What are pork lickers?

Bacon is one of the main ingredients in pork lickers.

Pork lickers are delicacies made with bacon cooked in chocolate and garnished with chunks of sea salt, although some cooks leave the sea salt out. While this food pairing might give some readers room for a break, it’s actually backed up by a long history of sweet and savory food pairing. In Mexico, for example, chocolate sauces are used to season chicken and pork dishes in some regions, and France’s famous fleur de sel caramels are made by sprinkling caramel with sea salt.

Pork lickers can be garnished with sea salt.

The combination of flavors in the pork lickers unites sweet, salty and umami, or savory, in one bite. Ideally, the cross-section should be partially crispy, with the bacon and salt, and partially soft, as the chocolate starts to melt in your mouth. The combination of sweet and savory can be quite distinctive, especially when paired with the flavorful nature of bacon. Pork licker variations include bacon topped with a candied maple syrup frosting and chocolate bacon biscuits, which include chunks of bacon baked in a classic chocolate chip cookie dough.

Food quality can vary greatly depending on the basic ingredients. High-quality bacon will result in a more complex and interesting center layer, and many cooks like to use high-quality dark chocolate, which is light on the sugar so the sweet notes aren’t overwhelming. However, milk chocolate can also be used, adding a creamier texture to the finished piece. Chunks of salt can be substituted for lighter salt flakes or set aside for people who find classic pork lickers a little too salty.

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This food was popularized in 2008 when it was heavily promoted at the Minnesota State Fair, but in fact several versions of pork licks were already making the rounds in the culinary world, including bacon pralines. The dish isn’t native to the Midwest either, and the origin of the chocolate/bacon/salt combination is actually a little difficult to trace. The dish may have started out as a wild or daring culinary experiment somewhere, but gourmet chefs quickly picked it up and played with the recipe to create their own unique take.

This wise GEEK author is interested to see if any daring cooks take the obvious next step and make spicy pork lickers with pepper, as chocolate and pepper are already a time-tested combination. This variation is most likely to appear in Texas, where several chocolate companies already make a variety of chili and chocolate blends.

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