When you buy a half a pig, your dreams are filled with bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.
My kids are head over heels in love with bacon and would eat two pounds a day if I’d let them. So buying half a pig seemed like a great way to have a family supply of bacon for many months.
Buying pork in bulk also means you have a lot of choices to make on what cuts you want.
There’s a category where I was able to choose either bacon or fresh side pork. I was doing some research on this particular processing company, and the only bacon they had included nitrates.
I’m not a fan of nitrates, so I’ve really tried to avoid them. Buying high-quality pastured pork and then infusing it with nitrates seemed like a win-lose situation for me.
As I picked my cuts of pork I thought, “Hey, fresh side pork, that’s the same part of the pig as bacon. So probably it will taste like bacon, right?”
Oh dear, dear, dear. Poor Katie. I was so, so wrong.
What Fresh Side Pork Tastes Like
When we picked up our half pig, we had about a dozen packages of fresh side pork. They looked exactly like bacon. Score! thought Katie. Plenty of bacon.
I immediately left some out of the freezer so that we could have some “fresh bacon” the next morning.
As I’m cooking up the fresh side pork, I realize the house doesn’t smell as good as it should if I was cooking bacon. It doesn’t look quite right now that it’s cooking, although it still pretty much reminds me of bacon.
One piece finishes. Not as crispy as I’m used to, but I pull it out and prepare myself for a delectable taste.
This is not a score for Katie. What does fresh side pork taste like? It tastes like the fatty part of a pork chop all fried up. If you dig the fatty thing, it might be for you. But really, it just tastes a little bit fatty and porky and not salty or bacony at all. Total disappointment.
Paleovalley Meat Sticks
It can be hard to find healthy snacks that you can take with you on the go. When I want the convenience of a jerky stick, but want a healthy, protein packed snack option, I grab Paleovalley meat sticks. Paleovalley ingredients have these high standards that you can feel good about:
- 100% Grass Fed Beef & 100% Pasture Raised Turkey
- Never given antibiotics or hormones
- Gluten free, soy free, dairy free
- 0 grams of sugar*
- Contains no artificial nitrates or nitrites
- Naturally fermented and contain gut-friendly probiotics!
*With the exception of Teriyaki, which contains 2 grams of sugar from Organic Honey.
These beef sticks and turkey sticks taste delicious! My favorite is the Jalapeño but my kids love Summer Sausage.
How to Cook Fresh Side Pork
Now that I had 11 packages of fresh side pork left and discovered that it didn’t taste like bacon, I had to figure out how to use it. An Internet search for “how to use fresh side pork” came up with hardly any ideas. Most people just fry it up like bacon and put it on toast.
First of all, we are mostly a gluten-free household and rarely have toast. Second of all, it doesn’t taste like bacon. So why would I want to eat it on toast? That would just diminish the lovely effect of a buttery piece of toast.
I had to figure out some other ways.
I started including bits of fresh side pork in soup, along with sausage or bacon. One good example is this sausage, kale and bean soup and we have a lentil soup that calls for either sausage or bacon that is quite delicious. I thought it would at least hide in there and just be some extra protein.
Unfortunately, it’s still like a fatty piece of pork. So some members of my family would actually pick it out of their soup and put it on the side of their plate. This was not going so well. Then one day, a happy accident.
How to Make Fresh Side Pork Taste Like Bacon
I had some cooked side pork in the fridge with the intention of snipping it into small pieces and hiding it in yet another dish for my hapless family to go on hide-and-seek hunts for.
My husband thought it was bacon. So he pulled it out and started cooking it to go with some eggs. One of us decided to put some of our bacon fat from a jar into the pan. Lo and behold, the house (of course) started smelling like bacon.
We crisped up the side pork as best as we could and prepared ourselves for another disappointing taste. However … tada! We had stumbled upon the magic solution for making fresh side pork taste like actual bacon and not be so ashamed of itself.
I still wouldn’t serve slices of fresh side pork as a side to breakfast, but we were able to very easily cook the side pork in bacon fat, get it as crispy as possible, and then mix it in with some egg scrambles, sweet potato hash, and omelets. It actually made our day and made our breakfast, because it tasted enough like bacon.
So I hope that if you are someone who has searched for “what to do with fresh side pork” that you were hoping would taste like bacon that you’ve stumbled across our solution.
Ironically, I didn’t discover this until we were down to about three packages left. So I didn’t even really get to lean into the beauty of fresh side pork that actually tastes like bacon with no nitrates and no other additives.
What’s the Difference Between Side Pork and Pork Belly?
A kind reader pointed out to me that what I’m calling side pork is actually the same thing as pork belly. A quick google search will give you a bunch of recipes for pork belly, so why did I try to make my side pork taste like bacon?
Pork belly recipes usually use a single piece of meat or cubed meat. When I purchased my side pork from our farmer, it came thinly sliced, just like bacon. Not exactly conducive to those recipes, plus I thought I was getting a bunch of healthy bacon.
So if your side pork came in one big piece, look for pork belly recipes, and if you accidentally ordered side pork thinking it was like bacon…then here is your little trick to fulfill all your bacon dreams!
Why Save Your Bacon Grease?
I know people joke about the 90-year-old man who eats bacon every day and somehow amazingly made it to his ninth decade, but let’s get this straight.
Lard has been a very maligned fat ever since the Crisco brand decided it had to make lard seemed like it was very unhealthy in order to take over the market share.
Lard, the fat from pigs and pork, is actually over 50% monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is the healthy fat that we laud when we try to eat more avocados. So really, lard is a great fat to have around.
The fat that comes off bacon is just lard with a ton of extra flavor. We get somewhere between a half to a whole cup per pound of bacon we cook, and to me, that’s free cooking fat that’s saving me a buck or two for every pound of bacon.
Plus my kids eat far more green beans, asparagus, and shaved Brussels sprouts when I cook them in bacon grease. Not to mention that the house smells great, and I’m only cooking vegetables.
I always save my bacon grease, and I think it’s a great practice for anyone to start, especially if you’re using pastured bacon without nitrates. Butcher Box is my favorite source for quality bacon, after all, you gotta have some bacon to make your fresh side pork taste like bacon.
Other Great Recipes with Pork and Bacon
- Whole30 BBQ Boneless Pork Ribs in the Instant Pot
- Slow Cooker Stuff Cabbage “Un-Rolls”
- Gluten-Free Bacon and Green Onion Muffins
- Puerto Rican Chicken
- Cheeseburger Soup (with Bacon!)
- Simple Paleo Breakfast Hash (cooked in bacon fat)
- Homemade Sausage Seasoning
- Instant Pot Apple Pie Pork Chops