Irish bacon is just bacon from the loin, rather than the belly, of a big. However, that answer does not justify how important bacon has been to Ireland’s history.
Throughout this article, we’ll talk about what Irish bacon is, how it’s made, and why it’s so crucial to the Irish people.
What is Irish Bacon?
Irish vs American Bacon
To say that the Irish and English have had their differences over the centuries is a bit of an understatement but one thing both nations have in common is their definition of “bacon,” which is quite different from what Americans know and love.
In both Ireland and England, bacon is cured, salted pig’s meat which comes from the pig’s loin. The bacon you get in Ireland is, therefore, leaner and chewier than its American alternative. The version that Americans typically call “Bacon,” we Irish would call either “streaky bacon” or “American bacon.”
American bacon is not from the loin but from the belly, hence why it’s fattier. In fact, interestingly US law states that the term “bacon” can only refer to the “cured belly of a swine carcass.”
Is “Back Bacon” Irish Bacon?
The term “loin” is often misunderstood, likely because of the phrase “loin cloth.” However, when you hear the word “loin,” think of the back. This is why in America, Irish bacon is sometimes also known as “back bacon.” Loin Bacon doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…
It’s not true that Irish bacon is fat-free. However, when compared to American bacon from the belly of the pig, there is generally less fat and more meat.
How Irish Bacon is Made
Of course, there is still a difference between Irish bacon and pig loin. Traditionally, the bacon would be sliced, mixed with a salted spice rub, and left to cure for a week. It would then be washed (to clear off the salt rub), dried, and smoked. You can still buy Irish bacon made this way, but it can be costly.
If you go to an Irish cafe and order a “bacon butty” (a bacon sandwich) the bacon will likely have been made with a different method. Cheap bacon is usually injected with salty water. This water contains chemicals such as potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, and ascorbic acid.
A Popular Irish Bacon Recipe
In Ireland, you’ll find bacon in many, many recipes.
But, if you’re ever in Ireland, one recipe you will need to try is cabbage, bacon, and mashed potatoes. This dish goes back to the days when people were incredibly poor here, and resources were minimal. Cabbage, pig, and potatoes were some of the few foods that Irish peasants had access to.
To make this dish, all you need to do is boil all three components in the same pot. Yep, you read that right; traditionally bacon would’ve been boiled long before it was fried or grilled. Boiling it allows the bacon to share its flavour with the cabbage and potatoes. This makes it even softer, which is excellent with mashed potatoes.