Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Butter the paper generously.
Place the sugar, corn syrup, water and butter in a large sauce pot. Attach a candy thermometer on the side of the pot, with the bottom down in the sugar mixture. Turn the heat on medium-high and bring the sugar to a boil.
Meanwhile, chop the bacon finely, place it in a skillet, and cook over medium heat until brown. Then drain the bacon bits well on paper towels. They need to be dry, not greasy when added to the brittle.
Watch the candy thermometer closely. When it reaches 275 degrees F or "Soft Crack" carefully stir in the pecans. It usually takes 15-25 minutes to reach this temperature.
Continue to boil the candy. The moment the thermometer reaches 295 degrees F or "Hard Crack" turn off the heat. Carefully stir in the vanilla extract and dried bacon bits. Then stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up to create air pockets.
Quickly, yet very carefully, pour the hot liquid brittle on the prepared baking sheet. Pour it in a zigzag pattern across the baking sheet so it spreads out and fills the sheet in an even layer.
Immediately move the baking sheet to the refrigerator or freezer so that it cools fast, retaining as many air bubbles as possible. This creates a light airy texture.
Once the entire sheet of brittle is hard, break it into 36 pieces. Store the brittle in an airtight container until ready to serve.
This brittle is a great edible gift! Package in small cellophane bags to give to friends. As long as the bacon is well cooked, the brittle is safe to keep out at air temperature for 2-3 weeks.