This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
(See also Pork).
The side, and belly of a pig are called Bacon, when salted and cured in a way similar to that which converts the leg of pork into ham. If the whole side of a pig has been salted, and smoke-dried, it is known as a flitch of bacon. In many districts saltpetre and sugar are used, in addition to salt, for curing the meat to be smoke-dried.
About Germany the bacon is so splendidly cured that it may be eaten without any further cooking. But the pig is more liable to diseased flesh than the ox, or sheep, because of its greediness for unwholesome food, though this risk may be guarded against by care in feeding the animal. A harmful parasite, the Trichina spiralis, is frequently noticed in Germany as infesting the human body, through eating smoked ham, and sausages, in an uncooked state. The black pig is considered by breeders the best of its kind for food. Dr. Hutchison tells that the comparative indigestibility of pork is shown by the fact that three and a half ounces of it require three hours for their complete digestion, as compared with two hours for an equal quantity of beef. This difficulty is fully accounted for by the large accumulation of fat between the fibres of the pork-flesh. On the other hand, the fat of bacon seems to be in a granular form, which is not difficult of digestion; so that this can often be eaten by persons to whom other kinds of fat are intolerable.
For which reason bacon is an invaluable aid for nourishing delicate children, and diabetic, or consumptive patients, in whose diet the free use of fat is indicated.
From the very earliest times the wild pig seems to have occupied a foremost place as an article of diet, seeing that the bones of the wild boar are found in almost all kitchen middens of prehistoric times; and the animal plays an important role in ancient Scandinavian legends. Even the Hebrews - for whom the pig was condemned as an unclean beast by the Mosaic law - must have afterwards set this law at naught in our Saviour's time, judging by the herds of swine which fed on the hills near the Sea of Tiberias; since, unless pork was eaten then, it is difficult to conceive for what purpose these droves of swine were kept. Towards correcting in some measure the grossness of his foods, the pig, by instinct, grubs up antiscorbutic roots, and knows that a piece of chalk, or a mouthful of cinder, is a most sovereign remedy against his indigestion. The insalubrity of pork is generally owing to the uncleanly, and unwholesome feeding of the animal; and the quality of its food has a marked influence on the flavour of its flesh.
The notion that eating pork tends to cause cancer is disproved as regards the Jews (of whom a considerable number are no longer strict adherents to the Hebrew dietary laws); and doctors who practice among them have learnt that cancer attacks orthodox Jews as often as it assails the most heterodox in diet of their race. Nevertheless, these people are rigidly Careful about the purity, and quality of what they eat, and therefore, as it would seem, cancer is considerably less prevalent among them than among the general population of our country.
Lard is the fat of pork melted down, and sold in bladders, or tubs; the lower the heat at which it is melted, the smoother and less granular it is. Usually water is mixed with it in melting, and often much water is left commingled. The French word "lard " signifies in the first place bacon, whilst our English lard is termed in France "saindoux."Good lard should contain 99 per cent of hog's fat. In the peasant speech of Devon it is named "mort".
"Aw, Lor, Missis! dawntee tell me nort about butter; poor vokes' chillern be foced tu ayte curd an' mort now times be sa bad." In Lincolnshire lard is known as seam, and by analogy the white wood-anemone, as distinguished from the yellow buttercup, is the seam cup. In Dryden's Ovid we read of Baucis and Philemon: -
"By this the boiling kettle had prepared: And to the table sent the smoking lard, On which with eager appetite they dine, A savoury bit that served to relish wine".
Charles Lamb, as is well known to all readers of Elia, has devoted a delightful essay to the subject of Roast Pig, and more especially to that luxurious and toothsome dainty called "Crackling," showing how this Crackling was first exultingly discovered. The said immortal rhapsody, a "Dissertation upon Roast Pig "never tires by repetition: "Of all the delicacies in the whole mundus edibilis I will maintain it to be the most delicate, princeps obsoniorum. I speak not of your grown porkers - things between pig and pork, - these hobbledehoys, - but a young and tender suckling, under a moon old, guiltless as yet of the sty, with no original speck of the "amor immunditiae, the hereditary failing of the first parent, yet manifest; his voice as yet not broken, but something between a childish treble and a grumble, the mild forerunner, or proeludium, of a grunt. He must be roasted. I am not ignorant that our ancestors ate them seethed, or boiled; but what a sacrifice of the exterior tegument! There is no flavour comparable, I will contend, to that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted crackling, as it is well called; the very teeth are invited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet, in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance, - with the adhesive oleaginous - O, call it not fat - but an indefinable sweetness growing up to it, the tender blossoming of fat, fat cropped in the bud, taken in the shoot, in the first innocence, the cream, and quintessence of the child-pig's yet pure food! the lean - no lean, but a kind of animal manna - or rather fat and lean (if it must be thus), so blended and running into each other that both together make but one ambrosian result, or common substance! He is the best of Sapors! Pine-apple is great.