Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 30, 2009

Ed Hungness: The value of bacon grease


Whenever you fried bacon, you added the leftover grease to a jar or coffee can that was kept in the refrigerator. In some cases it sat right on top of the stove. Our family must have eaten a lot of bacon because we always had a jar or two of artery-clogging bacon grease in the fridge.

During World War II, and even after the war, homemakers would take their extra bacon grease to the market and return it to the butcher. The grease was given back to our government and utilized as an ingredient in making explosives, as in bombs. By contributing her bacon grease toward the war effort, Mom felt very patriotic.

Based on today's healthy eating standards, bacon grease no doubt is taboo. Keep in mind that back in the '40s and '50s you followed one rule of thumb. If you were hungry, and it tasted good, you ate it. How simple was that?

The flavor of food fried in bacon grease is hard to beat. If you want to live on the edge sometime, thinly slice five or six raw potatoes. Be sure to leave the skins on them. While you're at it, peel and slice a big, sweet onion, breaking up the slices into rings. Put two or three tablespoons of bacon grease into your largest skillet and start frying. Add salt and pepper. Cook without the lid and keep turning with a spatula. Allow them to brown and get a little crispy. The onions caramelize in the process imparting a slightly sweet taste. The bacon grease adds a distinct smoke flavor to the dish. When the potatoes are fork-tender and browned, serve them. Trust me, you will want to throw away your bottle of canola oil. We used bacon grease to fry fish, eggs or pork chops and for browning the pot roast. We even popped our popcorn using bacon grease. Popcorn prepared in this manner has a wonderful flavor that even beats butter.

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