It's bacon with a twist!
For generations, crazed dreamers and bold pioneers have searched for a method to turn ordinary bacon into a perfect loop of uninterrupted beauty. A loop with a single, seamless, salty surface. Never ending or beginning. Ever continuing, ever bacon.
For just as long, mathematicians and butchers alike have sworn it couldn't be done.
"No," they said.
"We won't give you a research grant," they said.
"There's no such thing as a Department for Experimental Topo-charcuterie," they said.
Today, with the unveiling of the astonishing Möbius bacon, I intend to prove them all wrong.
Read on to find out how to make your very own delicious edible bacon Möbius strips at home! All it takes is a little bit of planning and a little bit of meat glue...
Step 1: Wait... Meat glue?
Yes, that's right. Meat glue. It's wonderful stuff.
Meat glue is the common name for an enzyme* called transglutaminase. Transglutaminase has the rather amazing ability to irreversibly bond animal proteins. In other words, it can permanently glue two pieces of meat together, leaving almost no trace of a seam. The enzyme is denatured by any temperature high enough to cook meat, so becomes completely safe to eat after cooking.
As well as being able to bind or thicken animal ingredients, meat glue is often used industrially to combine smaller scraps of meat into larger, more appealing pieces which can be sold as single cuts to the consumer. Ethical and safety issues aside, this is a very clever trick which opens doors to some intriguing cookery possibilities.
With the rise in popularity of molecular gastronomy, meat glue has recently made its way into the home kitchen and can now be bought online very cheaply. I highly recommend having a play around with some if you get the chance.
In this Instructable, I'll show you how to use meat glue to fuse together the ends of a slice of bacon, creating marvelous Möbius bacon.
*Actually a whole family of different enzymes.
Step 2: What you'll need:
- Bacon! The thicker the better. Bacon fat is delicious, but make sure your bacon is not so fatty that it just falls apart.
- Meat glue! A few teaspoons will be enough to glue about a dozen strips of Möbius bacon.
- Scissors! Because carefully tearing apart raw bacon with your teeth just delays the eating of bacon.
- Oven! This uses heat to turn raw bacon into awesome bacon.
- Rolling pin, or similar cylindrical item, to help shape your Möbius bacon strips.
- Aluminum foil, to support the bacon while it cooks.
- Needle and thread, in case you need to stitch any seams back together.
- Cooked bacon, to snack on while you're waiting for your bacon to cook.
Step 3: Trim your bacon
Begin by snipping off the ends of your pieces of bacon. This is particularly important if the ends of your bacon are very fatty; be sure that each end contains a bit of sturdy pink meat rather than just flab. Try to make your pieces as uniform and symmetric as possible so you can join them almost seamlessly later.
Choose a bacon strip and carefully cut a half-inch notch inward (lengthways) from the end, creating a pair of flaps. Repeat this for both ends of every strip of bacon. Each piece of Möbius bacon will be made from two slices of conventional bacon, joined in a loop at these flaps..
Step 4: Interlock your pig slices
Place two pieces of bacon end-to-end, then slide the notch on one piece into the notch on the other piece so that the pieces interlock. Pair up all of your bacon slices in this way, laying them flat as you go. If you're careful, you'll be able to line up areas of similar color or complementary thickness/shape so that the seams become almost invisible. Trim away any inconvenient nobbly bits as you go.
Press the seams firmly together with a rolling pin to make sure everything is flat.
Step 5: Retopologize your rashers
It's time to do the Möbius twist!
Twist one end of each pair of bacon strips 180° and join the two loose ends just as before, creating a closed loop with a turn in the middle. Do this to each pair, then carefully roll the whole pin over the new seams, taking care not to dislodge the seams you made earlier. This is where you might find a needle and thread (or safety pins) useful to hold the seams in place temporarily.
Step 6: Unleash the enzymes
When you're happy with how all your pieces of bacon are lined up, you can glue them together. One at a time, lift up your bacon flaps (now there's a phrase you don't hear very often) and sprinkle a little bit of the meat glue powder onto the two surfaces you want to stick together. Rub it in with your finger, then press the two flaps back together.
Don't worry about gluing yourself together with transglutaminase; the enzyme takes about 24 hours to work and would most likely bind to the layer of dead skin covering your fingers rather than the gristly meat contained within them. If you're very concerned, wear gloves.
Step 7: Paste over the cracks
Once you've powdered all of your seams, mix up some of the remaining meat glue powder with a few drops of water to make a slurry. Smear this over all the seams to make sure they're completely covered.
At this point you might be noticing an alarming smell and wondering if your bacon has already started rotting. Don't worry - it probably hasn't. Well, it might have. If you started out with rancid bacon, you have only yourself to blame. Most likely, though, that smell just shows that the meat glue is working properly.
Just as you've been snipping off the ends of strips of bacon and joining them together, transglutaminase works by snipping off the ends of meat proteins and joining the exposed ends together*. Unfortunately, transglutaminase takes the parts it's snipped off and combines them to make ammonia, which also happens to be the smelly gas produced by bacteria when they feast on rotting meats. So now at least you know why your kitchen smells so bad. Sorry about that.
*Yes, this is a gross oversimplification of the catalysis of isopeptide bond formation. Well spotted.
Step 8: Freestyle wrap
Cover the bacon and rolling pin in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for about 24 hours. Open a window to let the smell from the previous step escape the room.
Step 9: Prepare the rack
After waiting patiently for a day, unwrap the bacon and remove it from the rolling pin. By now all of the loose ends should have melded into each other, leaving you with a series of beautiful twisted bacon rings. Lay these out on a rack on a foil-covered baking tray. Don't worry if they don't hold their shape just yet - raw Möbius bacon is notoriously non-orientable.
Start cooking the bacon in the oven at about 400°F / 205°C.
Step 10: Provide support
After a few minutes, the bacon will begin to firm up. Before it turns crispy, take it out of the oven and place a rolled sheet of aluminum foil in the center of each loop to provide support. Take this time to pose your bacon into perfect Möbius strips.
Return the bacon to the oven and cook it until it becomes delightfully crunchy at the edges.
Step 11: Almost there...
Remove the bacon from the oven and leave it to rest in the open (i.e. warm but turned off) oven for a few minutes. Take this time to mop off some of the excess fat from the bacon's surface.