Meat from other animals such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat, or turkey may also prepared to resemble bacon, and may even be referred to as "bacon". It is common in areas with significant Jewish and Muslim populations, both of which prohibit the consumption of pigs. The USDA defines bacon as "the cured belly of a swine carcass"; other cuts and characteristics must be separately qualified (e.g., "smoked pork loin bacon"). For safety, bacon may be treated to prevent trichinosis, a parasitic roundworm which can be destroyed by heating, freezing, drying, or smoking.
Bacon’s history dates back thousands of years to 1500 B.C. when the Chinese were curing pork bellies with salt, creating an early form of bacon, although pigs were domesticated in China in 4900 B.C. and were also being raised in Europe by 1500 B.C.
Speculation exists that the Romans and Greeks. The Romans and Greeks, who may have learned bacon production and curing through conquests in the Middle East, improved pig breeding and spread pork production throughout their empire. The Ancient Romans also had an early version of bacon, called petaso, which was a shoulder of pig boiled with dried figs, browned, and served with wine. Throughout the Medieval Times, bacon and bacon fat were very important ingredients used by Anglo-Saxon peasants for cooking. It wasn't until the 1600s that “bacon” was used to refer exclusively to the salted and smoked belly that we know today as bacon. In Yorkshire and Tamworth, there were breeds of pigs that were specifically grown for making bacon.
Pigs arrived in North America when Christopher Columbus brought 8 pigs to Cuba and de Soto brought 13 pigs to Tampa Bay in 1539. Native Americans became fond of the taste of pork, resulting in attacks on the de Soto expedition. By the time of de Soto’s death three years later, his pig herd had grown to 700 head; those that escaped became wild pigs (and the ancestors of today’s feral pigs or razorbacks). An influx of pigs from England came during the 1600s.
During World War Two bacon played an important role during the time of rationing because it was a reasonably priced meat for families to consume on a regular basis. People returned the bacon grease left from cooking bacon to their butcher, who then donated the bacon fat to the war effort where it was used as, among other things foe making incendiary devices and explosives.
Bacon can vary depending on where they are cut from and where they come from. The slices, also called rashers, differ depending on the primal cut. Modern pigs yield about 15 pounds of bacon per hog.
The most common slice and form of bacon in the US is streaky bacon, also called side bacon, which is cut from the pork belly. Long layers of fat run parallel to the rind and have thin streaks of meat. The Italian version is called Pancetta, which can either be smoked or unsmoked and has a strong flavor. After curing, it is rolled up into cylinders.
Back bacon, also called Irish bacon, Rashers, or Canadian Bacon is cut from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It's similar to ham, meaty, and has less fat compared to the other cuts of bacon. It is the most common variety of bacon consumed in the United Kingdom.
Middle bacon is cut form the side of the pork and has average fat content with a flavor that is the middle of streaky bacon and back bacon.
Cottage bacon is cut from the shoulder of the pork, thin, meaty, and lean and usually oval shaped. After the shoulder is cured, it is sliced into oval pieces and the flat pieces are usually fried or baked.
Jowl bacon comes from the cheeks of the pork, which are cured and smoked.
Collar bacon is cut form the back of the neck of the pig near the head.
Hock bacon is located on the ankle joint between the foot and the ham; gammon is cut form the hind leg.
Slab bacon is cut form the belly, the sides, and the fatback. It has a medium to high portion of fat.
Picnic bacon includes the shoulder beneath the blade of the pig which is lean but tough.
American-style bacon is cut from the belly of the pig and is cured in salt and then smoked. It has a streaky texture and ranges from very lean to very fatty depending on the selection. It is cut in a variety of thicknesses: thin, regular, thick, and extra thick. Before it is sliced the rind is taken off.
Gypsy bacon is a Hungarian specialty where a slab is roasted and seasoned with paprika. It is usually cut into thin slices and then served on rye bread.
Bacon fat liquefies and becomes bacon dripping when it is heated. After cooling it firms into lard if from uncured meat, or rendered bacon fat if from cured meat. Bacon fat is flavorful and is used for various cooking purposes. Traditionally, bacon grease is saved in British and southern US cuisine and used as a base for cooking everything from gravy to cornbread to salad dressing. Bacon fat, is often used on roasted fowl and game birds that have little fat themselves to add flavor.