Hormel Natural Choice – Original Uncured Bacon
I’m constantly on the prowl for the next addition to my The Bacon Project. I’m worried that I’m going to start running out of new brands to review and report on here. Does that mean that you’re all being too slow in purchasing the existing premium bacon brands? Well, perhaps, but that’s not what I’m worried about here. Just in case, though: buy premium bacon people! The more local it is, the better!!
This Hormel was a pleasant surprise in that I found it on the shelves at A&P. Most of the truly good bacon I’ve picked up have been available solely at Whole Foods, which by the way, has been selling out of the Vermont Smoke And Cure Bacon before I get there – you guys are snagging it too fast for me! And the remainder of the bacon that I’ve reviewed has been Trader Joe’s bacon. Not that I mind going to Whole Foods and Trader Joes; but I really want to make sure that there are at least some brands from most grocery stores on my list here. So I prowl. And usually I snap some pictures (I’ll share them later, promise) of the huge shelf full of bacon, all of which is garbage (Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates – might as well just eat the chemical factory!), and walk away otherwise disgusted. But not this time. This time I found the Hormel here, and actually purchased a package of bacon outside of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s!
As a note: I think I’ll start evaluating some of the online retailers soon… There’s nothing new on the shelves…
Opening The Package:
First things first: I took a tentative whiff of the Bacon smells that were wafting out of the package. Remember, this is the first time I’ve purchased Bacon outside of a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in quite some time. I wasn’t sure what to expect… Obviously, I’m joking. Bacon is bacon; and even the cheap garbage is made to look and smell right, otherwise it wouldn’t sell!
The smell was appetizing, to say the least. It had a bit of the smokey smell that I like when I’m sniffing at some bacon. More strongly, though, I could smell the “pork” smell. I’m not sure how else to describe it. My guess is that this bacon was smoked less than the Vermont Smoke And Cure, which is currently my standard for comparison (and it sells out at Whole Foods). Less smoking isn’t really an issue from the perspective of spoilage – refrigeration makes the shelf-life of bacon quite long. Instead, with plastics and refrigeration in mind, the length of time the bacon is smoked before being packaged directly affects the taste, and the smell.
So, from that perspective, I would say that it smelled “weak”.
These are fairly thin slices compared to what I like. They’re going to be more similar to the thickness of the standard factory bacon on the shelves. They have a reasonable level of uniformity, most slices look the same, and they’re fairly thin. This is good when you’re trying to compete with the big-names, and produce a better product. And that’s what I look for here! A better product!
That being said, it’s still important to note that the slices are not thick; they’re more on the thin side. This may affect the way that I cook them, as well as the conclusions that I draw from my tastes, and the nutrition facts. But we’ll get to that.
I cooked this fairly quickly, taking about 15 minutes of total cook time. As you know, I typically cook for a good long time, attempting to ensure that the bacon reaches a perfect chewy state. I was in a bit of a hurry, and didn’t want to take the time to be an artisan about it – besides, I’ve done this once or twice before… The bacon cooked like I expected it to. The smokey smell began to waft about, filling the room with the distinct smell of bacon. It wasn’t as strong as previous versions, but it was certainly enough to bring my wife into the kitchen, singing her tune of “I smell bacooooon!”
The smell and the taste matched up nicely. This bacon turned out to taste just about as I had come to expect. It was good. In fact, it was quite good. It was worthy of the title “Premium Bacon”; and I will likely keep some around the house for when I don’t have the time or inclination to be cooking up the Vermont Smoke And Cure that I currently don’t have any of. The smokey flavor was good, it was just the right kind of crispy and chewy, and held it’s texture well throughout the cooking process.
All told: I was pleased by the flavor and texture of the bacon. It was exactly what I would like out of a higher-end product, good enough to be marketed as “100% Natural” despite that that marketing name itself has no actual meaning, in this case it’s appropriate. The bacon is good.
This is good bacon.
One of the things that I ALWAYS check when I consider bacon is the sugar content. I often see the serving size reduced all the way down to 1, or even a fraction of a slice, in order to hide the sugar content. Again, the FDA allows a claim of 0g of carbs, as long as there is less than 1/2g per serving. So serving sizes are often reduced to unreasonable levels to hide the amount of sugar in the bacon.
In this case, the serving size is 2. From that, I conclude that there is about 1/4 gram of sugar in each slice. Not 0, but really not that bad. In the traditional 15 slices in a package, that means that you’ll end up eating (or splitting) 3-4 grams of sugar. Again, not 0; but not bad at all.
Other than the sugar, the ingredients all line up with what I expect. As you can see above, they look fairly appropriate for a top-quality bacon.
For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!
The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.
- √ No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
- √ Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
- √ Pigs raised without antibiotics
- Sustainable farm raised
This one gets a check-mark for the first three categories. I did my research on the fourth category, and I can’t find information on Hormel’s website about where these pigs are sourced from, and so I don’t know if they are sustainable. As I’ve mentioned before: it’s unlikely that they are sustainable farm raised, and not advertised. Typically these things are considered a good thing, and worthy of unique packaging and advertising. But hey, a guy can hope, right?