It’s amazing how we all get taken in by marketing hype. And that means even me too! I was looking at bacon recently in the supermarket. I was determined to avoid the sub-standard quality bacon that used injected brine to salt the meat.
My eye was attracted to a product whose packaging looked rustic promoting the idea of good, old fashioned quality and the words stated ‘dry cured by hand’ and ‘no added water’. Plus their slogan ‘just as it should be’ sounded perfect.
So I bought it, cooked it, ate it and it made a delicious bacon butty (a sandwich to everyone else not from the UK) . Then I read the ingredients – pork, salt, hydrolysed vegetable protein…
What is Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein? My instinct tells me that anything called ‘Hydrolysed’ can’t be too good! According to the internet Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is produced by boiling foods such as soy, corn, or wheat in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The acid breaks down the protein in vegetables into their component amino acids. A similar product, derived from dairy products, is hydrolyzed whey protein.
One of the amino acids in the dark-coloured liquid that’s left is glutamic acid. We’re more familiar with glutamic acid in the form of its sodium salt — monosodium glutamate, or MSG – that infamous flavour enhancer from many years ago. People who are sensitive to MSG should avoid foods containing ingredients or additives that include the word “hydrolyzed.”
So does a simple old fashioned dry cured bacon recipe actually really need a flavour enhancer?
I looked up some basic recipes and all that’s needed for a basic bacon curing recipe is….. SALT. Flavourings can also be added during the process and it seems everyone has their own favourites. These can include ingredients such as maple syrup, mustard, rosemary, black peppercorns, crushed garlic etc…
As I don’t think I’m about to start curing my own bacon, I need to remember the message for MSG – read the ingredients list… One packaging phrase that might be useful as a starting point is the phrase ‘traditionally dry cured’.
P.S. I found the following description on a food blog for their recipe for curing bacon, which is very amusing!
“Apply salt to both sides of the belly and rub it in. Kosher salt works perfectly for this, as the grains of a traditional table salt are too fine, while those in sea salt are too coarse”
Somehow I don’t think the Rabbi who blessed the kosher salt had this use in mind.