The bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches to eat. In fact, the BLT is probably one of your favorites as well, since this beloved combination is consistently rated the second most popular sandwich in America – right after the ham sandwich.
Even though it is my favorite, I rarely order a BLT when I’m at a restaurant for a couple of reasons. First, while it is seemingly very simple a lot can go wrong – soggy bread, salty bacon, under- or over-ripe tomatoes and flimsy lettuce. Maybe I’m a stickler, but if I’m eating a BLT it is going to be the best BLT that can be made. And secondly, when you order a BLT in a restaurant, let’s be honest, you’re paying for the french fries on the side more than anything. It is because of this that I prefer making my BLTs at home with the best and freshest ingredients possible.
When I decided I was going to write about the BLT though, I thought I would try to find and promote the best BLT in town, but I half-heartedly searched all over Leavenworth and only saw it on a handful of menus. Realistically, due to my proclivity for making them at home, my mind was already made up and instead I decided I was going to make the best BLT in Leavenworth.
With this self-imposed challenge, I headed off to the Leavenworth Farmers Market on a sunny Saturday morning. I went on a hunt for the best ingredients I could find and it was a lot easier than I imagined. Thank you local farmers and artisans.
The first ingredient I found was the “T.” River’s Edge Produce, from Platte City, Missouri, was selling a huge array of fresh and beautiful vegetables and on display, beckoning to me were probably the best heirloom tomatoes I have seen in a long time. I chose one of the ripest, fattest, juiciest, but still firm red-purple tomato. Then without missing a beat it was time for me to find my “B.” Right next to River’s Edge was Jet Produce and Meats. I was extremely excited to go to their booth because just a few weeks earlier I “discovered” them during my research looking for bacon to use for my sandwich. I had met the owner’s father at their on-site store while I purchased some of their regular bacon. Of course, I managed to work in my love of the BLT to our ensuing conversation, to which he excitedly told me that they were developing BLT bacon. What is BLT bacon you ask? Jet Produce and Meats makes this innovative product from the pork shoulder. They smoke it in applewood and slice it in a rectangular-oval-ish shape so when you fry up the bacon it is the perfect shape and size to fit on your bread. I would call it the Leavenworth version of Canadian bacon. Does that make sense? And for $6.99 a pound, it’s also a great deal.
I was going to look elsewhere for my “L” but I couldn’t pass up the huge head of green-leaf lettuce for $2 a bunch at Jet. Green-leaf not only looks good on a sandwich but it is just the right amount of crispness and flavor that the BLT calls for. I couldn’t say no to both the price and quality.
So what about the bread? As I was heading out I noticed that for $7 a loaf, the Hearth Bread Co. out of Weston, Missouri, was selling the most perfect, hearty sandwich loaf. It was as if the BLT fairies were sprinkling bacony-scented fairy dust.
With my ingredient list complete, I rushed home and quickly got to work. I fried up the BLT bacon and I toasted the bread. While those were working I cut one slice of tomato and plucked one leaf of lettuce. Then when the bread popped up I smeared both slices with the only acceptable condiment, Hellman’s mayonnaise. Then I put the bacon down and it was as if the slices of bread that I cut (which were around one-half inch thick) were the perfect size for the BLT bacon and vice versa. I had a good feeling about this. Then I added the lettuce, followed by the tomato and the last piece of bread.
This simple combination of the ingredients made what was one of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted. The BLT bacon made by JET Produce is a revelation. It is a tad chewy, but easy enough to bite through. While it doesn’t imbue the traditional crispy-fattiness some people prefer in their BLT, I loved it. It has the perfect amount of saltiness to lift up the flavor of the fresh tomato and lettuce. The bread stayed together and was firm and after I scarfed it down I threw down another. It’s all for the sake of research, mind you. With the help of the Leavenworth Farmers Market vendors, I made the best BLT in Leavenworth – The Leavenworth BLT. Please go to the market, get the ingredients and make it. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Lisa Sweet writes about food for the Leavenworth Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org