Salty. Crispy. Smoked. Sweet. Do you know where this is going? If you thought bacon, then you would be correct. And that’s what it’s all about at Naked Bacon, a local company that recently has been re-thought of by founder/CEO John Kreilich. “I started the business three years ago as Kreilich Farm, but we rebranded in June in time to launch at Zoofari (at the Saint Louis Zoo),” Kreilich notes. “The recipes that we use go back to my great-grandfather August, who in 1861 lived on a large amount of land in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., and would smoke all their own meats.”
In fact, much later, it was on that very same farm during summers and on the weekends when Kreilich would visit his grandfather (Bernard Kreilich) and learn about his family’s history, as well as the family recipes. “It’s our family’s heritage,” Kreilich explains. “My grandfather taught me all about my great-grandfather’s practices and curing processes. I was probably around age 6 or 7 when he started teaching me about raising animals, farming, and smoking meats and bacon.” And it was from that information that Kreilich perfected the recipe that Naked Bacon uses today.
According to Kreilich, Naked Bacon handcrafts its bacon in small batches with a dry cure rub, which includes a secret blend of spices. “We try to keep our spices as natural as we possibly can by using non-GMO products,” he says. “And we source farmers in both Missouri and Illinois who feed their animals with non-GMO corn. We’re also trying to use more and more heritage breed pork. But we’re finding that what really makes a difference is how the animals are raised. We look for farmers who use humane practices—and we don’t want any hormones in our meat, as well.”
So what doesn’t go into Naked Bacon? Well, here’s where the company’s name comes in. “Our bacon doesn’t have any nitrate or nitrites. It doesn’t have any chemical solutions (i.e., spray-on smoke, used to speed up the curing process), or phosphates,” Kreilich points out. “We also don’t inject our bacon with water, which is what some companies out there do.” He explains that by injecting water, the final product can actually end up with more weight than the amount of bacon they started with. “And that’s why our bacon tastes the way it does—the way it tasted 100 years ago. It’s the way bacon is supposed to taste.”
Naked Bacon currently offers three varieties: Original, No Sugar Added and Jalapeño. “Our Original recipe has a little brown sugar, along with our secret blend of herbs and spices and then it's smoked with hickory and fruitwood,” Kreilich describes. “Our No Sugar Added is exactly the same as the original but without the sugar. But you can hardly tell a difference—it still has a sweet flavor to it.” Lastly, the Jalapeño is made with the same dry cure, but it has the added kick in it. Kreilich also notes that he is working on new varieties that will be available soon.
Retail outlets where Naked Bacon can be found include Ladue Market, Local Harvest Grocery, Kakao Chocolate, Baumanns’ Fine Meats and Bob’s Seafoods, among other locations. Naked Bacon also will be featured at Taste St. Louis Sept. 27-29 at Soldier’s Memorial, where they will be serving up a recipe that Kreilich developed called Taco BLTs, which include a traditional corn tortilla with bacon, lettuce, tomato, arugula and a secret sauce.
“Food is a passion for me.” Kreilich says. “The idea of being able to create something that people enjoy is very important to me. We’re giving people a choice as to the kind of bacon they can have, with different varieties, and a healthier version of bacon, as well.”