In my family, bacon reigns supreme. As a dinner party guest or Webster clan member, you will find bacon fat, lardon, or bacon strips, in almost every dish coming out of the kitchen. For this reason we have made it a full time to job to cull the Fairfield County market in search of great tasting bacon. Recently we came across a find that is worth noting as you head out on your next shopping trip in search of cured pork.
Cooks Illustrated did an exhaustive taste test of artisan bacon in 2008, ranking Vande Rose Farms Artisan Dry Cured Bacon, Applewood Smoked at the top of the list. Brands it beat out were Applegate Farms, Niman Ranch, Nodine's, and North Country Smokehouse. Previously we had to satisfy our pork craving by mail ordering our Vande Rose bacon, but we found it at Balducci's in Westport for $8.99 (It is not sold at their Greenwich location). This is significantly less expensive than the mail order price from Vande Rose. Stock up...but leave a few boxes for us.
Here is what the testers had to say @ Cook's Illustrated:
Recommendation Status: Highly Recommended
Tasters raved that this bacon—which scored a distinct few notches higher than the rest of the lineup—had it all: “Nice balance of sweetness to salt, great deep complex ham flavor, very meaty,” with a “faint fruity taste, sweet and salty.” “A nice, thick cut, very hearty and substantial.” “Classic bacon, but with lots more genuine smoke flavor and in every way better.” “Now you’re talking! This has lots of sex appeal—good balance of everything.” In sum: “A winner.”
Great bacon is all about a balance of sweet, smoky, salty, and meaty—and striking that flavor balance turned out to be the biggest factor for success with our tasters.
By contrast, artisanal bacon takes much more time, as well as hand labor and real wood smoke. It begins with fresh pork bellies, which artisanal producers say make bacon with superior texture and flavor compared to starting with frozen bellies.
Dry-cured with brown sugar, salt, and pepper; hand-rubbed; applewood-smoked