The bacon craze lives on through Chunky Pig’s products.
Locally Made: Popcorn Pigs Out
Chunky Pig Popcorn
Chunky Pig’s Candied Bacon Caramel Corn has a hypnotizing quality. The first bite tastes like a savory breakfast rich with pork. The second, like sweet breakfast. On the third, the eyes glaze over, transfixed by a stupor-inducing mix of pork fat and maple sugar. One might need to be dragged away from the bag.
The pig can sweetly seduce, no question. “People will eat just about anything with bacon,” says Gina Conedera, founder of Chunky Pig (www.chunkypiglove.com).
A pastry consultant for local Oakland restaurants, bakeries, and cafes, Conedera studied under Elizabeth Falkner, the innovative pastry whiz behind the outlandish desserts at San Francisco’s Citizen Cake, now closed. The Portland native stumbled upon the popcorn when creating desserts for a catering gig. “The theme was childhood sweets, all grown up,” say Conedera.
The popcorn tastes like the essence of pancakes with a side of bacon. Not too sweet, the popcorn’s crunchy outer coating melts readily in one’s mouth. The use of Peter’s Kettle Corn, which features large, mushroom-like heads, makes for a light, airy texture. “It has lots of surface to cover with caramel, and not a lot of seeds,” said Conedera.
The bacon itself—Conedera uses Niman Ranch bacon—is difficult to detect within the golden sugar coating, having been candied in sugar, ground up, then candied again, making a brittle. The sugar preserves the bacon and makes it safe to store. Bacon fat rendered during the candying process is also used in the final sugary coating.
Candied bacon is also used in Chunky Pig’s other snacks—a dark chocolate candied bacon cookie, as well as candied bacon brittle bars dipped in dark chocolate.
Currently, Chunky Pig’s popcorn is a one-woman show. The popcorn is made and sold by Conedera herself, with the help of an intern, in downtown Oakland. It’s available in shops in Oregon, New York, as well as in and around the Bay Area. Find it in Oakland at Piedmont Grocery, Mandela Foods Cooperative, Oaklandish, and Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop.