I’ve never been one to eat loads of processed meats, particularly bacon, prosciutto and sausages. For me, they’re something good to have now and then as a treat. But some time ago I stopped buying and eating them altogether. I did this because after doing a little research about nitrite preservatives used in processed meats, it seemed like a good idea for my health.
Nitrites and nitrates, while occurring naturally in some foods, have been linked to cancers, digestive irritation and other nasty conditions when added as preservatives. Here’s just one article I’ve read about the harmful effects of nitrites and nitrates at Livestrong.com. There’s also this PDF from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (USA) with some scarey facts. Yuk.
But all was not lost. With a bit more research and reading I started to discover products without added nitrites, including bacon, prosciutto, ham and sausages (which I prefer to make fresh myself anyway). It started with the realisation that two of my favourite Italian prosciuttos are preservative and additive free, specifically San Daniele and Prosciutto di Parma. Both of these prosciuttos are made with love, time and centuries of tradition. What a difference it makes, knowing these meats aren’t spiked with unwelcome additives and nitrites.
Next I took myself off to Hobart’s Farm Gate Market, where I’d learned of that producer called Bruny Island Food sold cured, nitrite free, bacon and pork products. I found the stall, had a chat, bought some bacon and took it home. As it was the first bacon I’d had in ages I cooked it simply in a pan and served the rashers with some home made baked beans, delicious fried polenta, and a poached egg. It was fabulous and although it seemed to contain more fat than mass produced bacon, the cooked result was golden and crispy and the flavour was lovely – well it was just real.
Bruny Island Food is the business of former chef Ross O’Meara and his lovely partner Emma (that’s Emma in the photo). Their products grace the Farm Gate Market every Sunday and their small stall is brimming with their sausages along with properly cured and smoked hams and of course – bacon. All made with love and free of nitrites and other nasties. I’d highly recommend their products to anyone who’s looking for better diet options without doing away with savoury treats.
Sourcing nitrite free food is definitely worth the effort. It may not look all plump and pink like the regular commercial stuff, but if consumers start to ask for foods that are properly cured, not speedily mass produced and pumped full of rubbish, perhaps it won’t be so hard to find and we’ll all be healthier, happier individuals.
And I’m happy. I’ve found a the holy grail of nitrite free pork products in Hobart, I’m supporting a grass roots producer at a local farmers market and that’s a win all ’round!