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Cottage bacon is bacon made from the shoulder of a pig, resulting in lean pork meat without the characteristic fatty streaks many consumers associate with bacon. It can be used exactly like regular bacon, but tends to be a bit healthier, depending on how it is prepared. Just as with other cuts of bacon, the flavor of cottage bacon can vary widely, depending on the cure. Many butchers and grocers stock this type of bacon, or can special order it for customers who would like to try it out.
The shape of cottage bacon varies from a squat rectangle to a circle. Usually, thin threads of fat are scattered across the meat, rather than distributed in thick layers as they are in other cuts of bacon. Typically, the bacon is brined and then cold smoked to partially preserve and flavor it. Like many other cold smoked meats, cottage bacon must be kept under refrigeration until it is used, because it has not been cooked, only cured for flavor.
Some producers make cottage bacon which tastes more like ham, with a hint of sugar in the brine so that the bacon tastes sweet as well as salty and slightly smoky. Others make a spicy version, cured with ingredients like chilies to make it taste more zesty. In some cases, cottage bacon is also precooked so that it can be used like a lunch meat. The precooked type can either be briefly heated to warm it up, or used cold on sandwiches and other foods.
In addition to being fried as a alternative to streaky bacon for breakfast, cottage bacon can also be baked or used to wrap grilled foods. Because it tends to be lower in fat, care must be taken to ensure that it does not dry out, unless this is desired. The lean nature of the meat also makes it less assertive and aggressive in flavor, making it a good alternative to bacon in dishes which would be overwhelmed by conventional bacon.
As is the case with all pork meat, consumers should fully cook cottage bacon before consuming it. Undercooked pork can harbor food borne illness. The food should also be carefully handled, and kept under refrigeration when it is not being worked with. Try to use a separate cutting board to handle meats, if possible, limiting the possibility of cross contamination between meats and fresh vegetables or fruits, which may be eaten raw.