Bacon, lettuce, and tomato come together for a classic Southern sandwich.
Fifty years ago, money was a bit tight. We didn’t run to a fast food restaurant for every other meal. A light lunch was a sandwich or can of soup, eaten at home, or from a lunchbox. Meat was expensive. While we were certainly not vegetarians, we often considered meat to be more of a condiment, than a main course. A summer lunch might be fat slices of tomatoes, grown in a home garden, served on toasted bread with big gobs of mayonnaise. We would often add lettuce and inexpensive bacon to the sandwich, a sandwich combination called the “BLT”. Classic plain potato chips, homemade dill pickles, canned tomato soup, or a piece of fruit were served with the sandwich. While I can now afford to eat a fast food burger for my lunch, I still consider a good BLT to be Southern (the southern part of the United States) comfort food.
Step 1: Select Your Ingredients.
You will need:
Salt and black pepper
Toaster, skillet, stove top
Quality selection of ingredients is paramount in this simple recipe. Bacon should be thick and meaty. If you are buying packaged bacon from a store, don’t just look at the front of the package. Flip the package over, and gently lift the cardboard flap. Look for lots of lean red meat, through both the front and back windows of the package. You are not destroying the package. The bacon is still sealed inside the inner plastic, and the back window is there just for this purpose.
Lettuce needs to be fresh classic Iceberg, in whole leaves. Do not substitute spring garden greens (weeds), spinach, or designer gourmet greens. Use the classic Iceberg variety, which was all that grocery stores stocked in the 1960s.
Tomatoes should be big and flavorful. These are getting increasingly hard to find. The grocery store chains stock varieties that travel well, have a long lifespan, and are tasteless. Try searching a local farmer’s market. Look for the old-fashioned red varieties, like Better Boy.
Bread MUST be white. Select a good quality, plain white bread that is thick and hearty, or the thinner version for a more authentic sandwich. Absolutely, DO NOT use sour dough, whole wheat, multi-grain, rye, or any of those organic designer breads that are supposed to be good for the intestinal track. We are creating a glorious sandwich, not a home remedy for proper bowel movements!
Mayonnaise is a very controversial topic in the South. I personally prefer the Southern standard of Helman’s classic, which is a pale yellow egg and oil based recipe. A family member that married into the family is adamant that only Miracle Whip can be used. Miracle Whip has a lighter texture, and has a flavor that is sweetened with pickle juice. They call it “Salad Dressing” instead of “Mayo”, which gets very confusing when I am at the grocery store shopping for their “Salad Dressing”, wondering if they want Ranch or Thousand Isle!
Step 2: Cook and Prepare Your Ingredients.
Put the bread slices in a toaster. Toast until the bread has a light crispy surface.
Wash lettuce. Chop into big 1-2 inch squares. Wash tomato, and cut into thick (1/4 inch) slices.
Put bacon slices in a skillet over medium/high heat. To be really authentic, use a seasoned cast iron skillet, but any skillet will do. You will need two or three slices per sandwich. Put the slices in a single layer, and turn on the heat. As the bacon cooks, grease will splatter in every direction. Be careful, the grease splatters burn, when they hit you! To minimize the greasy mess cleanup of your kitchen, try covering the bacon pan with a metal mesh cooking screen. As the bacon cooks, it will shrink, start to turn darker, and become less limp (crisp). Flip the bacon once or twice, while it is cooking. The perfect bacon will be crisp, but not too dark. Remove the cooked bacon from the pan, and place it on a paper towel (on a real or paper plate). The paper towel will absorb the excess grease from the bacon. Allow to cool slightly. Try not to nibble on the tempting bacon too much, while waiting for the bread to toast!
Step 3: Assemble Your Sandwich.
Add big globs of mayo (salad dressing) to two pieces of bread. Layer one piece of bread, bacon pieces, tomatoes, and lettuce. Add salt and black pepper to the tomato slices. Add the second piece of bread, and cut the sandwich diagonally. Or if you ask one particular member of my Southern family, cut the sandwich horizontally. Serve with Southern classic side dishes: homemade dill pickles, plain potato chips, fruit, canned tomato soup, or potato salad. Yum! Time for lunch, ya'll!
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