PANCETTA is an Italian style bacon. Regular bacon is smoked before it is cured, but pancetta is just cured and then dried for a few months. The two can be substituted for each other - the pancetta just won't give the smoky flavor. Rolled pancetta is sliced and often used cold in sandwiches, or wrapped around vegetables or meats before they are cooked. They are usually packaged the same as cold cuts, and most supermarkets and delicatessens carry them. Slabs of pancetta are often cut and used the same as bacon, fried or in soups, pasta and other dishes. Like bacon, it should be cooked before eating or can be chopped and added to other dishes to add flavor.

PROSCIUTTO is very different from either bacon or pancetta. It is made from the same part of the pig as ham, and is more like ham than bacon. It isn't highly processed - usually the outside is rubbed with salt, and sometimes a few spices. As it cures, the meat deepens in flavor while air dries it. It can take from a few months to several years to complete the process.

Once it is cured, prosciutto, unlike bacon and pancetta, it's often eaten without being cooked. It is just thinly sliced and eaten in sandwiches, or wrapped around pieces of melon. It can be added to some dishes just long enough to give a deeper flavor. It shouldn't be cooked for long periods, as it loses its special taste and makes it tough.

To store it, keep it in the refrigerator and eat it by the use-buy date. After it is opened it should be eaten within two days.

CANADIAN BACON, as it is called in the United States, is leaner than regular bacon. Its flavor, the way it looks, and its texture, is more like ham than bacon. It is processed with some sugar, so is sweeter than regular smoked bacon. It is meant to be juicy, and doesn't get crispy in its own fat the way bacon does. If it is left to get crisp it will get overcooked and dried out.

In the United States it is popular paired with pineapple as a topping for pizza. It also goes well in omelets and other breakfast foods for those who want the flavor of bacon without all the fat. You'll find many recipes on the Internet containing Canadian bacon.

In some other countries it is known as back bacon, because it is cut from the back of the pork. In Australia it is called short cut bacon, and in the United Kingdom and Ireland it is called rashers.

Oddly enough, in Canada it isn't known as Canadian bacon, but in southern Ontario there is a similar meat called Peameal bacon because originally it was rolled in ground dried yellow peas. The more modern way is to roll it in cornmeal. It is sold both cooked and partly cooked, so it's important to read the label and see if it needs any cooking. It is often eaten for breakfast in Canada and parts of the United Kingdom.

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