Muncan offers 18 varieties of bacon, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell which is which, or exactly how many are available for that matter. So we’ve put together this guide, with a little bit of intel on each. One of their most lightly seasoned, the rib bacon ($6.99, all prices per pound, top left) is offered raw and milder then the others.
The Serbian slang for this all-fat bacon, which is stunningly white and crusted with coarse salt, is saline alba—or white soap ($5.99, top right). It's best cooked, as the flavor is too intensely salty for most when raw. Marko, a third generation Muncan, likes to finish his pizza with it.
Romanian in origin, the Piept Ardelenesc ($6.99, bottom right), sliced rectangularly, has notes of paprika and is popularly used in cooking.
Muncan’s signature bacon ($6.99, bottom left), the double smoked is their most traditionally Romanian variety. The flavor is restrained when raw; when fried, it develops a smokier flavor that begs for eggs.
[Photographs: Chris Crowley, unless otherwise noted]
Muncan produces four varieties of rolled bacon: paprika- and garlic-crusted ($7.99) top left and right, respectively) are treated in brine so that they are moist but not too oily. They are excellent on pizza, and their flavor won't overwhelm other ingredients.
There is also roasted rolled bacon ($7.59, bottom right) and the Capri stuffed ($8.99, bottom left). For the last, a pocket is carved into a slab of pork belly and then stuffed with a sausage filling of pork, fresh parsley, and other spices. Some bites yield the crunch of peppercorns, producing a tingling buzz; others meet halfway between the fattier pork belly and more heavily seasoned sausage.
A healthier option, the chicken bacon (bottom left) doesn’t match up to Muncan’s roasted bacons ($7.59). Available in paprika (not as flavorful as the similar pipet) and garlic (pictured, top left), the second is one of Marko’s favorite’s. Cooked with fresh garlic, it has has a strong flavor, delightful in a guilty pleasure kind of way, that is evocative of pizza parlor garlic knots and bread.
The press ($6.99, top right) is pleasant; better yet is the black forest bacon ($7.59, bottom left), which recalls its namesake.
Produced in a similar manner to prosciutto, the dried bacons include the ruby red Tarksa ($6.99, bottom left), Istrian pancetta (all pancettas $7.99, top left), pancetta (top right), and black pepper bacon (bottom right).
Coated in black peppercorns, garlic and herbs, the Istrian pancetta is one of Muncan’s finest bacons. Pork, garlic, and black pepper compete for flavor dominance, with the herbs playing a more subtle background role. Their regular pancetta, which has no rind, is more straightforward, and tasty, but the black pepper pancetta, its bottom coated in coarsely ground peppercorns, is better yet. The Tarksa, another of Marko’s favorites, develops a deep red color when cooked, for a salty, sweet flavor that is typical of cured meat but delicious nonetheless.
*Not pictured, Muncan also produces a boiled bacon ($7.99).
[Photograph: Top Left, Jason Crowley]
With its soft, marbled, crystalline fat, the lamb prosciutto ($14.99) is one of Muncan's most visually alluring products. Let it sit at room temperature and the room will be filled with a pungent, slightly funky, and bright—almost fruity—aroma. The saltiness builds the more you chew, and hangs around for a while afterward.
A new favorite, the lamb salami continues to spark whispers of a second coming in charcuterie. A slice reveals its myriad, but light, pockets of fat. One bite will have you asking why this hasn’t made its way into the American culinary repertoire. Marko explains, “people in Eastern Europe certainly have made some types of it for generations, but it is more exotic and not something that was always readily available decades ago, when lamb was traditionally only eaten around Easter.” More nuanced and less aggressive then your average salami, black pepper notes dominate towards the end of the chew.
It follows that babic, the kid cousin to the lamb salami, was once too exotic in Romania. Distinguished by its sweeter flavor and lighter hue, it's saltier and not as dry as the salami.
Duck pastrami ($14.99)
Given its fatty origins, the duck pastramiis surprisingly light. Ribboned by a thick strip of yellowed fat, it's moist and only slightly oily. The pastrami kick here isn’t too strong, coming in strides, but the flavor—fresh, with a constrained richness—is wonderful.
Duck prosciutto ($27.99)
All of Muncan’s proscuittos are made from hand-trimmed meat which is cured, seasoned, and then smoked using house blends and methods. Most recently, the family has introduced an avian take on the popular product. With its opaque, succulent fat and salty meat, the duck prosciutto comes at you in waves: salt, then smoke and back again, finishing with a suggestion of the herbs that adorn its surface. Its as good as candy.
Istrian salami ($12.99)
It seems that the Muncan family can do no wrong when it comes to the charcuterie of Croatia’s Istrian people. Their Istrian salami, with its captivating colors, only further builds the case for the region’s mastery of the curing arts: high on black pepper, it's hard to quit.
Hunter's sausage (fresh $6.99, dried $9.99)
Hanging above the butcher’s counter like a snake from a tree, the hunter’s sausage will catch your eye with its royal color and thick veins of fat. Sweet and a tinge spicy, it's deliciously seasoned and joyfully chewy. The best part, though, are the globular pockets of fat—with their pure and unadulterated flavor—that mark the inside. Even thinly sliced, the fat will make you ecstatic.
Dried over the course of a month, the ghiudem ($7.99) is an excellent beef sausage.
Reminiscent of the Albanian shuxtie in both texture and color, the hot Njugesta, or “Hungarian Spicy” ($7.99), has a deeper and more focused flavor. The heat here is the deal maker, and quite excellent: rising out the paprika-induced sweetness, and causing a lingering bout of light fire breath. The interior is prone to pulling apart, making this one ripe for crumbling.
The shop’s most popular item, jumari ($6.99; deep fried pork rinds, also known as chicharrones) comes bouncing in small bags for nibbling. They’re bite-sized, smaller then the chunks you might find at a Dominican luncheonette, and are speckled with salt and yellow grains. A perfect balance is struck between the three elements: the sudden snap of the skin, the rushing melt of the fat, and the chew of the meat. They’re lighter then the chicharrones you might be used to—and verge on addictive.
The first product that Mike Stefanovic, Tima's son-in-law and head of production, introduced when he went to work at Muncan, Pecenica ($12.99) is a dried Canandian bacon made from pork lion. Available in the Istrian variety and non-dried as well, its an "insanely traditional" product that was a childhood favorite of Stefanovic. Intensely smoky, it offers an aggressive chew.
Ham, Novi ($8.29 each)
Muncan offers a variety of traditionally Eastern European hams, each produced with a distinct set of spices, curing, cooking, and/or smoking method, including: black forest novi, zebra, muschi file, muschi tiganesc, banat, and praga. Traditionally Romanian, the muschi tiganesc and muschi file are, respectively, roasted and smoked Canadian bacons. The novi and zebra ($7.59 each), named for the stripes of garlic and herbs that crest it, were my personal favorites.