We had 4 new competitors throw their hats into the ring this year:
- Willow Lake Farms (Custom Quality Meats)
- Pecatonica Valley (Madison Farmer’s Market)
- Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked (any old grocery store)
- Jim’s Double Smoked (Jim’s Market, Madison)
The focus was really on local (well, local to Madison anyway!) bacons, or at least ones you can’t just walk into the supermarket and buy. Indie bacons, if you will. Of particular note was the Willow Lake Farms’ bacon, because this is Amanda’s family’s personal bacon. For realz. They not only own the butcher shop (Custom Quality Meats), they actually raise the animals that eventually become their product. It doesn’t get any more “local” than that!
The sharp eyed among you will note that the exception, of course, being the Oscar Mayer pre-cooked “control” bacon. This was supposed to be a surprise, which necessitated that this year’s test be a blind taste test, but I saw the box in the cooler the night before. So only my brother actually knew which one was the Oscar Mayer. I knew that it was in there, but I actually forgot about it until I had recorded all of my observations. Suddenly I broke out in a cold sweat. What if I actually ranked it as the best? Oh, the disgrace!
Without further ado, here are the rankings:
|Willow Lake Farms||7||Very lean, mild flavor|
|Pecatonica Valley||8||Salty, stronger flavor, just enough fat|
|Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked||4||Super thin – not a meaty taste, salty|
|Jim’s Double Smoked||7 1/2||Thickest cut of the day, well seasoned, good amount of fat|
|Willow Lake Farms||8||Very mild flavor, perfect breakfast bacon – not smokey & not too sweet|
|Pecatonica Valley||6||pretty sweet, a little salty|
|Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked||5||looks thin, not much flavor, slightly smokey at the end|
|Jim’s Double Smoked||5||very meaty flavor – almost too much like ham, not smokey enough|
|Willow Lake Farms||7||plain, not too flavorful, versatile, not too salty 🙂|
|Pecatonica Valley||7 1/2||similar to blue circle with a slightly smoky taste|
|Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked||5||a little stale and chewy, but still bacon|
|Jim’s Double Smoked||6||thick, a little chewy, saltier than others, thick strip of fat is kind of unappetizing|
|Willow Lake Farms||6||salty, little fatty, thicker, almost tough|
|Pecatonica Valley||7||perfect texture, salty, almost oilier somehow, but not fatty, similar taste to blue, but better texture|
|Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked||5||almost brittle, not as salty, average|
|Jim’s Double Smoked||5||chewy, more piggy|
|Willow Lake Farms||7|
|Oscar Mayer Pre-cooked||4.75|
|Jim’s Double Smoked||5.875|
Overall, I felt like all the bacon was relatively similar, and therefore hard to rank. Two interesting things from the results:
- Oscar Mayer lost by a decent margin. Thank god, all is right with the world! I really forgot to pay attention to that during the test, and I really was worried I would accidentally like it. However, without knowing which bacon was which, everybody ranked it the lowest.
- Amanda’s family’s bacon did not win. However, it did miss out by only .125 measly points! That is one small margin of victory. Amanda didn’t seem upset about this, but I think she was relieved that she at least ranked it the highest. She attributed it to the fact that she always had this bacon growing up, so when she tasted it she immediately thought, “That’s what bacon is supposed to taste like!”
I can assure you, I’ve never been prouder as a dad. She obviously has a finely tuned pallet. Maybe she has a future as some kind of sommelier for bacon?