Beef bacon is something that I have been looking into ever since chatting about a butchering video showing a small cut from a huge steer that looks just like a pork belly. It was shortly after this that Time Out Chicago posted an article discussing bacon from different beasts. The thing was, that I could not find this cut until a few weeks ago. This bacon comes from the same beautiful cut of meat, from Butcher & Larder and Dietzler Farms before that, that gave us the pastrami.
With a new source for beef navel, I first thought of beef bacon. Similarly to when I experimented with lamb bacon, making lamb pancetta to hedge, I took half of the navel and made the best pastrami that I have made. One thing that I learned from the lamb bacon is that the cure is flexible between meats and that, if you have a bacon cure that you like, that it is likely going to work far better than doing something different. To boot, my bacon cure is simple – salt, sugar, pink salt, and maple syrup, so there isn’t anything there that is animal specific.
After smoking for nearly six hours over whiskey barrels, the navel was nearly indistinguishable from a pork belly in appearance. While it was a little cold to hot smoke a pastrami, it was perfect for bacon smoking. The outdoor temps were so low, that the temp inside the smoke never made it over 160 degrees. There was little to no fat rendering as part of the smoking process.
As a digression, I love duck and pork fat, but why is there no attention on beef fat? For my tastes, French fries fried in beef fat are the most delicious and still people line up around the corner at the first sign of duck fat fries. If any readers know of beef fat fry producers, please comment, so that I can create my own line for those.
Once sliced (thanks again, guys and gals), the bacon is even less distinguishable from regular bacon. The striations of lovely beef fat are everywhere, but the meat, interspersed, ranges from a light pink to dark red. The flavors are similar to bacon with the exception that, unlike the lamb bacon, the beef bacon is not as salty as regular bacon. The smoke is apparent, but this bacon is a mild, breakfast type bacon. The maple syrup goes well with the beef, which is most apparent in the aftertaste.
We are not talking about a slice radically different from bacon, but rather something similar, but beefy. My first taste was in braised leeks and there was a certainly steak-i-ness to the overall flavor, but by just grabbing a slice later in the week, it was the similarity to bacon that gave me comfort.