I know that many of you consider bacon to be the ultimate comfort food, but have you ever considered its actual medicinal use? In the past, bacon featured in many remedies for specific medical problems – although sadly for bacon-lovers, most of the applications were just that – applications for external use only.
From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature: being the summe and substance of natural philosophy, methodology digested, [ English translation] by Johann Jacob Wecker, published in 1661, I give you two recipe-remedies, the first for gout, the second for an infected finger:
To cure the knots of the Joynt-Gowt.
If rotten wormeaten Cheese be moulded with broth wherein a gammon of Bacon hath been long boyled, it will take away the knots of the Joynt-gowt without any Instrument, if it be laid on for a Plaister, as Galen saith; and Coccus Gnidius will wonderfully do the same beaten with Myrrh and Vinegar.
Fellon to kill.
Take new rusty Bacon, Snails with Shells, and Leaven, of each alike; pound these together, apply it to the place, and it will draw and break it. Lady Camden.
[A felon or fellon in this context means a painful infection or “boil” nof the end of a finger, often involving the bone.]
It seems that the concept of bacon as an externally-applied anti-inflammatory medication was still known in the late nineteenth century:
For Sore Throat.
Cut slices of salt pork or fat bacon; simmer a few moments in hot vinegar, and apply to the throat as hot as possible. When this is taken off, as the throat is relieved, put around a bandage of soft flannel. A gargle of equal parts of borax and alum, dissolved in water, is also excellent. To be used frequently.
The every-day cook-book and encyclopedia of practical recipes (San Francisco, 1889)
We must of course have some edible bacon today too - so, from The Whole Duty of a Woman, Or, An Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex: Containing Rules, Directions, and Observations, for Their Conduct and Behavior Through All Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, Or Widows : with ... Rules and Receipts in Every Kind of Cookery, published in 1737, I give you a very fine Bacon Pudding – or is it a Pie?.
A Bacon Pudding.
Boil a Quart of Cream with a Handful of Sugar, and a little Butter; the Yolks of eight Eggs, and three Whites, beat together, with three Spoonfuls of Flour, and and two Spoonfuls of Cream; when the Cream boils, put in the Eggs, stirring it 'till it comes to be thick, and put it in a Dish and let it cool; then beat a Piece of fat Bacon in a Stone Mortar, 'till it comes to be like Lard, take out all the Strings from it, and put your Cream to it by little and little 'till it is well mixed; then put some Puff-paste round the Brim of your Dish, and a thin Leaf at Bottom, and pour it into the Dish. Do the Top Chequerwise with Puffpaste, and let it bake half an Hour.