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Monday, March 5, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo Monday - Prosciutto and pancetta and bacon....oh my!

What is the difference?!?

To be honest, we never really used much proscuitto or pancetta in Australia, but having found that we aren't in love with bacon in the UK, substitute them in quite a lot. Without really knowing the difference, I thought (ok, Pete suggested) that I learn what the differences are, and when we should  be using each!

Prosciutto is also called parma ham and is Italian. It is a dry-cured ham that is sliced thinly and usually served uncooked (known as prosciutto crudo). It is made from a pig or wild boars' hind leg. The process of making proscuitto can take up to two years, depending on the size of the ham! It is basically cut and hung to dry for a few months, pressed to remove all blood, salted and air dried some more. Proscciutto is used in simple pasta's, as a pizza topping, in baguettes or served as anti pasta.

Pancetta is Italian bacon, made from pork belly. Pancetta is salt cured and seasoned with any variety of the following flavours: nutmeg, fennel, peppercorns, peppers and garlic. Once seasoned, it is rolled up like salami and dry cured, for around three months. It commonly comes in flat strips or cubed. Both need to be cooking and is a direct substitute for bacon. 

Bacon is by far the most well used of the three meats, however, Pete did have pancetta and eggs for breakfast on the weekend! Bacon comes from pig, from a variety of cuts. It traditionally comes from the side or back of the pig, but interestingly, in the US, it is almost always cut from the belly, which is the fattier region and gets the name "streaky" bacon. Back bacon is the cut from the loin, just above the ribs. It is more commonly smoked in America, whereas everywhere else it is predominantly only cured. Bacon is prepared by injecting it with curing agents, mostly sodium nitrate. Ham, is cured with a sweeter brine than bacon, which is the main difference between the two. 

Bacon around the world - I thought this was interesting too...

 - In Australia, our bacon is called "middle bacon" which has the streaky section at one end and the lean loin at the other. You can purchase the leaner cut only, called "short cut bacon".
- In Canada, back bacon is the from the boneless eye of the loin, which is what the US calls, "Canadian Bacon".
- In the UK, the back bacon is the most common, however, in my opinion, is a very odd tasting form of bacon, which goes through a very odd smell when you're frying it!!
- America. Oh America. Unsmoked or smoked with corncobs or hickory and then many are flavoured and sweetened. Strip bacon from the belly of the pork is the most popular cut.There is such a phenomenon as Bacon Mania in the US to describe the bacon passion in the States. There's such things as: bacon icecream, bacon infused vodka, baconnaise and the Wendy's Baconnator, which is 6 strips of bacon on a half pound cheeseburger, which sold 25 million in the first 8 weeks!!! Oh and don't forget chocolate dipped bacon strips!!! 
But I wonder, has anyone done salted caramel bacon...??

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