Bacon professor Marshall Porter talks all things pork
IF YOU GO
What: Keystone Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour
When: Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26
Where: Keystone Resort
Cost: Free to attend; free live music. Tasting: Advance tickets: $20 Piglet Package; $30 Samplin’ Swine; $50 Hungry Hog. (at the gate, tickets will be $22 / $35 / $55)
A-la-carte Tasting Tickets: $4 for one Tasting Ticket — each tasting ticket will be exchanged for one item at any of the participating food vendor tents. Purchase advance tickets at keystoneblueribbonbacontour2016.eventbrite.com
This is the sixth year to celebrate and indulge in all things bacon at Keystone’s Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26. Not only will chefs be cooking up some creative pork dishes to try, but the Bacon Education Center will teach patrons everything from bacon preparation and processing to the history of the sizzling meat.
Here for his fifth year, chief bacon officer Marshall Porter will be at the Education Center to share his knowledge about the product he has held a lifelong passion for. From using his allowance as a kid to buy more bacon, to taking classes and learning about the meat on a more professional level, Porter has become a “bacon professor.”
“I’ve attended a lot of classes and discussed bacon with a lot of meat scientists with Ph.D.s and I’ve just kind of taken some of those lessons as well as some experiments on my own to continue to explore bacon, but it’s a lifelong pursuit,” he said. “Like anything else in life, it’s a journey.”
Porter was a staple in a weekend retreat where bacon was the main event — which eventually led to the creation of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest in Des Moines, Iowa, that branched out to Keystone and even Reykjavik, Iceland.
He is a producer in the movie, “State of Bacon,” a mockumentary surrounding the Tour and following Icelanders on their quest to figure out why Iowa bacon is so good. There’s a run in with PETA protestors and exploring what it takes to be a “bacon queen,” and Porter has plenty of stories from creating the movie. Ask him about the piglet birth scene, but only if you’re prepared to hear a long, detailed story about his having to pull out a piglet from its mother during the birthing process.
“It’s the closest I’ve come to bacon — that was crazy,” he said.
Summit Daily News: What exactly is a bacon professor?
Marshall Porter: Part of our overall mission statement is to uphold or really improve the enjoyment of all things bacon by providing education as one of our key components. … What I’m charged with and what a bacon professor is charged with is helping people improve their enjoyment of bacon — sometimes the more you know about something the more you enjoy it. This year one of the exciting things I’m going to be talking about is some alternative uses for bacon. A lot of people cook the bacon, they eat it and they throw away the fat. But there is a lot of things they can learn and that’s one of the things I’m going to be talking to kids about on Saturday at Bacon Camp, is that if you bring bacon with you camping, it has multiple uses for survival and just to better your life after you’re done eating it. You’re not done just then.
SDN: So what are some of the alternative uses for bacon?
MP: Mostly it’s the fat. You can use cold bacon from the freezer to help bring down the swelling anywhere, like from a bee sting. But the fat afterward is pretty amazing — what you can do with lard. One thing, if you get a splinter, if you just apply a little bacon grease on that area before you apply a Band-Aid, within about hour or two, that skin will soften so nicely that you can take that splinter out no problem. … Not only that but then your wound smells wonderful.
If you’re camping, I always recommend people cook a little bacon. … After you eat the bacon, bring some little cotton balls with you, and you can soak up some of that bacon grease, throw it in a small jar and that’s what you can use for the remainder, depending on how many cotton balls you brought and how much bacon grease you have, but you can use that as a simple fire starter for the rest of the period you are out there. Just a little cotton ball with bacon grease will get a fire going better than kindling. …
If they don’t use up all their grease while camping or cooking at home, you can store it, and of course people use bacon grease to cook a lot of things … but you can also store it. If you fill up a jar, if you wash that fat, meaning basically you heat it up again in an aluminum pot, you can add water and just a tiny bit of salt and you can wash it. … Bring it up to nearly a boil, again, melt it with the water, and then you store that in the refrigerator and let it settle. It’ll clean that fat. You might have to do it a few times. But then you’ll end of instead of a tannish-looking fat to something that’s almost pure white. Once you wash it, then all you have to do is, around 88 degrees or so you meld it with lye, a certain amount — you have to weigh it properly — and you can make soap. … Once you wash it you get away the whole baconey smell. If you don’t want to wash the fat you can still make soap with it, just depending upon if you burnt your bacon it can have more of a burnt smell, aroma, but otherwise it’s just more of a smokey aroma that some people like when they get out of the shower, others don’t like to get chased by wild dogs all day.
SDN: Why do you think bacon is such a popular product?
MP: I just think that it’s one of those rare things that’s just really good on its own, but it’s also a really phenomenal ingredient. I think that that’s what people have discovered over the past 10 years. Everybody always loved bacon, at least a lot of people. It’s been the one meat that seems to bring vegetarians to their knees, but then when chefs started really exploring bacon and the fact that not only is it almost this seasoning because of the cure, almost a salt that you’re adding to something, but it’s also a fat that you’re adding to something. And to have those things all combined into one — salty, sweet, fat — I think that once they realize that, in most cases that’s what a lot of us crave constantly, that sweet saltiness, with a little fat. We crave it, our bodies do. I think that once they decided to start using it as an ingredient, that’s what has drawn so much attention to bacon.
With that said, for me still, just bacon on its own is what I prefer. I love just trying different types of bacon. I look at it like different types of beer, or different types of wine. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, there’s a lot of differences in flavor, but not only that even the genetics of the animal that really do play a role, and their feed, and all that stuff goes into it. We could talk for hours, or I guess I could.
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