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This article appeared in the Irish Examiner 26 September and will be available on line soon. I have added in a few which didn’t make the final 8.
Streaky rashers are an excellent standby to rustle up an easy meal and lift all sorts of dishes. A few chopped and lightly looked in oil before adding onions and seasonal vegetables makes an excellent start to a soup and will give it a meaty, satisfying feel. Start with chopped rashers for a stir-fry or sprinkle grilled and chopped streaky on finished dishes such as an omelette or tomato sauce with pasta to make a meal in a few minutes. Wrapping seafood such as monkfish in thin rashers adds lots of flavour and make an easy supper with boiled basmati rice on the side. There is more fat in streaky than loin rashers, and this serves to moisten dishes. For this reason, you don’t need much oil when using them in stir-fries or soups. Use the slowly melting fat to cook the onions. For our survey we scoured Cork for new samples, avoiding top producers we have featured in the past such as O’Flynn’s Butchers in Marlboro Street and Stephen’s in the English Market. They may well still have the best, and we also tried more than made our last eight here, so see my blog at roxcrowley.com for those who didn’t make the grade. Some good producers of loin rashers don’t do streaky so they are not represented here either. We couldn’t find any from Rosscarbery on the shelves.
The suds we saw in the pan when frying are a mixture of meat proteins, water and usually the preservatives sodium nitrite and nitrate.
Marks & Spencer Dry cured smoked streaky bacon, 240g €4.59 (€19.13/kg)From a selection, some of them Irish, I liked the look of these long, thin rashers from British outdoor-bred pigs. With drying curing there is no absorption of water to add to the weight. The result is that there is no loss of weight when cooking. On the down side they will always be more expensive. With good, even streaking, the taste was rich and meaty and there were no nasty suds and water exuding. Gently smoked, good for wrapping fish or chicken. Expensive.
Ummera dry cured rashers, 254g €5.46 (€21.50/kg)
Half and half streaky and loin rashers in a pack are wafer thin and crisped up nicely. No wastage at all with no suds or water. A lovely, mild flavour, ideal for grilling lightly for Eggs Benedict or wrapping fish. Good on salads too. Expensive. From speciality shops.
O’Mahony’s, English Market Cork, 264g €2.51 (€9.49/kg)
Long rashers were quite meaty. Medium cut, they crisped up well. Not too salty. Good with an egg for a simple breakfast.
Lidl Glensallagh Irish streaky rashers 250g €1.59 (€6.36/kg)
These very thin, unsmoked rashers had lots of water and suds when we fried them, and were better grilled when they eventually crisped up nicely. They were not too salty and had a nice, meaty flavour.
Aldi Brannans unsmoked streaky 250g €1.59 (€6.36/kg)
Lots of water and suds when fried, so the rashers stewed in the water. Much improved when grilled. A thicker rasher than many, so good with a fried or poached egg.
Dunnes Family Favourites, 250g €1.59 (€6.36/kg)
These smoked streaky rashers had lots of water and suds and took a long time to cook. Best grilled, they make a good, tasty breakfast rasher.
Tesco Home Grown, 250g €1.59 (€6.36/kg)
From a pig farmer in Bantry, these unsmoked Irish streaky rashers, complete with rinds, were quite testy and not too salty. They did, however have lots of water and suds salt so need to be grilled.
Ashley O’Neill Victuallers Grand Parade Market, 160g €1.62 (€10.13/kg)
Short and wider than other samples, a compact, pack of green streaky rashers, these were very salty. With just a little water coming out when fried, they crisped up nicely.
Tasted, but excluded
Galtee streaky, 200g €2.50 (€10/kg)
10 rindless rashers were very thin, but yet managed to produce a lot of water and suds. While from Kerry foods, this batch did not come from Irish bacon. When the brand has the Bord Bia irish symbol, the rasher are Irish. Lots of water and sides, they didn’t crisp up until we grilled them for quite a while.
Coughlan’s Meats English Market Choice Bacon 454g €3 (€6.61/kg)
Lots of suds and water when fried, these smoked rashers had a harsh smokiness which overpowered the meat flavour.