Back in June I won a pie-baking contest and one of the prizes was a pound of bacon. A pound of bacon may not seem that exciting, but when it’s Benton’s Bacon it changes everything. It’s slow-smoked over in Madisonville, Tennessee with hickory wood. The only ingredients are bacon, salt, sugar, black pepper and smoke combined according to a secret family recipe. I’ve heard people say that Benton’s is the world’s best bacon and they sometimes have to wait a month to get an order of the delicious stuff. As you can imagine, Paul and I were feeling a little pressure as we tried to decide what to do with this fabulous bacon.
BLTs seemed like the way to go on a late July afternoon. Tomatoes don’t really come in here in the mountains until August and the world’s best bacon had already lurked in the freezer for a solid month, so we settled for some excellent slicers from a nearby county where it’s flatter and warmer. Daring people that we are, we flaunted tradition and chose a locally made bread over toasted white slices. The handmade bread was 50/50 white and wheat Carolina Ground flour, with a rustic texture and a top crust of sesame seeds. It’s made by Tara at Smoke Signals Bakery. She even grows some of her own grains.
As soon as that hickory scented smoke start coming off the bacon, I was hooked. The slices stayed nice and thick and caramelized beautifully. Only two slices needed for a divine sandwich. Even Paul, who has a hollow leg when it comes to food, agreed that a few slices were enough. Smoke Signals bread, Benton’s bacon, mayo, beefy red tomato slices and a little salt and pepper pretty much add up to heaven on a plate.
I could tell you about the black bean salad we had on the side, but let’s face it; nothing else really matters when you have the perfect BLT in your hand. The bacon had just the right amount of hickory smoke, a firm texture and crisp edges that made it the main character. We swooned. After we’d picked ourselves up off the floor and finished a sandwich plus an unadulterated slice each, I went right to the computer and ordered more Benton’s Bacon. What kind of person orders bacon on the internet you might ask? All I can say is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
Did I mention the ultra-flavorful bacon grease that was left in the pan? When I was a kid, Mom had this silver canister with a lid that sat beside the stove. It had a strainer in the top that you poured the grease through to get remove the cooked bits. The strained grease was stored in the bottom and used to flavor beans, greens, cornbread and lots of other good things.
Many years ago I quit saving, deciding that I would be healthier without that bacon grease. Thank goodness I came to my senses a while back and started saving again. It only takes a small spoonful to add lots of flavor to a dish and it’s really a shame to waste all that goodness. That little bit of Benton’s grease has flavored pots of home-grown collard greens and kale and some delicious spoonbread made with our own eggs and Long’s Valley Farm cornmeal.
Guess you could say Benton’s is the bacon that just keeps on giving!