friend. The mysteries of Canadian Bacon finally revealed. Now since I know you're still curious, head on over to the RCB website and give 'em a gander. Then think about a little peameal for the holidays, and show some love to our friends up north.

Oh Canada? Oh Canada!

Til Tuesday,

–J. Slab
At the end of this rainbow...
  • The REAL Canadian Bacon Company launched about 6 years ago; Ken's been at it full-time for nearly two years. Their sales started doubling in 2005; word is catching on.
  • Back bacon loins are becoming increasingly popular on Canadian holidays. Like Canada-Christmas and Canada-Thanksgiving and Canada Day.
  • Vegas loves this stuff, especially the true center-cut butterflied chops (which stay juicy under buffet lights). Even the hospitals serve peameal (no joke).
  • This is the healthiest bacon you'll ever eat, or at least the only one endorsed by The Canadian Diabetic Foundation.
  • And, contrary to a rumor I started in our first CB post, Ken's daughter is the one who sings a mean “Oh Canada.” She cut her chops as part of a traveling choir for 6 years.



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