Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to Get Summerfield Bacon

During the past few weeks, we were fortunate to have had several outstanding bacons in the house. Through the winter, Jimmy' s No. 43 had run the very popular "The Slab" on the menu. "The Slab" was a massive quarter inch thick slice of Benton's Smoked Country Bacon from Tennessee cooked in a skillet. It is a great dish to share- almost a bacon steak. Two weeks ago, chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark brought it back, this time with Nueske's bacon (some of their product is pictured above), drizzled with ice wine vinegar. Yes, that was an especially good combination - luscious, creamy bacon fat with a brilliantly fruity yet tart vinegar. Those two bacons are so different. The Benton's is rustic, old fashioned, with pronounced salt and smoke. Nueske's is a sweeter, more tender, maple sugar cure.

The king of all slab bacons is Summerfield. From Culpeper, Virginia it is an old fashioned, sweet cure. Almost 2 years ago, Josh Ozerksy had brought it in house for a special bacon tasting. At the time, it was available online through The Grateful Palate , a specialty shop and home of "The Bacon of the Month Club". By last year it had become virtually impossible to find, other than at a few select restaurants around the country. We have tried several times to contact them, and have no word in over one year. This article in the New York Times about a writer's own bacon tasting caught my eye because she had been able to procure some Summerfield.

Our rating of farmer produced bacons:

1. Summerfield. It stands alone. Virginia
2. Benton's. Very rustic, super salty and smoky. Tennessee
3. Neuske's. Popular winner, more available, maple cure. Wisconsin
4. Flying Pigs Farm. Available at NYC greenmarket. From upstate New York, a local favorite. Great farm. Great meat.
5. Violet Hill Farm. Available at NYC greenmarket. From upstate New York. Great pork. These two are tied for best pork in New York state!