Friday, December 07, 2007

Not bacon, not ham.

December 7 ….

The English smallgoods company T.Wall and Sons introduced their new product ‘macon’ – at a brunch (which the newspaper pointed out was a ‘combination of breakfast and lunch’) at the Savoy Hotel in London on this day in 1939. ‘Macon’ is pronounced with a hard ‘c’, as in bacon, because it was ‘bacon’ made from mutton. Marketing genius, yes? Apparently mysterious marketing genius, because the spokesperson for the company admitted to not knowing how the name came into being, “it just happened.” It was also said at the event that “everybody could do some home curing if they secured a fat sheep” – which would seem to be an optimistic view even of the very resourceful British of the war years, and quite counter-productive to the bottom-line of the company.

Cured mutton had actually been around for a long time, the idea appears to have originated in Scotland, where the land was more suitable to sheep than pigs .The the driving force behind its commercial production was the looming war – “mutton was a home-produced food which ate grass, while pigs food had to be imported” (an idea which must have come as a surprise to many pig-farmers and cottagers). It was hoped that it would eke out the wartime shortage of bacon, but within a few months the wartime food situation had become more dire, and macon-making was ceased in order to save mutton.

T.Wall and Sons had been experimenting with six different cures, which were all successful but not all to everyone’s taste (as if anything ever is!). It was presented in a number of ways – in “the raw” (it resembled streaky bacon, but with darker fat), in a variety of ‘kickshaws’, and in breakfast dishes, and would cost ‘somewhat less than bacon.’

Naturally there were some samples available, thanks to the culinary efforts of Miss M. Baron Russell. She advised that macon could be cooked in the same way as bacon but it must be well done. She also gave a recipe for mutton ‘ham’ or, as it was obviously designated – ‘mam.’

There were many ways to eke out the precious small ration of bacon during the war years. Here is one idea to make two rashers feed four.

Bacon Fritters.
Fry two bacon rashers then cut into small pieces. Make a batter with 2 oz. self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 1 reconstituted dried egg or a fresh egg and 5 tablespoons of milk or milk and water. Add the bacon and season to taste. Drop spoonfuls into a little hot fat and fry until crisp and brown on either side.

Monday’s Story …

An All-Australian Meal

Quotation for the Day …

I've long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing. James Beard.

7 comments:

admin@savorist.com said...

Wait, can you still get macon anywhere? I've never heard of it...

Rosemary said...

In the days when I had too many sheep and not enough pork, I used to make a mutton ham. It was very tasty. I also used to make cured duck, which was really delicious.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello rosemary - I love duck anyways. I'd love to try it cured.

Rachel said...

A minor query. Do you have any idea whether this was the Wall family that then became Wall's pork sausages? They were the only ones we were allowed to eat growing up.

The Old Foodie said...

hello Rachel - I am pretty sure it is the same company.

Rachel said...

What entrepreneurs. I think they went on into the icecream business. All that spare fat, or that was parents' opinion!

The Old Foodie said...

Rachel - I fear that your parents were correct ....