Uncle Marv’s Old Fashioned Beef Bacon

Only the best, handcrafted, old-school beef bacon in amazing flavors

The Origin of Uncle Marv’s Beef Bacon

Chef Marvin is honored to be able to share his beef bacon story with the world:

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, during the early 1970s.

This was an era during which Lexington Market — one of America’s oldest food markets first established way back in 1782 — was at the height of its powers.  Any type of food you desired, you could buy it at Lexington Market.  Many vendors would also cook for you while you waited.

My grandmother was the first to introduce me to Lexington Market when I was very young, and I would always marvel at the vast array of food items on display:  candy, donuts, pretzels, crab cakes, sausages, bagels, and a seemingly infinite host of other delicious treats.  I was from a poor family and often didn’t have enough food to eat, so Lexington Market was like an amusement park to me.

But it wasn’t just the sights and smells of Lexington Market that captivated me.  I was most impressed by the skills of the various food vendors, and out of all of them, the butchers were my favorite.

I would soon come to learn that my grandmothers on both sides of the family had friends who were butchers.  I was also informed that my great-uncles had worked as chefs in famous jazz clubs in the 1930s, during Billie Holiday’s heyday.  A few of my ancestors had worked as butchers going way back to 1863, and my great-great-grandfather had owned one of the oldest butcher shops in Alabama.

Now, as fate would have it in my youth, my grandmother often had to ask the neighborhood butcher and his other mutual friends to babysit me in the daytimes, so she could help my uncle after he came home from Vietnam.  I was well-behaved, so the butchers would let me hang out with them.

This is when my lifelong fascination with charcuterie began.  I eagerly learned from the butchers how to make sausage, scrapple, and all sorts of other meat products.

And then, one day they showed me how they cured their bacon…

“See, Li’l Marv, we have to dry cure the bacon, and then we flavor it with our secret spice blend…”

To me, it was like watching a show, and I admired the finesse with which they would massage those spice mixes into the meat.

“And now that the pork bellies are curing, Li’l Marv, let’s get on to the real good bacon…”

Well, I wondered, what is the difference between those first ones and these?

“The first ones was pork, Li’l Marv; tasty for sure, but not like these big, beautiful babies right here… these are beef navels.”

I thought to myself, beef?!  But isn’t all bacon made from pork?

And so, I asked, “Why make the bacon from beef?  Isn’t pork just fine?”

He smiled at me and replied, “Let’s take a break after these are done…”

When he was ready, he took me around to his family’s other market booth, where they were also selling cooked meats.

“Hey Bobby!  I brought you a little piece of ribeye and this small pork chop.  Grill ’em up!  Want some fries, Li’l Marv?”

Of course I did!

And after waiting for what to me as a little kid seemed like forever, but was probably only fifteen minutes later, here comes the food…

“First, taste the chop.”

I did.  It was juicy and salty, kind of fatty, but it was okay.

“Now, try this beef ribeye…”

Oh, wow! … now, keep in mind, I had never before that moment tasted a ribeye steak in my life.  And… it was magnificent!

He laughed at my facial expression.  “Now that, Li’l Marv, is the difference between pork and beef:  however good pork may taste, beef always tastes better…”

Fast-forward to my late teen years…  One day, when I was helping my grandmother move some of her old stuff, I began questioning her about that wonderful, handcrafted beef bacon I remembered from the now-closed butcher shop.

It was then that she told me the secrets of the curing method for her own beef bacon variety, a recipe her own grandfather had taught to her many years ago.  But she no longer remembered any of the measurements; she could only recall the ingredient list.  I knew that this was not enough information for me to replicate the recipe at that time, but I pledged to my grandmother and to myself that some future day, I would attempt to recapture my family’s forgotten beef bacon curing methods.

Later in life, after some time serving in the Marine Corps, I became a professional chef — perhaps no surprise, considering how a love of preparing food seemed to be a part of my DNA since I was a child.  Naturally, I specialized in charcuterie, giving me all the skills I needed to begin creating my own prepared meat recipes.

I quickly became an expert in bacon curing methods, and with the ingredient list from my grandmother’s old recipe burned into my memory, I quickly turned my attention to experimenting with beef navels, attempting to rediscover the precise measurements needed to prepare and cure the meat to perfection, and to replicate that old-fashioned beefy taste.

Over the years, I researched and tested all the ingredient combinations I could find in the quest to recapture my family’s beef bacon recipe.  I also spoke to every older family member I could find, anyone who knew my grandmother, until finally I met a distant cousin who actually had a documented pork cure version of her old, original recipe.

So, I tried using my cousin’s measurements.  The bacon tasted ok, but somehow it just wasn’t quite right for beef navels.  Still, I had finally unlocked some more of the secrets of my family’s methods, and I was encouraged to keep on experimenting.

And then one day, it just happened.  Perhaps it was due to my many years of working for and observing several other chefs and butchers who cured only pork bacon, learning from them every method I could and being willing to adapt them to my own experiments with beef navels.  Or perhaps it was just my steadfast determination to never stop trying, through much trial and error, to create a beef bacon that my ancestors would have been proud to eat.  Either way, after more than 30 years on my mission, I had finally perfected the recipe!

To be absolutely sure I had it just right, I tracked down those few relatives who were old enough to still remember exactly how my family’s original beef bacon used to taste.  Once they tried it, they all agreed that I had somehow recaptured the old magic, and they couldn’t stop raving about how special this was, to bring back something precious from the past that was long thought to be lost forever.  Their endorsement meant the world to me.

Now that I had perfected the recipe for one variety of my genuine handcrafted beef bacon, I couldn’t just stop there.  I am a food scientist, after all!  In fact, since the eureka moment that led to my very first flavor, Hickory and Brown Sugar, I have continued to work at creating a seemingly limitless variety of new and never-before-seen tastes for my truly authentic, old-fashioned 100% beef bacon.

Today, with the help and encouragement of my friends and family, I am finally ready to reintroduce the entire public to my ancestors’ genuine old-school recipe, and it is my sincere hope to eventually reign as the undisputed best-tasting handcrafted beef bacon in the world!

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