Bacon – A Historical Guide

“Bacon… is the meat candy of the world” – Katy Perry

Wise words indeed. There are few more evocative smells than that of bacon, wafting through the house on a Sunday morning (or any morning for that matter). The sound of sizzling gets the tastebuds bouncing and beckons even the most sluggish of bodies out of bed. At the table, everyone has their own preference; smoked back, unsmoked streaky, unsmoked back, smoked streaky. The fierce defence of your choice is utterly necessary, and all other choices are of course utter madness.

But where does the bacon we know and love today come from? Pigs, obviously. But why is bacon so entrenched in our breakfast rituals and such an important part of our food culture? We here at C&C have done some digging and have come up with some surprising answers…

  • The first recorded mention of bacon (or something like it) dates back to a whopping 1500BC.
  • The Romans have their version of bacon, known as Petaso. However this is boiled with figs and then covered in a pepper sauce. Yum, right?!
  • Since Saxon times, British families raise a pig each year from Spring to Autumn, when it is slaughtered to provide meat over the course of winter. This persists, particularly in rural areas, until the time of the Industrial revolution.
  • Phillip, heir to the French throne, has a run in with a dangerous pig in 1131. The swine startled his horse, throwing Phillip off, killing him. The government tried to introduce a law banning pigs being raised in cities, but everyone ignores them.
  • Christopher Columbus introduces pigs to America in 1492, where they begin to be raised domestically. The American obsession with bacon begins.
  • John Harris starts the first commercial pig farm in Wiltshire in 1777 – the county remains the bacon capital of Britain.
  • Bacon, whether back or streaky, has since been a relatively cheap and plentiful product well suited to our Northern European need for a very hearty breakfast.

So there you have a few rashers of bacon trivia. We are intrinsically linked to the pig throughout history due to it’s domesticity and ease of home preservation. So maybe pig is a man’s best friend after all.

There are few easier preserving recipes than that of bacon. Whether it be back or streaky, all you require is salt, sugar and time. Learn how you can do this with one of our awesome classes at Meat School, our Borough Market HQ, in the run up to Christmas – visit our events page for booking details.