Canadian Bacon for Canada Day

A couple of years ago, someone posted an interesting query to eGullet:

Is there any kind of fare that Torontans (if that’s a word) call their own, like St Louis BBQ, San Francisco cioppino, or Brooklyn pizza?

The answer on the thread was more or less unanimous: Toronto’s signature dish is, apparently, peameal bacon on a bun. So it seemed like a logical choice for me to serve at my Canada Day party this year.

A word on terminology: Here in Canada, Canadian bacon is rarely called “Canadian bacon,” except when explaining it to foreigners. Locally, we call it either back bacon or peameal bacon. Moreover, what is often called Canadian bacon in the US is more akin to ham than to what you’ll actually find in our grocery stores.

There are three things that make for proper peameal bacon: first, it’s made from the loin, hence the “back bacon” designation. Second, it’s cured in a sweet brine, never dry-cured. Third, it’s rolled in, originally, pea meal (as in crushed dried peas), though cornmeal is much more common nowadays. In my experience, peameal bacon is usually unsmoked, but I’ve come across at least one Canadian reference (in Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cook Book) to it being smoked, so presumably this is a matter of preference. I might even give it a try next time.

After 48 hours in the brine, I removed my pork loin, rinsed it and patted it dry. A quick roll in a bed of cornmeal, and it was ready to slice! This has to be one of the easiest charcuterie items I’ve ever made: it uses a common cut of meat, doesn’t take very long, and requires no special techniques or equipment. The only catch is that you need curing salt, which contains 6.25% sodium nitrite. I order mine from Stuffers, where it’s sold under the name Prague Powder No. 1 for $6 a pound, which is easily enough to cure more than 40 pounds of loin.

Normally, I cook peameal by frying it in slices, though Kate Aitken also recommends roasting it whole or stuffing and baking. In this case, since barbecues are traditional for July 1, I grilled the slices, and nestled them into buns for our hungry guests, serving mustard and chili sauce on the side. I’m still not convinced that “peameal bacon on a bun” is Toronto’s one and only signature dish, but it was definitely well received for our Canada Day lunch!

What’s your favourite way to eat Canadian peameal bacon?

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