About those bacon ends we bought

Welcome to the inaugural post in a new category here on MetaCookbook! I just decided this morning that we need a new “place” to talk about food without a recipe being involved. Specifically, I expect to occasionally have something to say about an ingredient I used (or want to) that has nothing to do with a recipe. The category description:

“Notes about ingredients we use. Normally it’ll be oddball things we discover through this blog, but we reserve the right to be opinionated about something mundane as well.”

Today, it’s an “oddball”. At least for me. Namely, bacon ends.

As I mentioned in the Borracho Baked Beans post, we purchased bacon ends to use as an ingredient in (originally) mac & cheese for the “beer and bacon” party. We loved the price, about half that of regular bacon, and suspected they’d be fine for applications in which they were more of a flavor than the star.

We ended up with a little over a pound of bacon ends, which is part of what you get shopping for meat in the Illinois farmers markets. It’s illegal to sell meat at markets unless it’s frozen, so you get pre-determined sizes that may not be appropriate for you. This ended up being enough for three recipes. We used them in the Borracho Baked Beans, Pioneer Woman’s Macaroni and Cheese (coming soon) and the Cuban Black Beans recipe from the most recent Cooks’ Illustrated.

They worked really well, and we’ll probably look for them again when we need bacon flavor, but not bacon strips. I will say that it was a bit of a challenge to decide what bits of the ends to use in what dishes. The baked beans were easy, in that I just grabbed enough ends to equal a half pound of them. But the mac & cheese recipe simply recommends you stir in “some” bacon and the cuban beans recipe calls for about a half pound of lean salt pork OR 6 slices of bacon.

It turns out that, because these are the bits and pieces of belly that are carved off to make uniform bacon strips, they aren’t as evenly “meaty” or “fatty” as bacon strips can be. The bits that went in the baked beans were probably not fatty enough (it was almost akin to ham, texture-wise). We picked the leanest bits we could from what was left for the cuban beans, and that worked well (but was similarly texturally odd). This left extremely fatty bits for the mac and cheese. Being a Pioneer Woman recipe, we felt this was oddly appropriate, since she doesn’t seem terribly concerned with fat or calories.

They have some toughness, almost a rind, to the sides. I was fine with it, but you may find it distasteful and want to cut it off. If there were any complaints from the party, I did not hear them. Bill didn’t complain, Rob didn’t complain of the ring in the mac & cheese, and Jessie didn’t complain of it in the cuban beans.

There you go! Bacon ends! I definitely recommend them for if you want bacon flavor without paying bacon prices. Or if you just want to keep the strips for eating for breakfast/brunch/on BLTs.