Bacon, including gammon

The word evokes so much more than a dry description of the cured back and belly (that's the streaky bit) of a pig sliced and then fried for breakfast.

Bacon can be cured either wet, by immersion in strongly salted water, or dry, by having plain salt or a mix of salt, sugar and spices rubbed in over a period of days.

Smoking is not compulsory, though it is delicious (unsmoked bacon used to be called green bacon, though the term is losing currency). For the full breakfast character, a period of two or more weeks drying and maturing is essential.

Collar bacon is, in fat to lean terms, halfway between back and streaky, but it comes from the shoulder meat and can have a slightly tougher texture.

A bacon joint is a piece of cured pork, made with any cut of meat, unlike gammon.

Correctly, gammon is the hind leg cut from a side of bacon after curing and traditionally the cure should be the mildest, but we are getting into the habit of calling any bacon joint suitable for boiling and baking a piece of gammon.

Pancetta is Italian cured streaky bacon, smoked or green (unsmoked), with a very fine concentrated flavour.

Pancetta Coppata is unsmoked and rolled up with a bit of shoulder ham giving the round slices. I use this a lot as it gives a much deeper flavour than bacon – it’s fantastic in dishes like Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

Supermarkets now sell the sliced pancetta and also small cubes. In an Italian deli you can buy it in one piece.

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