Monday, July 12, 2010

Bacon with No Nitrates?

On Saturday in preparation for our family coming over for dinner, Thing 1 and I went to the farmer's market and the grocery store just the two of us.

I hadn't had a chance to make a list and fortunately that ended up meaning that we bought less than we needed rather than way more! But I was disorganized, right smack dab in the middle of a week during which I have been particularly disorganized. It seems my head is always in the clouds. I was so forgetful that I kept backtracking to go back and get things I had forgotten. Anyone who has ever been to the Fairway in Harlem knows that the aisles are narrow and stuff is just packed in wherever they can fit it. A shopper going back and thwarting the normal customer traffic flow is often given dirty looks.

After finishing my shopping I realized that I had forgotten to buy bacon. I don't keep bacon in the house so this was a pretty big deal, and I don't often look at the display of bacon and say 'there's my preferred brand'. But I wanted to make barbecue beans so I moved against the traffic flow one last time and went back to the cold room.

Fairway in Harlem has an enormous room that is entirely refrigerated. And that is where they keep the meat counter, the racks of milk, aisle after aisle of meat, eggs, juice, yogurt and a fish counter among other things. Bacon is of course in there.

I checked out the Fairway brand because I usually like their stuff. The third or fourth ingredient was sodium nitrate. I was hoping to find an organic bacon, but definitely one without nitrates. I didn't even bother looking at the less expensive major brands. I looked a the gourmet brands. Applewood smoked, all vegetarian diet (read-corn, not grass, but still better than normal animal fare which often includes remnants of their brethren), all of the gourmet varieties had sodium nitrate as well!! So frustrating. With Thing 1 freezing in the cart, a stranger stopped to give us one of the jackets that the store provides to customers shopping in the cold room. No doubt everyone was looking at me saying 'how could that mother bring her three year old in the cold room in shorts and not give him a jacket??!!' But I thought this bacon thing would be easy. I only needed one thing, how long could I be in that cold room?

Finally after looking through every package I found one that was labeled 'Uncured'. Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon. They explained to me the problem right on the back of the package-"The USDA regulates that certain products not preserved by adding sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate or a salt cure be called UNCURED. For our Uncured products, we instead add natural celery powder, which contains naturally occurring nitrates that bring depth of flavor while inhibiting bacteria and helping the pork retain its color." Finally, my son could leave the cold room.

Furthermore they notate that their products are all natural, no antibiotics, no added hormones all vegetarian feeds and humanely raised on environmentally sustainable family farms. They even go as far as to point out that federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork. Rather than taking credit for no hormones as evidence of their character, they alert the customer that they are just following the rules. I find this refreshing. Who knew that the USDA prohibited the use of hormones in pork? I suppose the Pork lobby is slightly underfunded.

My beans were awesome! If I do say so myself..........

Barbecue Baked (or stove top boiled, but who's counting) Beans
Soak you pinto beans over night. Boil them in plenty of water. If you have 1 cup of beans start with 4-5 cups of water. If you get low, just add more, if you add too much, turn the heat up higher to let the water evaporate.. For every cup of beans, add 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 strips of bacon diced a good shake of paprika and a good shake of granulated garlic. I boiled them for about 4 hours. If you used canned beans it would take less time, but I boiled them low and took a nap while the kids slept.

They turned out great!


  1. Thanks for posting. I have been wanting a good recipe for beans, and am excited to have one to try!

  2. Most scrumptious. A creative idea.

    All the best, Boonsong

  3. I used to avoid nitrate/nitrites as well. Then I did some research and found out that vegetables contained 10 to 100 times more nitrates than processed meats. The chemical composition of nitrates/nitrites found in vegetables vs processed meats is exactly the same.

    So we need to either:

    a) avoid all vegetables


    b) conclude nitrates/nitrites are not bad

    Turns out it was option b.

  4. These are great websites. I thank you for sharing. I did not know about nitrates and nitrites, I was told by my own OBGYN that I should avoid products containing nitrate and nitrites during my pregnancies. So I fall into the mass of people who just don't know.

    I still like this source of bacon however. Perhaps I am still wrong about this too, but that is the purpose of my blog, to challenge my conventional beliefs. But I still believe that companies use synthetic or non-natural sodium nitrate to cure bacon and hot dogs because it is cheap. At the very least, Niman Ranch is a quality purveyor and they are using more expensive natural methods of preserving. Often this means that the meat itself is higher quality to begin with. I just feel better about eating food that is processed with other food ingredients.

    There is still so much that we don't know about food. Vitamin Supplements for example are chemically the exact same as those found in food, but because they are taken in medicine form as opposed to food they are often not as readily absorbed. In food, the nutrients often come in beneficial pairings or with fiber to slow absorption, or fat to help absorption(among thousands of intricate examples). I want to eat food. Period. And I feel better about eating nitrates from celery salt than eating nitrates that come from a chemical manufactuering plant.

    We don't eat alot of bacon because of the salt and the fat, anyway. And I haven't bought hotdogs in a couple months for the very same reason.

    Thank you very much for your comment. I love to learn new things, and of course I want to be sharing good information, not bad. I hope you will keep reading.

  5. By the way, I am not 'anti-supplements' as my comment might suggest. But I do believe that they cannot take the place of nutrients found in food. They should only support a healthy diet.