Rick Leiding, owner, Leiding’s Meats & Catering
Rick Leiding, owner of Leiding’s Meats & Catering demonstrates his technique for enhancing pork bellies during the AAMP annual convention in Springfield, Ill.. 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Several hours after the flavored bacon demonstration had ended in the Prairie Capital Convention Center June 19, site of this year’s American Association of Meat Processors annual convention, the aroma of bacon still lingered in the air.

Nobody was complaining. In fact, attendees could smell some of the flavor profiles that were cooked up, including raspberry chipotle and jalapeno.

Not surprisingly, the demonstration was packed with processors and other event attendees. Bacon is the rage, but so is flavored bacon.

“The flavored bacon thing is really taking off,” says Rick Leiding, owner of Leiding’s Meats & Catering in Danville, Ill., one of the speakers at the demonstration.

Leiding’s business is located three miles off a main road in Danville. When word got out that Leiding’s was selling flavored bacon, people began flocking to the business.

“People were coming in from 50 miles away and buying 40 packages of bacon,” Leiding says. “We couldn’t keep up. We ran out of bacon.”

Bacon is the most profitable centerpiece of the pork carcass, and flavored bacon is adding new levels of interest (and profit) to an already popular product, according to Leiding.

The demonstration covered issues such as segregated bacon flavor batching vs. topical application; the use of tumblers to increase flavored bacon varieties; pre-trimming vs. not pre-trimming bacon; and tumbling vs. injection.

Leiding applies topical rubs to bacon after tumbling bacon for two hours. He lets the bacon “rest” overnight and tumbles again the following day for one hour.

Leiding said the amount of rub varies according to the flavor profile.

“For raspberry chipotle-flavored bacon, I only use 5.4 ounces on three bellies as a starting point,” he said. “You might think you need to apply enough ingredient to cover the weight [of a belly] when you’re doing a topical rub,” Leiding said. “But you just want to get enough on the surface. If you [apply rub] by weight, you will overdo it.”

Leiding also said that adding sweeteners to topical rubs, such as brown sugar, won’t deter the rub flavor.

“Sweeteners will only enhance the flavor of topical rubs,” he added.