I'm not sure that "sprinkle with salt & pepper; broil for 10-15 minutes" qualifies as a recipe but I really, really wanted to share this favorite food with you today. I was shocked (shocked I tell you!) to discover how many people have never heard of this product after I put a picture of it up on my Instagram feed.
Everyone assumed it was bacon because, well, it does look an awful lot like thick cut bacon. But it's not bacon. Close but no cigar.
There were some other great guesses:
- duck belly (which sounds wonderful!)
- Serrano ham (which was also in the fridge)
- fat back
- raccoon (that is a story for another day)
We had this about once per week growing up and there was never enough because everyone loved it. Hot, meaty, salty, a little crunchy...
... It's called Side Pork!
Yes, it looks just like bacon but there are some distinct differences. I will share:
First of all, Side Pork is not cured. It is raw as raw can be which is why you need to generously salt it before cooking. No curing means no nitrates, yippeee!
Secondly, Side Pork is from a little further up the side of the pig than bacon. Bacon is closer to the belly where all the fat is. Side Pork does have fat on it but certainly less than bacon, especially after it renders down. Side Pork is much meatier than bacon which makes it a perfect, protein-packed breakfast food. I have been known to eat it for dinner as well.
Lastly, Side Pork has a sort of...rind. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe it's the skin of the piggie, the part that you would normally use to make crack'lins or chicharron. For me, this is what Side Pork is all about because after it cooks in the oven, it gets all curly and crispy and toasted. Some parts of the rind also get sorta chewy. It will be the last part you eat and you will chew on it for a while. I'm not gonna lie, it can be tough and rubbery. Kind of like pork-flavored chewing gum. But I grew up gnawing on those skinny rinds so it doesn't seem weird to me, I suppose just like Spam is normal to some people. You will either love it or hate it. If you hate it, just don't eat it or you can cut it off before cooking.
Side Pork can be hard to find. Once I asked one of the youngsters at the meat counter of my local supermarket if they had any Side Pork and he pointed me to the "fat back" next to the bacon. I didn't know whether to correct him or pat him on the head & pinch his cheeks. Kids today!
If you have a reliable, experienced butcher he can order Side Pork for you and may even have some in stock. My Uncle P. (you also know him as Uncle Farmer's Market) has a butcher that orders it for him. A couple weeks ago he paid $2.99/lb for it. I'm a little embarrassed to tell you that I don't know how that price compares to bacon but I just don't buy bacon that often so... maybe you can tell me.
If given the choice, I prefer it cut thinner rather than thicker. Certainly no thicker than thick-cut bacon. I like it on the thinner side because I feel that the fat renders out a little better. But don't get me wrong... I'll eat it thick, thin or anywhere in between.
Once you find some Side Pork, cooking it is pretty simple. Generously salt both sides with salt and a little pepper. Place it on a baking sheet lined with foil or broiler pan and broil for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness). It needs to get well browned so that the fat melts out and the rind curls up and gets dark in some spots. Flip it over and let the other side get a little toasty as well, about 2 minutes. Place the cooked Side Pork on paper towel to drain off any extra fat and serve hot.
I hope you can find some Side Pork and give it a try!