What's all the fuss about bacon without nitrites? Fact is we've been bringing home the bacon for a millennia - some even say it was made in heaven itself.
We think the preservation of meat by salting may have originated in China and soon spread throughout Europe - through Germany where cured pork was called baco, and similarly in ancient France where it was known as bako. Both variations having a similar meaning; buttock, ham or side of pork.
Before refrigeration heavy salting and drying became the popular method of preserving meat beyond a day or so. Nowadays, bacon comes in a variety of forms and dozens of different cures:
Streaky bacon (Belly).
Back Bacon (Loin)
Collar Bacon (Neck).
Middle Bacon - A flavourful mix of both Back and Streaky
Shoulder Bacon - Marbled similar to Middle though not as much flavour.
Cheek bacon - Face, neck (jowl) bacon - but not guanciale, which is classified as a ready to eat deli meat (charcuterie).
Smoked or au naturel, bacon is one of those foods most can't resist. What better than a few rashers of crispy bacon and egg or bacon sandwich with brown sauce.
Though pork bacon is by far the most common, Mutton, Turkey, and Beef can also make great bacon. More recently even plant-based (vegan) versions have become readily available - whatever next!
Salt is the primary and only ingredient actually needed to make bacon. Though without the artificial preservatives, modern processing and sugar, it would look and taste very different from what we're used to in the shops.
Originally bacon and all meats were preserved with just salt. Though the quality was hit and miss and varied according to the location from where the salt was extracted. Naturally, this meant that salt often contained impurities - some more welcome than others.
Take Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate), a naturally occurring and generally beneficial impurity of rock salts. Producers noted that certain batches of salts resulted in bacon that lasted longer, achieved a desirable crimson colour sooner and had a different flavor. The first records of the reddening effects of Saltpeter on meat was reported during Roman times.
Interestingly, Saltpeter is also an ingredient in the production of fertilisers and fireworks and more worryingly - explosives.
Buyer Beware! as the friend of a friend of ours recently found out, whilst attempting to purchase Potassium Nitrate without good reason. It may well land you in the attention of MI5 and a very early alarm call! - a true story.
Standard curing of commercial bacon takes just a few days. It involves as much as 25% water injected as a brine solution along with phosphates to hold the injected brine solution - much of this is still within the meat when we come to cook it.
Colouration and flavor of most modern bacon is also artificially enhanced due to the widespread use of the additives such as; potassium nitrate & sodium nitrite. Though permitted by EU and UK law, there are strict rules on the safe levels of nitrate and nitrite that may be used in food.
Cancer Risks of Processed Bacon
The threat of an increased cancer risk linked to Sodium Nitrate is real. Though, looking at it objectively, it may not be that simple. Can we say for sure that a diagnosis of colon cancer is directly linked to the levels of processed meat in an individual's diet? Is there something we're missing?
Clearly not everyone who has ever eaten bacon is going to get the big 'C'. The current evidence shows that the threat of cancer increases due to high levels of Nitrosamines, not nitrate or nitrite itself. Nitrosamines are formed at safe levels naturally in the body, but can also be at high levels as a function of exposure to high heat, as in some methods applied used cooking bacon.
So it seems that heat is the major factor in increased risk, more heat, more nitrosamines! Less frazzle being the way to go, though sadly may mean the end of crispy bacon forever.
What is Nitrate Free Bacon?
Curing bacon without the injection of artificial preservatives, brines and sugar takes time!
Our dry cured natural bacon is lovingly cared for, for up to 5 weeks. In creating our cures provenance and organic are key factors in the selection of ingredients:
Organic Himalayan salt (The purest on source on earth)
Traditional and fresh herbs
Natural and Fresh fruits - without added sulphites
Spices - sourced as locally as possible.
The result is all-natural nitrite free bacon with a subtle fragrance and intense flavors, we call it the taste of provenance.
Even better! there’s no added water, sodium nitrite or phosphates and so no grey frothy discharge (from the release of phosphates and water) or shrinkage while cooking.
Primal Cut free-from unprocessed bacon contains only fresh organic fruit sugars and nitrates present in the natural raw organic seasonings. As with our gluten-free sausages, both flavor and preservation are achieved by the careful selection of naturally organic ingredients. The best foods and most nutritious foods have always been made using natural ingredients.
Is Primal Cut Bacon Nitrite Free?
Let's be entirely transparent and appreciate that nitrates are a naturally occurring compound fundamental to all life on earth (The Nitrogen Cycle). In terms of Primal bacon, both nitrate & nitrite are present in our Himalayan salts, herbs, spices, fresh fruits, etc. The important part for us is we avoid injecting strong synthetic solutions of nitrate or nitrite, this means that in the UK you'll see it labelled as Nitrite Free Bacon or Nitrate Free Bacon. Slightly different rules apply in Australia and the U.S.
Anything heat treated, or created artificially carries added risks, our bodies rely on natural nutrient-dense sources of real food, hence why all Primal Cut products fit this criteria.
To be clear, in terms of UK food labeling requirements; natural bacon, nitrate-free bacon, preservative-free bacon, unprocessed bacon, naked bacon, are all effectively the same thing. They all describe a type of bacon that's cured without the inorganic form of Potassium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrates. Strictly speaking, it should perhaps read: Artificial Nitrite Free or Artificial Preservative Free.
Healthy Bacon - The Holy Grail
Is Bacon Gluten Free?
Technically, no - the devil is in the detail. This matters if you have an allergy to gluten or are aware of its damaging effects and choose to avoid it. Bacon is one of those foods that could be described as naturally gluten free as it isn't knowingly present or added to the cures used, that said! There's a risk of cross contamination that cannot be overlooked.
Take for instance a typical butchers shop environment where pastries, sausages, pies and possibly sandwiches are produced. The risk of cross-contamination in these scenarios would be real & not carry a 100% guarantee. The risk is the same for any individual or organisation producing or handling food. Though we see various foods being labelled as gluten-free, this is very much an internal statement - if not verified. Any food, including bacon requiring official gluten free status needs to be produced in a strictly controlled environment. Audit & Certification to the AOECS Gluten Free Standard is the required route to achieving this in the UK & EU.
Thankfully, Primal Bacon is gluten free (AOECS & Certified by Coeliac UK), allergen-free, sugar free, phosphate & nitrate free, totally delicious, nutrient-dense, and comes with the peace of mind you're eating real food of high provenance. Ethical, sustainable, natural bacon!
Bringing home the bacon: Get Free delivery on your first order - discover the benefits & natural taste of Real-Bacon for yourself!