June 9, 2009


Just a quick warning – the beginning of this story is sodium-heavy – but, I promise that the ending holds a savory surprise.

For the Boy’s birthday, I decided to dive into a baking adventure and make MEAT CUPCAKES – inspired by my friend Gina’s meat cookies and Mei’s salmon cupcakes.  So, at five a.m., I rolled out of bed to begin creating two delicious bite-sized tins of celebratory meat muffins: a bacon, beer, & chive cupcake with blue cheese “frosting” and a fig and prosciutto cupcake with goat cheese “frosting.” I did not intend on making these sodium-girl friendly, but I soon realized that I had stumbled upon a new flavor-saving discovery.

As I was kneading and measuring and sprinkling and whisking, I was enjoying the delicious aroma’s of the bacon sizzling in my cast-iron griddle (okay, it was a teflon pan, but I think the image is nice). I found myself thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have just one slice of bacon? But by definition, bacon is a long strip of meat from the back, side, or belly of a pig that has has been cured, smoked, and brined to perfection – which also translates to mean “high in sodium.” I’ve considered making my own bacon – i.e. buying strips of pure pork from the butcher – but somehow, I just didn’t think it would taste the same.  But my, how did I misjudge the situation.

Out of curiosity, or maybe torture, I flipped the package of bacon over to the list of ingredients. And low and behold the angels did sing – 75mg of sodium per serving / 2 slices of bacon. Whaaat? Did I read that correctly? Yes, 75mg of sodium per serving! To put this in a more palatable context – two slices of pork heaven equals one egg. A completely safe and kidney-friendly amount if you are craving a bacon fix.  Clearly, this is not an every-day diet item (for people with or without kidney problems). But if that pasta needs an extra hint of something naughty and crunchy or that piece of halibut could use a nice pork belt, then you have found the ingredient.

So, what kind of magical bacon product had I come upon? Turns out, Whole Foods’s 365 brand makes uncured bacon with a very low amount of sodium.  There are even internet rumors that they make a uncured turkey bacon with 0mg sodium – but I will need to do more detective work to verify.

To make the bacon flavor rival that of its cured / brined / smoked siblings, I sprinkled smoked paprika and a little cumin on the suckers before throwing them into the frying pan.  None of my blind tasters had any idea that their bacon cupcakes lacked its most recognizable ingredient.  On that point – smoked paprika is a wonderful substitution for adding a richer, “cured” flavor to any of your meat dishes.  You can also buy liquid smoke or hickory flavoring to add a grilled taste without the grill – but there does seem to be some concern with the safety of using liquid smoke, so use sparingly and maybe stick to the smoked paprika for now!

And now another close up of the beauties and the official beef cake recipes, with sodium-free substitutions:

Cupcake base

Mix the following dry ingredients:

– 2 cups of flour

– 2 teaspoons of baking powder

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 1/4 cup brown sugar

Add Wet Ingredients:

1 cup softened/melted butter

4 eggs beaten

I halved the above cupcake base into two separate bowls and then added the following ingredients:

Bacon, Beer, Chive Cupcake

1/2 cup of pale ale

Cut chives

1 whole package of bacon

– fried in pan with cumin, smoked paprika, and ancho chile poweder

– when cooled, crumbled and thrown into the oven for some extra crisp

Prosciutto and Fig

one package of prosciutto

one jar of fig jam


line mini muffin tin (should make around 30) and fill 3/4 of each tin with batter

bake at 375 for 25 min

let cool at room temp for 30 min


For the bacon beef cake:

– mix mild blue cheese with some creme fraiche and spoon into a ziplock bag

– cut tip of edge and pipe onto cupcake

– sprinkle bacon and chive bits

For the prosciutto beef cake:

– mix goat cheese (herbed or plain) with some creme fraiche and spoon into a ziplock bag

– cut tip of edge and pipe onto cupcake

– cut bits of dried fig and make rosettes with prosciutto slices

For a sodium free version:

– Use the uncured bacon

– substitute Mascarpone for the cheese and add more herbs to increase flavor

– still working on a no-sodium prosciutto…but that may just have to be a fig cupcake…

ravenm February 20, 2010 at 4:49 am

“There are even internet rumors that they make a uncured turkey bacon with 0mg sodium – but I will need to do more detective work to verify.”

Unfortunately, it has to be a myth. Even if the product is ever stumbled across, it won’t be a 0mg-sodium miracle. Either the legend is inaccurate or the nutritional-content label is wrong. There might not be a smidgen of *added* sodium, but there IS natural sodium in the turkey, and no amount of wishing makes that go away. And while that amount of natural sodium should be pretty negligible in the amount of meat that makes up a couple slices of bacon, it’s still present — which means that if the nutritional label claims no sodium, then it’s inaccurate. And if it’s inaccurate about that or anything else, then none of the labeling information can be trusted.

I find I’ve gotten much more suspicious and untrusting since nutritional information became a matter of life and death.

sodium girl February 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I agree, I have also become quite suspicious of labels. Even though I have found some nitrate free bacon (which, as you pointed out, still has around 90 mg of sodium per slice), I haven’t ventured to eat it. I’d much rather spend my sodium points on a giant plate of steak. I am past the point of craving it, but perhaps someday I will figure out how to closely mimic the flavor without all the added salt. Thanks for your comment!

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