Jowl Bacon from the Farmers' Larder - Sweet Jesus, Is It Delicious!

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New to the farmers' market scene this year is the Farmers' Larder. - HOLLY FANN

Standing in the pouring rain behind a small white folding table at the Maplewood Farmers' Market this past Wednesday was Lucian Matoushek, smiling quietly next to a small chalkboard sign containing a list of the day's offerings from the Farmers' Larder: kielbasa made with beef and pork and smoked over hickory wood; spicy andouille sausage; beef hot dogs in natural casings (for that satisfying "snap"); smoked ham hocks; and bacon, slowly dry-cured and thickly sliced.

All delicious, all made using livestock raised humanely with no antibiotics or growth hormones and seasoned with organic ingredients. All exceptional.

Jowl bacon in the raw! - HOLLY FANN
  • Holly Fann
  • Jowl bacon in the raw!

And then there is the jowl bacon.

Made from pigs' cheeks -- the same cut used for Italian guanciale -- this stuff is nothing short of divine. Thick, finger-size slices come in vacuum-wrapped packages weighing about a quarter-pound each. At first glance, the 80:20 fat-to-meat ratio seems worrisome. One could imagine the fat all melting away as it does with traditional bacon, leaving tiny little crunchy pork nibbles, not such a bad thing in itself, but not very satisfying in the end. But when you cook it up, either in the oven or in a sauté pan, the fat firms up slightly and forms a smoky char while the meat crisps with a surprisingly small amount of the slice melting away.

crispy cooked jowl bacon bliss - HOLLYFANN
  • HollyFann
  • crispy cooked jowl bacon bliss

And the taste? Dear Lord! Ever so slightly sweet from a tiny amount of brown sugar in the cure, a nuttiness akin to acorns or chestnuts, that undeniable and satisfying salty pork flavor and something like dewy spring grass -- all in a tender, crisp bite. It is unreal.

And it sells out quickly.

You can find the Farmers' Larder -- and maybe, if you arrive early enough, jowl bacon -- at the Maplewood Farmers' Market, and in the coming weeks at the Tower Grove, Ferguson and Webster Groves markets.

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