Best for bacon: Melbourne

Melbourne Pantry's David Freeman (left) and David Freeman snr.
Melbourne Pantry's David Freeman (left) and David Freeman snr. Photo: Simon Schluter

The Melbourne Pantry

Melbourne Pantry's cold-smoked bacon has been flying under the radar since 2007 and that's the way modest Birmingham native David Freeman and his father, David Freeman snr, like it. Their back bacon begins as free-range pork that is infused in a wet cure for a number of days. It's then cold smoked as part of a process the Freemans are tight-lipped about. The rashers are a striking ruby red and are sold sliced wafer thin. Freeman snr advises not to fry them but to place under a hot grill until the fat is just beginning to colour. With subtle smokiness, the flavour is sublime. Snap some up at Hams and Bacon, Brunswick East. To contact, phone: 9701 6017.

Greenvale Farm

When you try Greenvale Farm's jowl bacon, ''you're not just going off piste'', Anthony Kumnick says. ''You're going heli-skiing in knee-deep powder.'' He and wife Amanda raise free-range pigs on their farm in the Grampians and are experimenting with making bacon from jowl, neck and shoulder. The oinkers come from Wessex Saddleback, Berkshire and Tamworth stock, and Peter G Bouchier does the curing. Classic back bacon from Greenvale has plenty of soft, creamy fat that cooks to a delightful crisp in the pan. The flavour is excellent, with the quality of the pork coming through loud and clear. Pick up back bacon at Key Ingredients, Clifton Hill, and St Kilda or Coburg farmers markets.

Gamze Smokehouse

The jury's still out on the health implications of nitrite, but it gives bacon its classic cured flavour and appealing rosy colour, as well as playing an important role in food safety. Three years ago, Wangaratta butcher Felix Gamze decided to replace the chemical nitrite he previously used with a celery extract high in naturally occurring nitrites. He buys whole pigs from two local free-range farms and uses the whole animal in everything from fresh cuts to presswurst (made with the head). The bacon is cured with salt and local honey and, apart from the celery extract, no other additives. Felix then smokes the loins in his own smokehouse. Sweet honey and rich wood smoke complement each other in the cooked rashers, making a standout product. Track it down at T.O.M.S., South Melbourne Market.

Pacdon Park

For most Australians, smokiness is synonymous with bacon. In Britain, though, only about half of all bacon sold is smoked. ''The rest is done by little butchers who don't have smoking facilities,'' James Arrowsmith says. He and fellow Lancashire lad Peter Tonge own Pacdon Park where they make traditional British smallgoods. Along with pork pies and gammon steaks, they produce traditional British dry-cured, unsmoked streaky bacon. First, a free-range female pork belly lies in a cure of salt, sugar, sage, mace and black pepper before bring air-dried for a few weeks. The result is nitrite free, soft in texture, sweet and herby. Get it sliced to order at Skinner & Hackett, Carlton North.

Jonai Farms

A desire to ''eat their ethics'' led Tammi Jonas and her family to shift from Melbourne to Eganstown near Daylesford where they now raise rare-breed Large Black pigs. Their pork is available for home delivery and includes do-it-yourself nitrite-free streaky bacon. A belly, coursed with ripples of creamy fat, arrives coated in a dry cure of salt and brown sugar. After seven days, the cure is washed off and the belly cooked in a cool oven until the internal temperature reaches 65C. Carve slices off, fry it up and, as Jonas puts it, ''you're now makin bacon!'' Jonai Farms also encourages customers to buy a plain belly and create their own cure, perhaps with maple syrup, herbs and spices.