perks for your palate.

When it comes to bacon, it’s hard to argue with perfection

By Jane Kellogg Murray

These days, there are so many so-called meat artisans—young, up-and-coming butchers and home chefs who hope to push the envelope of charcuterie. In your supermarket, you can find items smoked with hickory or maple; flavored with black pepper or brown sugar; made from turkey, duck, or even (dare we say?) tofu as opposed to good ol’ swine. But when it comes to making the perfect bacon, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

In the small Wisconsin town of Wittenberg, countless pounds of bacon a day come into being on that (massive, as it turns out) wheel—smoked over sweet applewood logs for 24 hours. The smokehouse? That would be Nueske’s, a family-owned company that has been smoking meat in Wisconsin since the first generation immigrated there in 1882, and in the business of selling it since Grandpa R.C. Nueske founded his smoked-meat delivery service there in 1933.

R.C.’s entrepreneurial spirit was sparked by the shortage of quality smoked meats available stateside at the time. Using family’s recipes—one of the few things they brought with them from Europe—he began smoking over applewood inside a small stone smokehouse, blending spices and curing meat that he selected for having just the right balance of lean and fat.

The business has grown exponentially with each generation, and more than 80 years later, with granddaughter Tanya Nueske at the helm of a thriving operation that takes in orders from around the globe, it’s safe to say they have no plans to slow down.

R.C. didn't reinvent the bacon wheel, or even invent it, for that matter. But when it comes to Applewood-Smoked meat, Nueske’s delicious smoked bacon, ham, poultry, and sausage is just this side of hog heaven.

Tasty tidbits

  • While the Nueske family’s smoked meat recipes have never changed, their roster of products has grown. In addition to Applewood-Smoked bacon and other meats, they offer more options in their mail-order online catalog, such as the Wild Cherrywood-Smoked bacon, plus an assortment of Wisconsin cheeses.
  • The popularity of Nueske’s products has led the company to begin construction on an expanded facility, which is expected to be completed in 2017. Bringing 65 new jobs to this small Wisconsin village, the new digs will allow the brand to produce up to 23 million pounds of meat per year.
  • Make holidays easier with Nueske’s Applewood-Smoked Whole Turkey or Old-Fashioned Applewood-Smoked Ham—they’ll arrive in a timely fashion, juicy and flavorful, fully cooked and ready to gently warm for your family dinner.
  • Nueske’s has a brick-and-mortar retail store in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. If you decide to visit, bring along any out-of-state menu that has the Nueske’s name printed in it, and they’ll give you a free pound of bacon, on the spot.

Spaghetti carbonara with pepper-coated bacon

yield: six servings

16 oz spaghetti (dry pasta)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz Nueske’s applewood-smoked pepper-coated bacon, sliced into bite-sized strips
5 cloves fresh garlic, diced
2 large eggs
1 cup Sartori Merlot BellaVitano cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Before you start: In order for the raw egg to be cooked by the hot noodles in any carbonara recipe, you need to have the sauce ready for the hot pasta, so have the sauce going (the first step) at the same time that you are boiling your noodles (the second step).

1. Add olive oil to a large sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Add bacon pieces to the heated oil and cook until bacon is beginning to crisp. Add garlic to the bacon and oil. Scrape the fond from the bottom of the pan, and toss mixture together until garlic is softened, about one minute.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salting to taste. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook until al dente; have pasta cooking while you are making the sauce (above). Drain and reserve at least ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water.

3. Add spaghetti to the sauté pan while still very hot. Toss the bacon mixture and noodles together until the pasta is well covered with the flavorful oil.

4. Quickly beat eggs and cheese together in a medium mixing bowl until any clumps of grated cheese are broken up. Remove pan of hot pasta from burner and pour the egg mixture over the noodles, whisking as you go. Toss pasta and egg mixture; add reserved pasta water to taste, if you desire a more silky sauce.

5. Add freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste and serve hot, sprinkled with parsley.