|August 07, 2002|
Engineer introduces 'real' peameal bacon2002-08-07
By Marlene Parrish
What you have been calling Canadian bacon isn't REAL Canadian bacon. American "Canadian bacon" is usually round, smoked, processed, pre-sliced and ready to eat after a brief warm-up in a saute pan.
But Canadian Canadian bacon is entirely different. It's nothing like the strips of our American breakfast bacon. Real Canadian bacon is a roast -- a closely trimmed, pickle-brined piece of muscle that comes from the hog's back.
Hang in there, because other semantic tricks lie ahead.
Our neighbors to the north call it by a different name, too. Canadian bacon sold in Canada is known as peameal bacon. The peameal comes from the dried yellow peas that originally were ground into meal and packed around the meat to preserve it. When cornmeal became more plentiful and practical, processors switched over. But the "peameal" name stuck.
The biggest difference between American Canadian bacon and Canadian Canadian bacon is a matter of smoking. Both bacons are cured, but the American kind also is smoked, which gives it a flavor closer to what we normally call ham.
The unsmoked Canadian meat has a light, salty flavor but without the smokiness, so it ends up tasting more like fresh ham.
A nostalgic Canadian in the United States is among those making it possible for Americans to enjoy the real thing. Ken Haviland is the owner of the REAL Canadian Bacon Co., and he lives in Troy, Mich., where in his day job he is an automotive design engineer. The uppercase letters of his company logo are an attempt to emphasize the differences between the American and Canadian products.
Haviland was born on a farm in Ontario and can't begin to count the breakfasts at which his family ate slices of peameal-coated back bacon with eggs, pancakes and maple syrup.
While trolling the supermarket aisles not long ago, he picked up a package of processed meat labeled "Canadian-style Bacon." He recalls thinking, "This stuff is an impostor.
"I started asking around if anybody had ever tasted real Canadian peameal bacon," Haviland said during a telephone interview. "All I got were blank stares. I knew I had to introduce it to the states."
He researched the possibility of importing peameal bacon but was discouraged with the red tape involved. Then it occurred to him that commerce could be accomplished through Internet sales.
Now, he sells "Canadian peameal back bacon" from a Web site. The company is based in Michigan; the product is made in Canada and is imported to the United States, where it is inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which classifies it as uncooked Canadian bacon.
"I buy from the largest provider of peameal bacon in Canada," Haviland said. "We ship from orders only and have no retail stores."
According to Haviland, confusion surrounding the meat began around the turn of the 19th century. It seems England had a pork shortage and began importing pork "side bacon" from Canada. The Brits then smoked the product.
When Americans tasted the smoked version, they must have gotten the idea that all bacon from Canada was smoked. So when U.S. processors began to make the product, they went ahead and smoked it.
Peameal bacon roasts come oven-ready in 21/2- and 5- pound sizes. It is roasted by placing on a rack in a roasting pan and cooking for about 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees for the small size and about 15 minutes per pound for the larger roast. Because of the brining, the results will be a juicy, succulent roast with a sweet, nutty and slightly salty flavor. The product also is sold in slices that need just a quick sizzle in a saute pan.
Using Canadian peameal bacon in recipes is a no- brainer. Serve it with
any side dishes that you like with ham. Substitute it for either ham or
bacon in sandwiches, omelets or pastas.
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