Sizzling result: Canberra's bacon heroes
Sizzling result: Peter Curry and Charlie Costelloe's cooked bacon. Photo: Rohan Thomson
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It's official, Australia. The nation's best bacon is from Canberra.
That's Pialligo Estate Smokehouse bacon, cured and smoked by two Irishmen, Charlie Costelloe and Peter Curry, who are quietly racking up awards for their smoking and smallgoods which are produced without preservatives, water injections or additives.
Curry and Costelloe took over the Pialligo Estate winery two years ago and have set to work planting fruit trees, olive trees, vegetables and tending the vineyards. They've also produced smoked salmon, bacon and smallgoods that have won praise and a steady following.
Their estate has sweeping views towards Parliament House and is a peaceful slice of a rural landscape increasingly at risk from Canberra's urban development.
Peter Curry says he was "quietly confident" when he sent in the bacon. "That particular morning we were delivering the pork, I had done maybe eight or nine different packets and I wasn't particularly happy with them, so I decided to do two more," he says. "The last two that I did I knew they were going to be the ones. So I knew we had a good chance."
It was more than chance - the bacon beat out 125 entries in the national competition.
The "best bacon" award comes from the industry body, Australian Pork, and is part of Australian Bacon Week, which runs until June 28. Chefs and restaurants from around the country are helping sell the nation's bacon with a variety of special dishes, such as bacon gelato from Sydney's Gelato Messina, and a beer from The Rocks Brewing Company.
Curry says they make their bacon "the Irish way", without artifice and cold smoked for 17 hours.
Their bacon is used in four cafes, including Penny University, 38 Espresso and Lonsdale Street Roasters, and Pialligo Estate is stocked in six stores, including The Essential Ingredient and the Ainslie IGA.
They produce about 700kg of bacon and smallgoods a week but they're looking to upscale to about 2000kg-3000kg a week.
"We have taken over premises at Hume and we're renovating at the moment and when we get in there we'll be able to do a lot more volume and serve Sydney, Melbourne and all the big cities," Curry says.
And they want to train people to work with Curry in the smokehouse. "There are lot of good guys here in Canberra that we can take on and teach and that's what I'd like to do in the next year or so," he says. "Get a couple of half decent chefs that are interested in charcuterie and salumi and things that we've got there and want to learn the art of smoking and curing. I'm more than happy to help them along the way. I'm self taught myself, I never had nobody teach me, I learned along the way. Anybody can do [smoking] but you've got to have the knack."
So let's taste this bacon. Curry puts it onto the grill and cooks it until it's sizzling, with dark curling edges but still a pale brown. It's perfectly crisp and sweet, not too salty and with just enough smoky flavour. There's no fat or gristle, just sweet, cured meat.
Well done Canberra.
Australia's Best Bacon: Pialligo Farm Smokehouse Full Rasher Smoked and Dry Cured Bacon
Best Nationally Available Bacon: Bertocchi Hickory Smoked Pan Size Bacon
Best Full Rasher Bacon: Pialligo Farm Smokehouse
Best Short Cut Bacon: Kanmantoo Bacon, South Australia