El Paso Times
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El Paso Times

There’s more to Canadian bacon than you might think

Victor R. Martinez – El Paso Times

What your local pizza parlor menu lists as a topping choice may not actually be on your pie.

Take for instance “Canadian bacon,” eh.

It might read “Canadian bacon,” but is it really “Canadian bacon”?

A quick tour of the walk-in freezer might reveal a box with the words “Processed Pork Roll” on it.

That pork roll is used as Canadian bacon.

The difference between processed pork roll and Canadian bacon is as huge as the difference between near-beer and real beer.

And that is Ken Haviland’s crusade. The Ontario, Canada, native is educating anyone who will listen on what Canadian bacon is, and what it is not.

“In Canada, you walk around the street and ask people what is real Canadian bacon and they’ll tell you, ‘peameal bacon, ‘ ” Haviland, owner of the REAL Canadian Bacon Co., said from Troy, Mich.

“Imagine the center portion of meat on a pork chop, that is what peameal is made from,” he said. “It is the center cut of the loin and cured with a special recipe and rolled in cornmeal.”

What most shoppers find in their neighborhood supermarket is processed, precooked meat marketed as Canadian-style bacon.

“That stuff has been human manufactured,” Haviland said. “I saw one package which had 5 percent hip grind, which means there was bone ground up into it.”

Not once had it crossed Estela Miranda’s mind that she was eating fake Canadian bacon with her huevos rancheros.

“I always thought Canadian bacon was just ham,” the Eastsider said. “I had no idea it was anything special.”

After years of eating “Canadian-style” bacon, Miranda is ready to try the real thing.

Real Canadian bacon is called back bacon or peameal bacon in Canada.

It was unique to Canada — until now.

The imported USDA-approved Canadian peameal back bacon is sweet-pickle cured rolled in the traditional golden cornmeal coating and can be bought through the Internet and shipped, frozen, to front doors.

It generally sells for about $9 a pound, or $7, if you order 10 or more pounds.

“I moved to Detroit when I got married and tried real Canadian bacon,” said Amparo Burton, who was visiting her parents in the Lower Valley last week. “When we would come back to El Paso, I would try to explain what real Canadian bacon is. My parents would just laugh at me and said I was crazy. But I made believers out of them.”

Canadian bacon is often touted as a lower-fat alternative to regular bacon.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database, an ounce of cooked regular bacon — about four slices — has about 14 grams of fat, compared with about 2.5 grams of fat in an ounce (about one slice) of grilled Canadian bacon.

An ounce of cooked bacon contains about 160 calories, compared with 50 calories in an ounce of cooked Canadian bacon.

Regular ham is very similar in fat and calories to Canadian bacon, but extra-lean varieties of ham shave off about 10 calories and a gram of fat per ounce.

“A lot of people still don’t know what it is,” Haviland said. “But I’ve had a lot of reorders, so it seems to be taking hold a bit. It’s been tough.”


What

The REAL Canadian Bacon Co. sells peameal bacon cut from the very lean, closely trimmed, pickle-brined piece of muscle that grows along a hog’s backbone. Canadians call it back bacon.

Characteristics

The unsmoked Canadian bacon has a slightly salty flavor, so it tastes and looks like fresh pork.