September 17, 2018
San Ignacio, Belize
In May, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo at Remo’s, with a group of friends here in Belize, by entering a Mexican food cook off. The proceeds from the event benefited a local animal welfare group called CAWS (Cayo Animal Welfare Society). This is a wonderful organization and we were glad to help and be part of the event.
John made his infamous Green Chili and I made Margarita Cupcakes. John is a master at grilling out and doing meat dishes. Since we’ve been here in Belize he’s also mastered tortillas! What a guy!
The only things that I’ve sorta, kinda mastered in the kitchen are pies and cakes. I’m a cupcake princess…make that a queen…not to brag, but I’m a cupcake NINJA. Actually, it’s hard to screw up cupcakes. I love to make them and really, really love to decorate them. It’s like a crafts project for me, because, trust me, I’m more “artsy” than culinary. No matter how they taste, my cupcakes always look good.
We searched all over San Ignacio and Santa Elena for the ingredients for our entries. John was able to find all the chilis and the right kind of pork he needed pretty easily. On the other hand, I needed good Tequilla and Cointreau for my cupcakes and after searching several stores, we found what I needed, for a hefty price. Price didn’t matter because it was for a good cause and we knew anything left over would eventually get consumed!
The way the competition worked was people paid to get in to the event and were given a plate, as well as tickets. They went around to the various competing “chefs” and sampled each dish. Then they voted by placing tickets in jars numbered to correspond with each entry. It was a fun event and we had a blast.
My cupcakes got a lot of attention, but at the end of the event they came in second to our friends Ed and Peg’s bacon delicacies. Well duh! I’ve met a few people that have an aversion to tequila. In fact, back in my twenties, after drinking margaritas all night with friends and getting super sick, I vowed I’d never touch the magical green stuff ever again. But I’ve never met anyone that didn’t like bacon. Ever! And, oh my, these two know their bacon.
Let me back up a bit. I’ve had a love affair with bacon all my life. In fact, it’s the main reason I’m not a vegetarian. But folks, Ed and Peg’s bacon is no ordinary bacon. It’s more like meat candy. If the spider Charlotte was spinning her web over Ed and Peg’s scrumptious dish, not only would it spell out “Some Pig,” but also, “Best Bacon Ever!” After sampling their winning entry we decided we needed to know how they did it.
Prior to moving to Belize, Ed and Peg, Canadians by birth, spent most of their adult years in the United States as health care professionals. They both have a passion for fine dining and decided that if they wanted to feast in style, the way they preferred, they’d better to learn to be chefs. This food-loving duo have refined the art of procuring, slicing, curing, smoking, re-slicing, and of course, eating, what we consider the best bacon in Belize. Actually, the world!
They have been gracious enough to have us over for dinner several times and although he couldn’t believe my ardent interest in the bacon-making process, Ed allowed me to watch and ask questions about how it is done.
Here is what I learned:
Here in Belize most (about 75%) of the pigs used for bacon consumption are raised by farmers in the Mennonite Community of Shipyard. Cool. But did you know that these progressive farmers raise the swine on concrete! Huh? Obviously my city roots are showing here. I never knew, until Ed, that bacon flavor could depend on something as simple as what is beneath a pig’s feet. Makes sense, I guess.
Belize has a strong regulatory system in place for protecting bacon lovers. And the tattoos prove it!
Ed and Peg buy their pork in bulk and then trim the meat to ready it for bacon. We got to share dinner with them and feast on the ribs that were trimmed off the bacon part. Yum!
The bacon slab of meat is placed in a container and a rub is sprinkled on both sides. The container is then sealed and allowed to sit and cure for about a week.
After the curing, then the meat slab is rinsed and then smoked. Ed uses allspice from local Belizean forests for smoking. Generally, the smoking process takes 2-3 hours.
After smoking, the meat is allowed to cool and “rest.”
Finally, the slab is sliced and sealed into 1-pound packages and frozen.
It’s quite a process, and all done for the love of good, uh…great bacon!
Frankly, I can’t think of any food, or drink, that doesn’t go good with bacon. I humbly concede that bacon trumps green chili and even margarita cupcakes any day!