David Theiss
For the Nevada Appeal

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February 22, 2013
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Bring home the bacon and enjoy the best of summer tomatoes

The other day my Dad and I were out in his garden and he showed me his tomato plants. There were some still ripening, many more to be picked and lots of them had already been enjoyed in delicious recipes my mom had made. It reminded me of all my customers who come to my shop, especially this time of year, to purchase bacon to go along with all their home-grown tomatoes and lettuce.

With all your tomatoes ripening soon, it's the perfect time of year to enjoy the unforgettable bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich: red-ripe tomatoes, crisp-garden lettuce and hickory-smoked maple sugar cured bacon piled high on fresh, toasted bread. Just the smell of bacon cooking invites the appetite.

Traditionally, bacon demand increases in the late summer months due to the popularity of BLT's. These sandwiches became popular around the early 1900s. An article in Better Homes and Gardens in 1903 appears to be the earliest recipe printed. Pork belly was considered a cheap meat and when tomatoes ripened, people looked for inventive ways to use their home grown vegetables. Thus, the BLT was born.

Bacon, a cured and smoked meat, is made primarily from pork and has a long tradition in almost every region of the world. Each country claims some type of origination. In days past, people understood you had to handle pork carefully so it would not spoil.

Smoking and curing of pork became popular ways to preserve it to make it last longer without refrigeration. Curing bacon consists of either brining or the rubbing of salt and sugar mixtures on the pork bellies to cure them. Adding flavors like honey, maple sugar or brown sugar added to the flavor of the pork.

Bacon can also be smoked over several different hardwoods such as apple, cherry, mesquite or, my favorite, hickory. Some even have smoked bacon using corn cobs. Europe bacon can be either smoked or unsmoked. Italian bacon is called pancetta, which is uncooked, unsmoked and rolled into tube like cylinders during the curing process.

In the United States, people refer to uncured bacon as fresh side or side pork. Side bacon (or streaky bacon) is the most common kind of bacon in the United States and is the type of bacon you would normally find in the grocery store.

Middle bacon (or cottage bacon) is a leaner piece of bacon using the shoulder area of the pig and provides a lower fat alternative to side bacon. Back bacon (or Canadian bacon) is even leaner and meatier and uses the loin area of the pig. Back bacon is traditionally used for Eggs Benedict. Other meat can be used to resemble bacon, such as beef or turkey, and is more common in areas with large Jewish or Muslim populations.

Bacon is becoming a mainstream product for meals at any time, including desserts. Bacon flavoring has been showing up in all kinds of unusual things, such as ice cream, vodka, chocolate, bread pudding, hot dogs, bacon salt, donuts, cookies, mints, mayonnaise, cakes and salad toppings, to name a few.

My new friends down at the farmers market, Carson City Confections, let me sample some bacon chocolate and a maple bacon cupcake, both of which were delicious. A favorite of mine is deviled eggs with bacon crumbles in the yolk mixture.

I smoke all of my selections of bacon using a maple sugar cure (a no-nitrate process) and an aromatic hickory smoke on four different types of bacon; shoulder (we call Comstock Bacon, Canadian, turkey and our traditional).

There's nothing better than off-the-vine red tomatoes and crisp leaf lettuce from my dad's garden topped with tasty hickory-smoked bacon for a delicious sandwich. Or if you don't have a garden to pick from, come down to Carson City's farmer's market on Saturday on Curry Street and personalize your sandwich with all the fresh produce featured.

It doesn't just have to be lettuce and tomato with your bacon. Butler Meats will be featuring bacon at the Carson City Farmer's Market on Saturday. Come on by for a taste.

Cooking Bacon

Bacon can be prepared many ways, but the most popular is to fry it in a skillet on medium high for about 5 minutes or until you get the crispness you prefer.

Oven baked bacon is becoming more popular. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place the bacon on a baking sheet with or without foil, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. The longer you bake it, the crispier it gets.

You can also microwave bacon on a plate with paper towels under and over the bacon (do not overlap the bacon). Microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes.

Different options for your Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich:

Use wheat bread, sour dough, toasted, try using avocados, peperoncini's jalapeno mayonnaise.

• David Theiss long-time resident of Carson City and owner of ButlerMeat Co.

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The Record Courier Updated Sep 7, 2011 12:01AM Published Feb 22, 2013 10:58AM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.