Pig Candy (Bacon Peanut Brittle) and the Good Meat Book
November 15, 2010
It seems like everywhere you look in the last couple of years bacon is a key ingredient in everything from savory to sweet, from casseroles to cupcakes, so I guess putting it in candy makes sense in some weird way. I’m not late to the party here, I’ve simply been trying to avoid the bacon frenzy and not buy into the hype. Bacon is trendy, and like all trends it will be replaced by something else soon enough and then we can all go back to having it with our eggs in the morning. I was happy to ignore the trend until I saw the recipe for “Pig Candy” in the book Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat and suddenly, my mind was changed.
Good Meat, is a weighty hardcover book filled with over 200 recipes and absolutely stunning photos of both raw primal cuts of meat and some of the finished recipes. This book is meant to be a resource focusing on sustainable meats; beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, poultry, and eggs. Sustainable here means pasture raised chickens and pork, and 100% grass fed beef. And rabbits are sustainable because well, they breed like rabbits.
The reasons they give for making the choice to use sustainable meats are quite compelling; besides the environmental ones (commercially raised meat is a drain on our resources), and health (pasture raised animals are better for you), there are financial ones (save money by buying a whole animal like we did) and finally, because they taste better.
Given the amount of pasture raised pork in my freezer, I read the chapter on pork first ( after reading the very thoughtful and thorough introductory chapter). Not only did it confirm what I already knew about pasture raised pork, but I gleaned some new information as well. In fact, each chapter of the book talks about the specific sustainability issues related to that animal, then gives an anatomical breakdown both in drawings and in photos. They list the specific primal cuts (on the pig; the shoulder, the loin, the belly and the leg) and then which cuts can come from each primal.
One passage I found to be spot-on in my own experience of eating a pasture raised pig is the one below (the bold is mine for emphasis):
“Today’s heritage and traditional breeds offer real texture and deeper flavors than those of industrial pork, in large part because they are raised outside on a more natural diet. Their meat has a good fat cover, and is generally well marbled, which (because it doesn’t dry out) makes it easy to cook. Sustainable pork offers one ofthe most dramatic flavor and texture contrasts between the products of industrial production and those from farm-based husbandry.”
As soon as I got to the recipes, I knew I was going to have fun with this book. There are so many fantastic ideas and in no time the book was littered with little sticky flags of recipes I’d like to try some day (and that was just the pork section). If you don’t have access to sustainable meats, can’t afford them, or even if it’s not important to you to use them, that’s ok. The recipes in here and the information provided about meat in general are presented in a useful and easy to understand way. I know I’m going to be working out of more than just the Pork chapter too. I can’t wait!
Pig Candy (Peanut Brittle with Bacon) Recipe Adapted from the book, Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 oz water
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 oz uncooked thick cut bacon (1/2 cup cooked, chopped)
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp unsalted butter plus 1 tsp
Please read the recipe notes below before beginning.
Cook the bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel. Allow to cool and chop into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
Get all of the other ingredients ready and measured out in advance as once the process starts it moves fast.
Butter a baking sheet or silicone liner, and butter a spatula and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed 1 quart pot, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water and cook over a medium flame until the sugar melts and the liquid begins to simmer. Use a candy thermometer and cook until the mixture gets to around 285 degrees. Stir in the peanuts, bacon and red pepper flakes using a silicone spatula.
Continue cooking until the themometer reaches between 300 and 310 degrees. Turn off the flame and remove from the heat. The sugar will just be starting to color here. Working quickly, carefully stir in the butter and baking soda (it will bubble and foam as you mix it in, be careful).
Immediately pour the mixture on to the prepared pan and spread it out as thin as possible with the spatula. It will harden as it cools, so work fast.
Once cool, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container.
The recipe calls for “6 slices” of bacon, or 1/2 cup cooked. When I cut 6 slices of home made bacon it weighed in at 10 oz, uncooked and cooked up to be 1 full cup of cooked chopped bacon (which allowed me to make 2 batches!).
Use the best bacon you can, preferably thick cut, if you not are making your own.
The first time I made this recipe, I followed it to the letter, which included cooking the bacon and nuts in with the syrup until it got to the candy stage. This seemed to take a very long time. For the second batch, I left out the bacon, nuts and pepper until it got to 285 degrees and then added them followed by the butter and baking soda. It went much faster that time.
I’m not sure it’s necessary to butter a silicone baking mat, but I did it anyway and it worked well so I left that part of the recipe as is.
In general, I don’t like to use corn syrup but this recipe calls for it, as do most brittle recipes. I believe it helps to prevent the sugar from crystallizing before getting to the right temperature to make candy.
If you don’t want the little bit of heat/spice that the red pepper flakes give, leave them out, but they do add a nice contrast to the sweet and salty of the sugar and the bacon.
A candy thermometer is a must unless you are experienced in working with sugar candies which can go from too soft, to burnt in an instant.
Disclaimer and thanks: this book was sent to me by the publisher at the request of Seattle food blogger Traca Savadogo, whose blog, Seattle Tall Poppyfocuses on issues within the food world including sustainability, interviews with well known chefs and the local Seattle food scene. She thought I would enjoy this book and I do, very much. Thanks Traca!