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That's some smoky bacon

L1050078 Rain was pouring down when the doorbell rang. “Something in this package smells like it’s burning," the UPS driver told me as he handed over the bulky package. I checked the return address. "You know why? It's hickory-smoked bacon from Tennessee!" I said. And does it smell smoky!

I’d called Benton's last week to see what happened to the order I’d put together with several friends. “Mr. Benton is in the smokehouse smoking it now,” the voice on the other end of the phone told me. Great! The bacon is so famous, they sometimes run out of it for weeks on end. 

My husband had used the last of our Benton’s bacon to make Bacon Dashi with Potatoes & Clams from the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang (Clarkson Potter, New York, $40). Although I loved the flavors in the dish, I thought using a pound of that sublime hickory-smoked pork belly to make a double recipe of bacon dashi was a waste of good bacon. My husband, of course, didn’t agree, but promised he'd lay in a new supply.

And so now, our entire kitchen smells like great smoky bacon as two big 13-pound slabs sit there ready to be divvied up. I’ve been hooked on Mr. Benton's bacon ever since we ordered our first batch several years ago.

You can order the bacon vacuum-packed and thick-sliced (minimum order 4 pounds), or get an entire slab. Shipping is by UPS, and a $3 handling and packaging charge is added to the UPS shipping quote.

We’ve now got enough for a summer’s worth of BLTs or corn chowders. If it lasts that long.

Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams, 2603 Highway 411, Madisonville, TN 37354; (423) 442-5003. Thick-sliced bacon, $5.25 per pound; slab bacon, $4.59 per pound. Shipping (at least on my order) works out to just over $1 per pound.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila

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I will definitely try Benton's, and thanks big-time Monie for the tip on Dittmer's. Angelenos should be sure to try the Amish-style bacon at Taylor's Ol' Fashioned Meats in Sierra Madre and the smoked pork loin at Schreiner's in Glendale (north side of town, on Ocean View). There's a great bakery (Berolina) next door and a gem of a wine shop (Rosso) in the area.

Sadly, it is necessary to retract one fact from the comment above regarding Dittmer's in Mountain View. They seem no longer to ship their products. These are available only at their store. -- A slightly less joyful cook.

Not to denigrate Benton’s whom I will check out, but Californians might also take note of Dittmers’, in Mountain View, CA, who have a long family tradition of making their own smoked meats here in our state—by no means exclusively, but with an emphasis on German sausages. The best smoked liver sausage I’ve ever eaten. Great bacon. I used their smoked pork neck bones in many dishes, from chili beans to red cabbage. Their Kasslerripchen (smoked pork chops cut to order) are heavenly. They also have farm-raised game of various sorts, and they ship. Just be careful to order well in advance before holidays. And no, I am not an employee, just a devotee—and one happy cook.


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