Hog jowl - - yes, the term is literal - - is proof of the old saying that Southerners eat every part of the pig except the oink. Although cooks commonly use cured and smoked hog jowls as seasoning meat in greens, beans, soups and stews, making bacon is another popular use for hog jowls. Fried hog jowl bacon is a long-standing New Year’s Day tradition. However, the rich, smoky flavor of crispy hog jowl bacon is an excellent alternative to mass-produced bacon and pork rind any day of the year.
Purchase and Slice
Look for hog jowls at local grocery stores, ethnic grocers, mail-order meat distributors and online sellers. Although you can buy pre-sliced hog jowl bacon, purchase the cured and smoke whole hog jowl and slice it to your preferred thickness. Thoroughly rinse the jowl under warm running water and use a sharp knife to remove the layer of brown fat, also called the rind. Some cooks leave the rind attached, but slicing the hog jowl is more difficult. Place the hog jowl slices on a plate until the skillet or roasting pan is ready. You might want to purchase a bacon press if you don’t have one. Use the press to stop the bacon from curling during cooking.
Fried Hog Jowl Bacon
Heat the skillet as you would to fry bacon regularly. Hog jowl bacon fries better than it microwaves. Place a few hog jowl slices into the hot skillet. There is no need to add oil. The fat of the hog jowl makes plenty of grease. Fry the slices on one side until they are brown and crisp. Flip the slices over and allow the other sides to cook until brown and crisp. Flip the hog jowl slices every few minutes to allow the insides to cook thoroughly while continuing to brown and crisp the outside. Use the bacon press to prevent curling. Pour off the rendered fat during cooking and repeat as often as necessary.
Baked, Not Fried
If frying is not your favorite cooking method, try baking the hog jowl bacon in an oven set to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking, if done properly, will achieve the same crispy-chewy results as frying. Lay the hog jowl slices in a baking or roasting pan and place the uncovered pan into the oven. Flip the slices every few minutes and pour off the excess grease during baking. Increase the oven temperature 10 or 20 degrees if the bacon needs to brown and crisp more quickly.
Crispy, Soft and Chewy
The goal for fried hog jowl bacon is dark brown color, a crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior. The fat edge of the hog jowl slice, if left intact, should be hard and crunchy. The finished product looks like regular bacon in appearance if not in shape. Once the bacon is done, place the slices on a plate covered with paper towels to blot the grease. Lay paper towels over the top of the bacon slices to blot more grease. The blotting is more important with frying. Serve the hog jowl bacon while it is hot and moist.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.
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