From Belly to Bacon
Bacon hits all the right savoury notes in one bite — salty, smoky, sweet and fatty. It's served everywhere from the greasiest of greasy spoons to the very best of restaurants, flavouring every corner of the menu, from salads and mains to doughnuts and desserts.
Buying bacon is the norm, but with a few tools and ingredients, making it at home is a relatively simple process. "Bacon is one of my favourite things to make," says Dave Neil, co-owner of Westboro's The Piggy Market. "It is so easy — people are always surprised."
And, Neil knows his way around a pig. After completing George Brown College's culinary program, Neil travelled to Italy to learn about its food traditions and gain practical experience. He worked in Arabba, Italy, home to some 250 residents. The small village's population would swell to more than 3,000 during peak tourist seasons. There, Neil learned that there is a lot more to food than just putting something on a plate. "I understand why Italians are notoriously picky when it comes to their food. There is a pride of ownership, in understanding why foods are prepared the way they are and in simple food made from quality ingredients."
Returning to Ottawa after six months in Italy, Neil worked long days, starting with the dinner shift at the now-closed Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro before running to his next shift at Aubrey's Meats, where he worked as the butcher's apprentice until 3 a.m. This combined experience, where he learned how to butcher, make pâtés, smoke meats and make sausages, gave Neil an appreciation for knowing where our food comes from, what goes into it and how to use the entire animal.
With the same pride and work ethic, Neil now focuses on sourcing quality, local foods to sell at The Piggy Market while teaching The Art of Charcuterie as part of Algonquin College's general interest courses in hospitality. The six-day program offers hands-on instructions on modern curing, brining and smoking techniques to make sausages, pâtés, terrines, and of course, bacon. The next course runs on Sundays, October 18 through November 22 (algonquincollege. com/ccol/courses/the-art-of-charcutrie).
The Piggy Market
400 Winston Ave., Ottawa ON