Lardo: Cured Pork Fat

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Curing
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Of all the cured meats from Italy, for me, lardo is the most essential, primal, and pristine. It challenges our modern view of food down to one of it’s most fundamental and pervasive cores: fat is bad for you. But eaten as intended, sliced thin and consumed sparingly, this fat is good for you in every life-enhancing way imaginable.

Lardo is a thick slab of pork back fat that has been salted and left to cure in a soupy brine for six months. There is no intermediary meat of consequence. You slice it thin, and let the fat melt on your tongue. You can drape it over bread, let it dissolve over a just baked pizza, or add it to countless dishes in place of oil or butter as you would salt pork. It is the purest expression of the pig in all it’s glorious fat-ness.

It Italy, the best lardo is made in Colonnata, where the ancient marble mines of Carrara provide a natural vessel for curing the fat. Marble blocks are hollowed out to make caskets, where the fat cures along with salt, rosemary, and other aromatics for up to six months. The marble keeps the fat at a consistent temperature. And no refrigeration is used – Italians keep their caskets in cool basements or caves.

This fat from Caw Caw Creek is nearly 2 inches thick.

Keeping the skin on is a good way to cure all whole salumi.

Lardo is a hard item to come by in the US, so making your own is one of the only viable options for obtaining it. But you need an impeccable source for the fat. You cannot just go down to your local supermarket and buy commercial back fat, full of nasty antibiotics and growth hormones. You need thick (at least 1 inch), organic, farm raised, heritage pork to make this salumi. You want pigs that spend their lives foraging, and from a farmer who is ethical and humane. My source was Caw Caw Creek Farms in South Carolina.

All the seasonings for the cure.

Recipe

The recipe I used was adapted from Salumi by Ruhlman & Polcyn. The only equipment you need is a scale capable of measuring grams and a non-reactive container that will hold the fat snuggly (you may need to trim it). Some use plastic ziplock bags, but I don’t want plastic touching this fat in a brine for 6 months.

  • 100% pork back fat, at least 1 inch thick, skin on
  • 50% sea salt (I used grey sea salt)
  • 2% crushed and sliced garlic
  • .5% black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • .4% juniper berries, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • .15% fresh rosemary stalks, crushed by hand
  • .1% bay leaves, ripped into small pieces by hand

Combine all the seasonings. Place some of the cure mix in the bottom of a non-reactive container that can be covered tightly, such as glass or ceramic (or your custom made marble casket!). Set the fat skin side down in the container, and spread the rest of the cure over the top. Cover tightly, and wrap in a black plastic bag to keep the light out, which will destroy the delicate fat. Place in the fridge for six months.

I will post pictures of my lardo when it is finished.

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28 Comments

  1. David says

    Do you know where a suitable marble casket can be purchased from to make this the authentic way?

    • I have never seen one for sale in this country. But you can find a marble/granite company that makes stone kitchen sinks (farmhouse sinks), and they can probably make one to your specs. Carrara marble is pretty common with these companies, so you could make the real thing.

  2. Jessica says

    How exciting!!!!!! We purchased a pig share from a local farm and just doing research on the whole hog and can’t believe what a gem I have waiting for me in my freezer. Ahhh! I’m looking forward to your results. It’s been difficult finding a recipe without nitrates, so I’m going to give this a whirl and let time do it’s due diligence! Thanks for sharing and all the best, Jessica

    • Let us know how it goes! I just pulled my fat from the cure recently and the results were nothing less than spectacular.

      John

      • I got a piece of mangalitsa steak with about an inch of lovely fat. I am going to turn the fat into lardo using your method! I can’t wait! Well, I can wait 6 mo.!

  3. Kristian Niemi says

    Hey, John. Great post! Just a heads-up for any readers regarding where to get quality fatback. Caw Caw Creek has closed. After 20 years of farming, Emile has moved on to some exciting endeavors in the city. However, just around the same time, we got a new supplier, Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork (http://www.heritagecheshire.com), and they’ve got some gorgeous fat. I just put some on cure. Can’t wait! Take care!

    Chef Kristian Niemi @kristianmn
    Rosso Trattoria
    Columbia, SC

    • That is sad to hear, but thanks very much for the new suggestion on pork procurement.

      John

  4. Frank says

    I raise Heritage Hogs. Large Blacks and Tamnworths. I have a supply of Fat Back. I feed my hogs non-medicated Grain, Whey and a lot of vegetables when in season. You can reach me at the above email or by phone: 401-300-8267
    pvfarmstand.com All my products are USDA approved.

  5. Russell Singleton says

    Hello! We’re also a South Carolina farm, located in Sumter, SC, that humanely raises heritage breed hogs. We have Tamworth, Berkshire, Spots (spotted Poland China), Duroc, and Hampshire. They’re pastured and woodland fed, as well as grain fed to insure they get all the minerals, vitamins & protein to produce sufficient fat. Please review our website: http://www.sunnycedars.com
    and follow the Facebook link. Thanks, Russell Singleton

    • Thanks for the information. Do you carry jowls by any chance? Also, any plans to raise Mangalistas in the future? It is one of my dreams to get a whole Mangalista and butcher it down to all the primals for curing. That breed is the king of fat in Italy.

  6. Suzanne says

    What happens if I have the fat but not the skin? Will the recipe still work?

      • Keith says

        Hey John, great site. I operate a small craft curing company. Saint Sus American Charcuterie. I just placed two slabs to cure, taken from the loin of a Mangalitsa here in Florida. I had planned on hanging them after a 14 refrigeration cure…do you suggest leaving them in the pressed dry cure on refrigeration for 6 mths…? If so, what results will differ from the hanging in my curing cabinet? This is my first Lardo cure, so I’m open to suggestions.

        Thanks for your feedback,…Salt and patience…

      • Hi Keith – Lardo is not traditionally cured by hanging. It is kept in a salt cure at low temps for the entire duration to keep the fat milky white and supple. I am sure it could be hung – but it would be a very different product.

        Do you have your salumi for sale?

  7. Isamu Sasaki says

    Hi john!

    Specila thanks to your information. I am so happy to find your site. I am about to receive Iberian backfat today, so your information is very helpfull.

    I have a question. Do we need 50% sea salt? Itn’t it too much? Is it the normal amount for 100 fatback?

    Thank you!

  8. Starting my lardo now from a pasture raised Herutage pig. There are lots of good pasture raised pigs near you including Russel Singleton, Tank Jackson down in Charleston and Gra Moore with Carolina Heritage Farms-all in SC.
    Heritage Cheshire Pork is just more confinement raised pork from NC. Too many good producers of pasture raised pigs in NC and SC to be using pigs raised on concrete!

  9. Reesa says

    I have some back fat waiting for me in the fridge. Does anyone have measurements in grams or teaspoons and Tablespoons for the recipe. thanks ahead of time.

    • Matt says

      Hi Reesa.

      The measurements in (g) depend on the initial weight of your fat. You need to weigh your piece of fat, then apply the percentages provided above for the other ingredients.

      • Robert Friesen says

        Are those percentages by weight? So if I have 2 lbs of fat, I will need 1 lb of salt? I just made a batch with a friend and it was a disaster. Fail forward! Thanks.

  10. Frank M. says

    I wish to add. If smoked over straw or hay, cold smoking mind you, you have lardone. Don’t have to use straw or hay, but it is traditional. I occationally use alder.

  11. Gretchen Honeybee says

    I’m curious on the follow up for this. How did it turn out? Would you change anything about what you did? Or the balance of the ingredients in the cure? I just put a batch in the cure and the fridge using this recipe from Ruhlman & Polcyn. I’m especially intrigued by Frank M’s comment about cold smoking. I will try that with some of it for sure.

  12. JDV – hey man! I found you back when I started my lardo curing quest. I purchased Ruhlman & Polcyn’s book and started curing my precious fatback. Today marks it’s third birthday! I checked on the remaining three slabs and by looks and scent, we are golden. However, it had these salt-like strands protruding all over. Not scary, but unusual … Ever seen this before? Wondering if you have any insight if the lardo is still good or if it’s spoiled? I’m terrified to try it because, you know, botulism. Hope to hear. ✌ – Jessica

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