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rlibkind

Lamb Bacon

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I couldn't find a topic dedicated to lamb bacon in a quick search, so here goes . . .

I ordered two lamb breasts from one of my Reading Terminal Market butchers in Philadelphia, and for less than $16 got two breasts with the bones removed (reserved for scotch broth or grilled riblets for nibbling - there's still a little meat left).

I followed the simple recipe from Mark Bittman's blog (contributed by Danny Meyer, from a recipe from his colleague Brian Mayer; you can find it here). It's two cups salt, one cup sugar, coat the meat, wrap and let it sit in the fridge for 2-4 days until firm. (Mine took four.) Then roast at 250F until you hit internal temp of 140F. I failed to correct for my inaccurate oven, so I overcooked a bit and didn't pull the breasts until they hit 180F. But they were still delicious. Here are the before and after cooking photos:

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Bob, your lamb bacon looks compelling. I've sampled mutton bacon and was very impressed, although I'm not sure what part of the animal was used. Yours was a saddle, no? It looks similar to my beloved sample but the color may have been different -- they used KNO3 and got a more pink result.

It certainly challenges the definition of bacon. Really, is there a mammal that can't yield bacon?

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I'm no expert on lamb butchery, but I don't consider this cut from the saddle. A saddle of lamb, I believe, is the entire part of the animal from which rib chops are derived, i.e., the two facing sides of the rib chops. Maybe what I used, breast of lamb, is the fatty, less meaty ends of the saddle, but all the illustrations and photos I've seen of saddle of lamb are quite meaty. This, as you can see, is not. It's basically the same cut from which "riblets" are butchered, less the bones.

btw, I only slow roasted these before frying. My guess is they'd be even better if they were slow smoked. But even without smoking, they are exceptionally tasty. But only for those who truly enjoy lamby goodness. You won't win over anyone who says they don't like the gamey flavor of lamb.

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Bob, your lamb breast does look amazingly good. But I'm sort of confused. You didn't smoke it? and you didn't use pink salt (nitrates) in the cure? Maybe I just don't know what "bacon" means, but I thought curing and smoking was part of the definition of bacon.

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Bob, your lamb breast does look amazingly good. But I'm sort of confused. You didn't smoke it? and you didn't use pink salt (nitrates) in the cure? Maybe I just don't know what "bacon" means, but I thought curing and smoking was part of the definition of bacon.

I thought about using TenderQuik, but decided to stick to the recipe given. As a consequence, I knew the meat wouldn't turn red with curing. Also, it won't last as long with just a salt-sugar cure. (But that's no problem; I put one finished breast in the freezer, and the one I'm keeping in the fridge is almost gone after just five days -- in any event, it should last at least 10 days without the nitrates properly stored.

I think to be considered "bacon" in the formal sense, curing and smoking are more important that use of nitrates. Nitrates is one way to cure meat. Salt is another. Historically, I would imagine salt-cured bacon emerged either before or concomitantly with salt/nitrite cured product. Salt was a tad easier to find naturally than saltpeter.

For years I've been able to purchase nitrite-free bacon from one of the Pennsylvania Dutch butchers at the Reading Terminal Market here in Philadelphia. Of course, today Whole Foods and similiar retails offer "uncured" bacon, though frequently nitrates are surreptitiously introduced through the addition of celery extracts.

I guess in some ways what I made is more akin to pancetta than bacon, since it isn't smoked. I'm sure smoking would be even better. But even without smoking it's a deep-flavored, bacon-y product, strongly tasting of lamb. I ate some last night (as in the photo) on a baguette with lettuce and mayo and the strong flavor came through. Can't wait to try a BLT using this stuff when real tomatoes arrive next month.

I gave some slices to Tommy Nicolosi, proprietor of Tommy DiNic's roast pork stand at the Reading Terminal. He thought it would be a great addition to lentil soup, which he frequently makes with bits of lamb. I'll try that when the cool weather returns in the fall.


Edited by rlibkind (log)

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That lamb bacon looks great, Bob.

By coincidence, a non-pork-eating friend was just asking me about lamb bacon. I might have to head over to Giunta's, get a couple of lamb breasts and give it a try!

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