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"Healthy" Bacon and Smoked Sausage

"Healthy" Bacon and Smoked Sausage
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  • "Healthy" Bacon and Smoked Sausage

    Post #1 - June 13th, 2009, 10:12 pm
    Post #1 - June 13th, 2009, 10:12 pm Post #1 - June 13th, 2009, 10:12 pm
    Does anyone know an easily obtainable source or brand for bacon or smoked sausage that is not made with bad chemicals like nitrates that tastes the same or similar to "regular" bacon??? Don't suggest turkey bacon, I like the kind made from pigs. Thx.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #2 - June 13th, 2009, 10:36 pm
    Post #2 - June 13th, 2009, 10:36 pm Post #2 - June 13th, 2009, 10:36 pm
    What makes you think nitrates are bad chemicals? I mean, I wouldn't eat it with a spoon, but it's a preservative, it's designed to kill something. The point is to use it in a quantity that kills something besides you.

    Nitrate is what cures bacon. Uncured bacon is just pork, no matter who labels it bacon.
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  • Post #3 - June 13th, 2009, 11:20 pm
    Post #3 - June 13th, 2009, 11:20 pm Post #3 - June 13th, 2009, 11:20 pm
    Mike G wrote:Nitrate is what cures bacon. Uncured bacon is just pork, no matter who labels it bacon.


    Well, to be fair, couldn't you just salt cure it and smoke it? Granted, the nitrites/-ates are what keep it pink and add to some/much of that cured bacon flavor, but I think even minus the nitrites the end product would still be called bacon. That said, I've never tried it, but apparently Trader Joe's carries nitrite-free bacon.
  • Post #4 - June 13th, 2009, 11:30 pm
    Post #4 - June 13th, 2009, 11:30 pm Post #4 - June 13th, 2009, 11:30 pm
    It's going to have a different taste (not to mention color). But sure, salt and some other flavorings (brown sugar maple whatever) would produce a nice product. (I would bet many pancettas, for instance, are nitrate free-- La Quercia's is.) The problem in looking for a commercial product is that they won't up the salt to ungodly levels to compensate for the lack of nitrate. So basically you're stuck with an uncured product calling itself bacon, but tasting like pork— which as I said here once before, makes about as much sense as "unbaked cake."

    If it's going to be cured, something's got to cure it, render it uninhabitable for common rotting meat bacteria. Take your pick of your, literally, poison.
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  • Post #5 - June 13th, 2009, 11:32 pm
    Post #5 - June 13th, 2009, 11:32 pm Post #5 - June 13th, 2009, 11:32 pm
    Mike G wrote:What makes you think nitrates are bad chemicals?

    The fact that when bacon is cooked at high temperatures the sodium nitrite contained therein produces nitrosamines, which are quite likely carcinogenic?
  • Post #6 - June 13th, 2009, 11:42 pm
    Post #6 - June 13th, 2009, 11:42 pm Post #6 - June 13th, 2009, 11:42 pm
    "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?"
    --Sgt. Major Dan Daly, Belleau Wood, June 4, 1918
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  • Post #7 - June 13th, 2009, 11:51 pm
    Post #7 - June 13th, 2009, 11:51 pm Post #7 - June 13th, 2009, 11:51 pm
    I think we've just come up with Oscar Mayer's new slogan.
  • Post #8 - June 14th, 2009, 1:21 am
    Post #8 - June 14th, 2009, 1:21 am Post #8 - June 14th, 2009, 1:21 am
    cilantro wrote:
    Mike G wrote:What makes you think nitrates are bad chemicals?

    The fact that when bacon is cooked at high temperatures the sodium nitrite contained therein produces nitrosamines, which are quite likely carcinogenic?


    These substances abound in everything we eat. Check out this table. See how much nitrosamine is in cottage cheese. Or the nitrates in spinach.

    I'm all for avoiding harmful compounds, but a little context is helpful. But I'm not putting spinach in my cottage cheese any more. :D
  • Post #9 - June 14th, 2009, 6:59 am
    Post #9 - June 14th, 2009, 6:59 am Post #9 - June 14th, 2009, 6:59 am
    Whole Foods has about the best bacon you can get. It's about the healthiest you can get and it tastes great.
  • Post #10 - June 14th, 2009, 8:29 am
    Post #10 - June 14th, 2009, 8:29 am Post #10 - June 14th, 2009, 8:29 am
    Thanks everyone. I'll see about the bacon at Whole Foods the next time I'm there. I've been feeling guilty about eating bacon cause I love it and I like adding a little bit to even healthy foods. Oh well, I'm off to baking up some regular bacon for breakfast. Nitrates be damned. Maybe the oatmeal and fruit will counteract the bad.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #11 - June 14th, 2009, 9:15 am
    Post #11 - June 14th, 2009, 9:15 am Post #11 - June 14th, 2009, 9:15 am
    Whole Foods has about the best bacon you can get. It's about the healthiest you can get and it tastes great.


    For the record, I disagree with every word in this post. Their "uncured bacon" [sic] is exactly what I was talking about above.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
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  • Post #12 - June 14th, 2009, 9:54 am
    Post #12 - June 14th, 2009, 9:54 am Post #12 - June 14th, 2009, 9:54 am
    Mike G wrote:
    Whole Foods has about the best bacon you can get. It's about the healthiest you can get and it tastes great.


    For the record, I disagree with every word in this post. Their "uncured bacon" [sic] is exactly what I was talking about above.


    I like my uncured bacon with a side of un-brined pickles.
  • Post #13 - June 14th, 2009, 2:22 pm
    Post #13 - June 14th, 2009, 2:22 pm Post #13 - June 14th, 2009, 2:22 pm
    Bill/SFNM wrote:
    cilantro wrote:
    Mike G wrote:What makes you think nitrates are bad chemicals?

    The fact that when bacon is cooked at high temperatures the sodium nitrite contained therein produces nitrosamines, which are quite likely carcinogenic?


    These substances abound in everything we eat. Check out this table. See how much nitrosamine is in cottage cheese. Or the nitrates in spinach.


    Thanks for the link, Bill it is very helpful.

    I just want to note here because I've seen this confusion many times (even on LTH and also by otherwise very knowledgeable food professionals/writers elsewhere) many times* - nitrates are not recommended for curing (though they are used). Rather, nitrites should be used. Nitrates are converted to nitrites and it is the nitrite that has the curing (delaying the onset of botulism) effect [actually the nitrite itself converted to nitric oxide for the effect].
    For very long cures - nitrates could be used (nitrates would break down to nitrites and so on).
    Only a very small amount of nitrite would actually be converted to nitrosamines in the cooking process.
    As far as possible or potential carcinogenic compounds go - if meat is heated to temperatures greater than 200 ºC [I may be incorrect on this exact number] then some of these are formed (so no charred meat).

    Anyways, here is an article (with references to the primary literature) : Nitrite in Meat

    I am not a food scientist - so if the above is incorrect or reflects a misunderstanding, I hope someone will correct me

    Bill/SFNM wrote:I'm all for avoiding harmful compounds, but a little context is helpful.

    as is perspective, thanks Bill.

    from the article linked to above wrote:It has been reported that people normally consume more nitrates from their vegetable intake than from the cured meat products they eat. Spinach, beets, radishes, celery, and cabbages are among the vegetables that generally contain very high concentrations of nitrates (J. Food Sci., 52:1632)

    ...
    To obtain 22 milligrams of sodium nitrite per kilogram of body weight (a lethal dose), a 154-pound adult would have to consume, at once, 18.57 pounds of cured meat product containing 200 ppm sodium nitrite (because nitrite is rapidly converted to nitric oxide during the curing process, the 18.57 pound figure should be tripled at least). Even if a person could eat that amount of cured meat, salt, not nitrite, probably would be the toxic factor.


    See also "Nitrite curing of meat" by Ronald B. Pegg, Fereidoon Shahidi
    (try searching for the word nitrite in it - parts of it is available through google books)
    http://books.google.com/books?id=dDGK9TQsTj0C


    Rather than use sodium nitrite - many cures use 'celery juice' or other nitrite or nitrate containing 'natural' ingredients. I understand that there is a taste issue involved. However, I do think that the contributor to the taste (desirable or undesirable) is hardly the nitrate. Salt and spices (not the mention the most contributing factors - the pork (and pig's diet)) would affect the taste.

    I just do not understand this idea of 'healthy' food - healthy diet yes, but that could include any food* if one adopts a sensible approach.
    *with the obvious disclaimer that some things are just not really food

    I am not a nutritionist - so if the above is incorrect or reflects a misunderstanding, I hope someone will correct me

    ---
    My apologies for this quasi-rant - it is not directed at anyone. Simply an outpouring of my frustration at not being able to post on LTH as frequently as I would like to
  • Post #14 - June 14th, 2009, 2:57 pm
    Post #14 - June 14th, 2009, 2:57 pm Post #14 - June 14th, 2009, 2:57 pm
    Thanks, everyone, for the informative, thoughtful and measured posts. As an amateur (aka hack) charcuterie, I am truly appreciative of all the contributions here.

    I hate to throw additional water on the OP's hopes but generally speaking (I have not tried WF bacon and therefore, cannot comment on it), there are some foods in this world that are relatively unhealthy and the 'healthy' versions deviate so much from the originals, they're not really worth the bother. Their essence is removed. Couple that with the fact that they're not that much healthier anyway (ever read the label to see how much fat and sodium are in chicken sausage?) and by choosing them, you give up quite a bit quality-wise and gain very little health-wise. Bacon (cured meats in general) and sausage are 2 foods that I consider to be in this category. They are what they are and they're supremely delicious specifiically because of their composition.

    My main thought here is about moderation. Buy the best, tastiest bacon and sausage you can find and eat it only occasionally. Doing so will satisfy the craving and limit the adverse health effects. I just don't believe there are any true substitutes for these types of foods.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #15 - June 14th, 2009, 4:12 pm
    Post #15 - June 14th, 2009, 4:12 pm Post #15 - June 14th, 2009, 4:12 pm
    Hi! I'm new to this group, and joined when I saw the no-nitrites questions. We have German sausage company called Keonemann's up here in Volo, IL (WNW Lake County) that makes their own nitrite-free bacon that's VERY, VERY GOOD - way better than grocery-store bacon. They sell by the pound at the store, and you can buy it sliced or not. They have online sales, as well, but the shipping may be a killer. http://www.koenemannsausage.com/ They make all their own sausages at the factory next door. They also carry many other nitrite-free sausages (hot dogs, etc - they have some with natural casings, so they POP when you bite them!) that are wonderful - can't tell the difference that they have no nitrites! They also make some with nitrites, so ASK, to be sure. A real gem of a place! There's a deli with cheeses and salads, and small imported food grocery area, too, with a large chocolate candy bar section. I'm not a fan of their pastries, however - they LOOK gorgeous, but lack butter flavor. Koenemann's is frequented by many older German people from the surrounding area. Be forewarned, they do NOT have a place to sit and eat. Hope this helps!
  • Post #16 - June 14th, 2009, 5:29 pm
    Post #16 - June 14th, 2009, 5:29 pm Post #16 - June 14th, 2009, 5:29 pm
    I am guessing that for every article we find that exonerates nitrites (or even nitrates) we'll find another that will blame. For example, here is one that says, yep, they are carcinogenic, but we can't say what a small amount means to the human body. And, yet anotherthat says there is an increased bladder cancer risk. And, if that isn't contradictory enough, here is as study that shows how spikes in nitrites can have a positive effect on the heart!

    To me, it's about personal choice. Sure, it helps if it's informed, but sometimes there isn't anything clear cut; I read the above (and the hundreds of other published studies) and am only more confused.

    So, to me, as Ronnie Suburban pointed out, it's about moderation. And about personal choice.

    If the OP doesn't want nitrites or nitrates, cool. His or her choice. Both TJs and WF have bacon that isn't cured with either of them. It's slightly different tasting, but I couldn't say that it is terrible different, like fat free cheese from regular cheese (shudder).
  • Post #17 - June 14th, 2009, 7:06 pm
    Post #17 - June 14th, 2009, 7:06 pm Post #17 - June 14th, 2009, 7:06 pm
    The difference is that it's not bacon.

    The day may come that the strength of men may fail and "bacon" will have been sufficiently degraded as to mean any sliced pork in any chemical flavoring soup, but it is not this day.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #18 - June 14th, 2009, 7:22 pm
    Post #18 - June 14th, 2009, 7:22 pm Post #18 - June 14th, 2009, 7:22 pm
    Nitrite-free 'bacon' is to bacon,

    as

    alcohol-free 'wine' is to wine.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #19 - June 14th, 2009, 7:33 pm
    Post #19 - June 14th, 2009, 7:33 pm Post #19 - June 14th, 2009, 7:33 pm
    Well, I know I'm new to this, and I agree about the "lack of ____" in alcohol-free wines and fat-free cheeses. I've never tried TJs or WFs bacon, but the Koenemann's is wonderful - I would never have guessed there was anything "different" about it - very smoky with great depth of flavor. I think you need to try it before you judge.
  • Post #20 - June 14th, 2009, 7:40 pm
    Post #20 - June 14th, 2009, 7:40 pm Post #20 - June 14th, 2009, 7:40 pm
    Laurie C wrote:I think you need to try it before you judge.

    Always good advice. :)

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #21 - June 14th, 2009, 7:53 pm
    Post #21 - June 14th, 2009, 7:53 pm Post #21 - June 14th, 2009, 7:53 pm
    There are many fine salt-only cured products. I have no beef (so to speak) with them. I don't share their nitrite-phobia but I'd happily try a well-made salt-cured product like that.

    My problem is with the nonsensical "uncured bacon" (pardon me while I pour myself a glass of uncurdled cheddar) which claims to be bacon while just being pork soaked in some bunch of chemical flavorings meant to vaguely evoke bacon. I have tried those, I know bacon, bacon is my friend, and you sir are no bacon.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #22 - June 14th, 2009, 10:03 pm
    Post #22 - June 14th, 2009, 10:03 pm Post #22 - June 14th, 2009, 10:03 pm
    Frankly, I'd rather eat a little bacon* here and there than eat uncured bacon all the time.

    All good things in moderation. That applies to not just the nitrates in the bacon, but also to the pork fat (interesting article at Slate about lard and pork fat), and frankly the meat itself (not so great for the environment). A pile of uncured belly isn't exactly a health food. Is cured bacon marginally less healthy? Perhaps, but probably not much.

    I make my own bacon and I do put curing salts in - not only does it taste like bacon and not just pork belly (not that there's anything wrong there - I just made some sous vide belly the other day), but it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that as I keep the belly in the unsafe food temperature range in the smoker for a long time that I've got nitrates suppressing the Clostridium botulinium for me.

    Of course, now that I think about it, I was a pack-a-day smoker for about a decade (have since quit), so I'm really in no position to speak about carcinogens. My years of smoking are probably equal to several lifetimes of heavy bacon consumption.

    -Dan

    * And VA country ham, proscuitto, pate, pancetta, salami, pastrami, corned beef, etc.
  • Post #23 - June 14th, 2009, 10:13 pm
    Post #23 - June 14th, 2009, 10:13 pm Post #23 - June 14th, 2009, 10:13 pm
    I look forward to the upcoming Sky Full of Chemical Flavorings Meant to Vaguely Evoke Bacon HD Podcast.

    -Dan
  • Post #24 - June 14th, 2009, 10:16 pm
    Post #24 - June 14th, 2009, 10:16 pm Post #24 - June 14th, 2009, 10:16 pm
    Dan wrote:I look forward to the upcoming Sky Full of Chemical Flavorings Meant to Vaguely Evoke Bacon HD Podcast.


    And, in smell-'o-rama, eh?! :lol:

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #25 - July 12th, 2009, 10:23 pm
    Post #25 - July 12th, 2009, 10:23 pm Post #25 - July 12th, 2009, 10:23 pm
    A couple of weeks ago I saw that one of the meat sellers at Green City Market had bacon. Specifically, they had uncured bacon, they said. I figured they were unlikely to use some sort of weird chemical pseudocure concoction, and most likely they were just curing with salt. But the meat looked nice, so I bought some.

    Sure enough, it was salty. Really salty. A lot saltier than my homemade bacon.

    There's always going to be a tradeoff. "Uncured" bacon is either cured with more salt or it's not really bacon, it's bacon-reminiscent raw pork. Me, I like making bacon the way bacon is usually made, then I just don't eat it three times a day, seven days a week.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.

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