Originally posted on July 5, 2014.
This post is about cured fatback, most commonly known by its Italian name lardo.
Fatback is the subcutaneous fat that covers the pork loin. Resist the urge to say “back fat”: it’s called fatback. Industrially-raised pigs are intentionally grown very lean, so the fatback is typically only an inch thick. Heritage pigs can have three inches or more of fatback. These are the animals you need in order to make lardo.
Two autumns ago I got a side of Tamworth pork from Nature’s Green Acres. The fatback was two and a half inches thick in some places. It was the first pig that I ever cut that truly deserved to have … Continue reading.
If you had told me five years ago that one day I would make soap I would have scoffed with self-righteous indignation. Being a very serious chef and a bit of a dink I eschewed the “arts and crafts” that took precious space away from food at the farmers’ market. I don’t feel that way anymore: I appreciate the pottery and the quilts and the pysanka, and even the beeswax candles.
For the past few years I have been rendering lard from sides of pork. Now, I think I eat more lard than most: I use it in pie dough, I make spreads like Grammelschmalz and Schmalzfleisch, and use it as an everyday cooking fat. Even so, I can’t … Continue reading.
I’ve rendered animal fat many times, but I recently learned that I was doing it wrong. Or rather, not in the most effective manner.
Rendering is the process of turning raw, fatty tissue from animals into pure fat. We render pieces of raw pork fat to get lard, and raw beef fat to get tallow. I used to quickly cut up, say, pork leaf lard, or beef suet, or duck breasts, then throw them in a pot over low heat and leave them for several hours. This works, but I was always surprised by the low yield.
My exploration of an improved rendering method began last summer, in Austria, while eating at a Heuriger. I was served light rye … Continue reading.
These are scrunchions. They’re a bit like pork rinds.
“Pork rind” simply means pork skin. It can refer to the fresh, raw skin cut from a side of pork, but more commonly it means pig skin that has been rendered and fried crisp. It is actually the same as crackling, though commercially-produced pork rinds are much more delicate than the crackling that develops on oven-roasted pork.
Scrunchions are made by a similar process, but they consist of pork fat, not skin. I know it sounds funny that deep-frying fat results in a crispy treat, but raw animal fat also contains a good deal of connective tissue that holds the fat cells in place. When you fry strips of raw, … Continue reading.
Fat is perhaps the main source of flavor [sic] in meat.
-Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs, Sixth Edition
Nothing in particular inspired this post, but it could have very easily been a piece of low-fat cheese, or the pastry icing at a health bakery, or maybe just a dry pork chop. I want to write a bit about the judicious use of fat to make eating more pleasurable.
Fat content in specific cuts of meat
The most common cut of pork in the supermarket is the boneless loin centre chop. This steak is the leanest part of a very lean muscle. It also happens to be the driest, and least flavourful cut of pork. This is not a coincidence. … Continue reading.