Welcome to the Great Victoria Bacon-Off!
This is an ongoing post featuring a semi-competitive, semi-silly comparison of the different sources of 'house-made' bacon in the city.
The bacon-off will take place in a single-elimination or 'knockout' tournament style, with two different kinds of bacon going up against each other in each round until only one bacon is left standing, and can be endowed with the coveted bacon crown*. The bacon is placed on a baking tray lined with parchment and place in a cold oven, which is then turned on to 375º F for 20 minutes on a convection bake setting, at which point the bacon is flipped and then baked for 5 more minutes (if required).
Round 4: Glenwood Meats vs Ravenstone Meats
Both bacons were cooked from fresh in a hot oven at 375 ºC for 10 minutes, flipped and cooked for another 5. My partner-in-food-and-life did not know which bacon was which, but we came to a unanimous decision!
Ravenstone meat's bacon, found at the Victoria Downtown Public Market, was definitely the strongest contender in my mind! Called "whiskey smoked" it was cut to my taste and massive. However, it shrunk down to the same size as the other bacon during the cooking process, releasing just a little more grease than its competitor.
In the end we actually could not tell the two bacons apart. They were both very deliciously bacony... and it was almost a tie. However, I realize that with a fancy name that didn't pay off and slightly higher price point I couldn't suggest opting for the Ravenstone if you had a choice between the two. A very tough call, however... both were meaty, well smoked and quite delicious.
Round 3: Sloping Hills vs The Market House Smoked
Round 2: The Whole Beast vs Hertel's
After much anticipation, the Bacon-Off is back! I moved the weeks around a bit from their original configuration to make it a little bit easier, as I discovered that the Village Butcher also carries Hertel's as their 'house' bacon, meaning I could one-stop shop at one location for both sources of bacon. As I tweeted, my purse was full of bacon; it was glorious. Also a note for full transparency: I am on the board of Slow Food with Cory (owner of Whole Beast) and I have heard him talk passionately about curing meats so many times I have decided that if he a) had ingredients labelling, and b) was a hippie, 'love' would be pretty high on the list of ingredients. Also: I just finished a gumbo made with his delicious andouille (so there might be a bit of unintended bias on my part).
The Hertel's double-smoked bacon is the bacon many people are familiar with. Hertel's is located in Port Alberni, but resells their bacon to many shops such as Island Meat & Seafood in Cook St Village, Slater's and the Village Butcher. It was much thicker than the Whole Beast bacon, and ultimately a 'meatier' bacon. However, in comparison the vast majority of its flavour came from salt.
The Whole Beast bacon is also their house bacon, a rosemary-infused bacon, available pre-sliced by the strip. It was much thinner with much more 'marbling' than the Hertel's bacon, so cooked up faster. It wasn't smoky, but was packed with flavour, and it was pretty obvious why... the bacon was covered in little flecks of fresh spices. I'm pretty sure it was also 'maple' bacon, and I normally shy away from any kind of bacon labelled 'maple' anything, this had very little sweetness, even when compared with a very 'plain' bacon.
Winner: The Whole Beast
Round 1: Choux Choux vs. Red Barn
Winner: Choux Choux
Round 1: Choux Choux vs Whole Beast
Round 2: Sloping Hills vs Glenwood Meats
Championship Round: ? vs ?
* may or may not be actually made of bacon... but the internet tells me this is possible!