Sunday, March 2, 2014

How to make lardo

Lardo may not be the most widely known salumi (it is nothing but pork back fat, after all), but it could be the easiest to make for yourself at home. The recipe itself is a snap; you just need to allow at least a month from start to finish is all.

I'm not an expert, but those who are strenuously argue that lardo should only be attempted if you are able to source the fat from a very high-quality, naturally raised hog, from as small a farm as possible.

This piece of back fat is from a hog that was raised less than 10 miles from my home (a Yorkshire-Duroc cross breed), and weighs in at just under 2 pounds. In a separate bowl I mixed together 1/4 pound of Kosher salt, 2.5 teaspoons of pink salt, and 10 teaspoons of sugar. I then coated a baking dish with some of the mixture and placed the slab of fat on top of it.

The remaining salt-and-sugar mix then gets spread atop the fat. At this point you add whatever herb mixture you like. I went with rosemary sprigs, bay leaves and black peppercorns.

Cover the fat with plastic wrap, but make sure to use enough wrap so that it hugs the fat along all four sides and all the way down to the bottom of the dish.

Wrap the entire dish in aluminum foil; this is very important because light will discolor lardo, and should be kept to a minimum at all times. Then weight it down with several pounds. I've got a 5-pound bag of flour and 4 pounds of coffee here, or 9 pounds total. Place this in the refrigerator for at least 10 days, perhaps up to two weeks. Every two or three days you'll need to uncover the fat, turn it, and redistribute the dry mix. You'll know that the fat is sufficiently cured when it feels tight and stiff throughout the entire piece. This slab was in the fridge for 11 days.

After curing in the fridge, clean off all the dry mix and herbs. Don't just brush it off; run cold water over the fat to make certain it's entirely clean, then dry completely using paper towels.

Wrap the fat in cheesecloth, tie a cord around the cloth, and hang in a cool, dark place for around 3 weeks.

By cool we're talking in the 60-degree range. I used a separate, unheated room in the basement that I was able to keep around 55 degrees. And I covered over the one window so that the room stayed dark the entire time. Remember: light will discolor the lardo.

This piece hung in the basement for 24 days total.

I sliced off a few paper-thin pieces, just to taste it plain (nice!).

Then wrapped it in foil (lardo should always be stored in a light-proof container), and put it in the fridge, where it will last for quite some time.

Oh yeah. I gave a hunk to my pals Tom and Beth, who immediately went home and made a pizza. That I didn't get an opportunity to taste. A snub I shall surely remember the next time I'm in a salumi-making mood.