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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Bacon?


gwalchmai

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Lots of references to bacon being eaten by the British troops. What I am interested in is what form it came in. What I mean by this is what form did it arrive at the front in? Apart from anything slaughtered locally and therefore fresh. How was it packed? How was it preserved?

any info appreciated

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Can't answer your specific questions, I'm afraid but this article might be of interest.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world-war-1/502452/The-Battle-to-feed-Tommy-The-diet-of-a-WW1-soldier

You might find your answers at the IWM

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It arrived as slabs of bacon, to be cut into rashers by the battalion cooks. Several slabs would be boxed up, in theory with a layer of salt between each slab for extra preservation.

It's only fairly recently that slabs of bacon seem to have disappeared from shops in favour of the pre-sliced rashers. As a teenager, I remember going to the village grocers to get bacon for my mother. "A pound of flitch, please, cut on number 4". The grocer would get the slab off the back shelf and put it up against the slicing machine.

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A side of bacon is first cured either dry with salt or with a solution of brine gives you green bacon which is perfectly edible or you can leave it for several weeks/months to cure fully or be smoked.

regards

Dave

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As a slight aside to this topic one man on my local war memorial was a butcher and was employed in the ASC. He died in a bombing raid on the supply depot about 10-15 miles behind the front line.

So freshly butchered meat didn't travel far before reaching the fighting troops.

Garth

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My grandfather, see the details below, was on the outbreak of war a grocer's boy. After the war he set up a grocery business and whilst never in the Sainsbury or Tesco mould eventually had two shops. These existed well into my youth. Sides of bacon were in fact half a pig, leg and shoulder removed, sliced down the middle and salted and cured. They were far drier than modern bacon which has had water added, and today you have to pay more for dry cured bacon. These sides or flitches of bacon would last for months and were kept hanging from hooks in the cellar wrapped in muslin. When required they were boned, removing the ribs, and then sliced on the bacon slicer producing either back or streaky rashers depending on which part was sliced. Sometimes a small area of mould would develop in the hung bacon. My grandfather would cut this out and rub pepper into the cut part, he told me that is what they did in the war if mould developed.

He also used to cook his own hams in an old copper boiler in a shed out the back. People used to come for miles to buy this home cooked ham. He had a special method and whilst I don't have an old copper I still cook hams the way he used to, and it is still very popular. I suspect that his method derived from war time cooking, where he for at least part of the time, was an officers servant.

What really amazes me by questions like this, which I am happy to contribute to, is how far most people are these days away from the source of the food we eat. Prepacked in plastic it is almost impossible to envisage where or what the food came from. I am lucky enough to have a local farm where all the meat sold is from the farm and they still cure their own bacon, which is not pink but a much darker orange colour and not all wet and slimy, it tastes like bacon should. When cooked it doesn't exude the white stuff, which is the added water, which so much bacon sold today, does. It doesn't however suit all modern tastes as it is at least 50% fat which is what real pig meat is. It is delicious. I shall enjoy barding the festive turkey with a pound or two of the streaky version.

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Keith, is the ham cooking recipe a family secret, or do you feel able to post it here?

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So the slabs....are they what may also be referred to as bacon chops?

Yes.

Think of the carcass, with it's ribs. In its uncured state, that's pork chops. Once it's cured, it becomes bacon. Bacon chops if the bone is left in, just back bacon when its boned.

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What really amazes me by questions like this, which I am happy to contribute to, is how far most people are these days away from the source of the food we eat.

I agree Keith.

I once worked for Liptons. Starched jacket, buttoned up to the chin and starched apron.

Cheeses came in wrapped in waxed sacking. This had to be cut off without damaging the rind. It was then cut into large wedges. One for the counter and the rest left out the back in muslin. The first time someone asked for 4ozs I ended up with dozens of pieces the wrong weight!! I eventually got the hang of it but it took ages to adjust to the different hard cheeses and the difference in size because of the difference in weight and density. 2oz of butter was another one to learn. Bacon and ham was sliced on the slicer. Liver sausage came as a sausage and was sliced by hand.

They were the days. No cash registers, a pencil and paper to total up a bill and the change worked out in your head.

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I knew it as bacon sides.During the war my uncle was a licenced slaughter and the odd bacon side used to come our way...mostly streaky bacon.

The bacon was cured with salt on a granite top in the pantry.Then, when cured was hung up behind the pantry door and slices taken off as required

Once on holiday in Burgundy in the back of beyond, the local farmer cured hams the same way.Hung the ham in the kitchen and had the habit of when passing through,cutting off a small piece of raw cured ham as a snack.

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What about the ham hocks that hang behind the counter in Spanish bars. Look as if they have been there years. Probably smoked by the patrons!

They have a wooden block type thingy which they use when carving the ham.

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HI Guys, lots of info but what I am trying to ascertain is how the Bacon was being stored when sent by suppliers to the army. For example is it in a wooden box full of salt, containers full of brine ? Im ok with what bacon looked like :) Im even old enough to remember when butchers carved the slices off a side of bacon :)

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What really amazes me by questions like this, which I am happy to contribute to, is how far most people are these days away from the source of the food we eat.

I agree Keith.

I once worked for Liptons. Starched jacket, buttoned up to the chin and starched apron.

Cheeses came in wrapped in waxed sacking. This had to be cut off without damaging the rind. It was then cut into large wedges. One for the counter and the rest left out the back in muslin. The first time someone asked for 4ozs I ended up with dozens of pieces the wrong weight!! I eventually got the hang of it but it took ages to adjust to the different hard cheeses and the difference in size because of the difference in weight and density. 2oz of butter was another one to learn. Bacon and ham was sliced on the slicer. Liver sausage came as a sausage and was sliced by hand.

They were the days. No cash registers, a pencil and paper to total up a bill and the change worked out in your head.

Loving this Jonboy. I swear I was born to the totally wrong generation. I would love to be able to walk to the local shops and find everything I want but know that it was locally sourced.

I do like to consume local produce where I can. The butchers I use (not all the time admittedly) sources it pork from our hometown. My favourite is locally produced ale as I support several of the local microbreweries in hometown (when I do drink which isn't very often).

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HI Guys, lots of info but what I am trying to ascertain is how the Bacon was being stored when sent by suppliers to the army. For example is it in a wooden box full of salt, containers full of brine ? Im ok with what bacon looked like :) Im even old enough to remember when butchers carved the slices off a side of bacon :)

Just to repeat what I indicated in post #4, it would usually have arrived in wooden boxes, with salt in between each layer.

Perhaps unsurprisngly, bacon gets quite a few mentions in my forthcoming book about food during the war. "Bully Beef & Biscuits" will be published by Pen & Sword in February. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bully-Beef-Biscuits-Food-Great/dp/1473827450/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416137548&sr=8-1&keywords=bully+beef+hartley

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