Robb Report Vices

Bringing Home the Bacon

Today, Zingerman’s is a food institution—an empire of restaurants, bakeries, even a cookbook publishing press. Back in 1982, however, Zingerman’s was nothing more than a delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich., albeit one that featured specialty sandwiches teeming with artisanal fixings. Oh yeah, and bacon. Lots of bacon.

But unless you lived in the greater Ann Arbor area, there was simply no way to enjoy the specialty food purveyor’s offerings. Fortunately, Zingerman’s recognized that calamity early on; for the last two decades, it has operated a mail-order segment of its business. In more recent years, the company expanded that segment to include monthly clubs, one of which delivers slabs of artisanal bacon 12 times a year. For $400 a year, Bacon All Year Club members receive 12 to 16 ounces of bacon each month that is hand selected by Brad Hedeman, the man responsible for Zingerman’s market and produce selections. “My job is to find new foods and share their story,” he says. “It’s a dream job.”

As a member of the club, your first delivery takes the form of applewood-smoked bacon from the Nueske family farm in Hillcrest, Wis. This is the bacon that has defined the Zingerman’s BLT for decades, and it’s the one that the company shares with members first because, as Hedeman says, it’s the one by which all others are judged.

After that, the deliveries grow more unusual. There’s Arkansas peppered, hickory-smoked Duroc, Broadbent, cherrywood-smoked, and Hungarian double-smoked bacons—and that only covers half of the year. During the 11th month, members receive a shipment of Allan Benton’s hickory-smoked bacon, which he says is smoked three times as long as anything his competitors offer. It’s also the bacon that’s featured in the bacon peanut brittles and bacon toffee bars produced by Sir Francis Bacon in Atlanta. (Click here to learn more.)

We realize that this is a lot of bacon, as does Hedeman, which is why in each delivery he includes recipes (as well as background information on the farms where each type of bacon is sourced). But if you love bacon enough to sign up for a monthly delivery of the very best examples around, something tells us all you really need is a frying pan. Or, better yet, a roasting pan.