Bacon,  Cooking,  Meat,  Shopping For Meat

Collar Bacon – A Tasty Alternative To Gammon Ham

Collar bacon is not as popular as the more commonly available gammon cut, but that may because people are not sure what it is.

In this article we aim to highlight just how the collar bacon should not be so easily overlooked when assessing your boiling bacon needs.

So what is collar bacon? Collar Bacon is the shoulder portion (pork butt) of a pig, that has been cured in a salt brine. The collar is usually boiled in liquid for several hours, and used for dishes such as Irish Boiled Bacon & Cabbage. Although the collar has a more intense flavor than the Gammon Ham, it is less desired by consumers due to the higher fat content.

This article will now explain all you need to know about this delicious cut of meat.

Is Collar Bacon The Same As Gammon Ham?

Although the collar of bacon and gammon both come from the pig, and are both cured, they do differ in some ways.

The collar comes from the shoulder and has much more fat and connective tissues running through the meat, whereas the gammon ham is produced by using the leaner leg of pork.

Due to the extra connective tissues, the collar bacon generally needs longer slower cooking than the gammon ham needs.

After cooking, the collar tends to carve off as chunks or partial slices, instead of the full slices you get from a gammon ham.

Does Collar Bacon Taste Better Than Gammon Ham?

Due to the higher fat content running through the collar of bacon, the flavor produced is usually fuller, and more intense, than that of the gammon ham.

Much of the fat within the shoulder will render into the flesh of the bacon, not only adding to the flavor of the meat, but also helping to keep the meat moist and succulent.

collar of bacon
Boiled Collar of Bacon is Delicious Hot or Cold

Is Collar of Bacon More Expensive Than Gammon Ham?

In years gone by, the collar bacon was a much cheaper option than the expensive gammon ham, and was a staple meal in many households.

Boiled Bacon and cabbage was a firm favorite ‘cheap’ meal in post wartime England & Ireland.

However, due to the growing trend to shy away from the ‘fattier’ cuts of meat, many of the pork producers no longer cure the shoulders of pork to make bacon. Instead, they are boned out and sold fresh for making sausages etc.

To find a collar of bacon, you are more likely to have to visit an independent butcher/meat market, who may cure their own collars.

This smaller scale operation increases the costs of production, and so you will find that the collar bacon will probably cost as much as the leaner gammon ham, or may in some cases cost you more.

How to A Cook Collar of Bacon

Collar of bacon has more fat and connective tissue running through the meat that gammon ham does.

To ensure that much of the fat renders out, and the connective tissues break down and become tender, the collar needs to be boiled in liquid for a long time.

You will want to place the bacon in a pan large enough to cover fully with liquid. The liquid used can be as simple as water, although adding something like beer or cider can give the meat a flavor twist.

Adding onions, carrots, celery, herbs or spices to the liquid can also help to add flavor to the bacon as it cooks.

You will want to bring the liquid up to a boil, and then reduce the heat until just a very gentle rolling boil is present.

Cook on the gentle boil for 20 minutes per lb plus 20 minutes extra. ie. 3lbs = 3 x 20mins plus 20mins extra = 80 mins total cooking time.

Ensure that the meat remains covered with liquid throughout the whole cooking process. Top the pan up with boiling water if required.

If you want to glaze the bacon joint like you would your ham, then remove the meat from the water 30mins before the end of the cooking time. Add your desired glaze and roast uncovered in preheated oven 350oF/180oC for the remaining 30 mins.

How To Cure Your Own Collar of Bacon

If you really want to try the bacon but are having a hard time finding a place to buy it, you can always have a go at making your own.

Although following this method will not produce a truly ‘authentic’ collar of bacon, it will come close enough!

OK, so to make your own bacon, you will need a piece of fresh pork shoulder that has been boned and rolled. In the USA this will be either a ‘picnic’ or ‘pork butt’ cut.

2 – 3lbs (1 – 1.3kg) Boneless and Rolled Pork Shoulder (butt or picnic)

Brine Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

Combine the salt and sugar with the boiling water until dissolved.

Add to the gallon of cold water and add the pepper and bay leaf*

Immerse the pork into the brine solution ensuring it is totally covered with the liquid.

Refrigerate and ensure the pork remains completely covered with the brine throughout the whole curing process.

Allow the pork to soak fully immersed in the brine for 48 hours. **

Remove meat from brine and cook as per the recipe you are using.

This is a very basic brine solution and other ingredients and spices can be added to provide different flavor results.

** 48hrs will only flavor the meat similar to bacon and will not ‘fully’ cure it. If you wish to fully cure the meat over a longer period, then this book ‘Big Book of Meat’ is highly recommended.

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