This is one cured product you will almost never see done with wild game; I’m not saying it’s impossible, but to make really good lardo — which is cured and dried back fat — you need that fat to be at least an inch thick. This used to be rare even on domestic hogs, although thankfully with today’s resurgence of heritage pigs, it is no longer so hard to find proper back fat to make lardo. And while it’s not traditional, you can also do this with belly, but again, it needs to be thick.
Why make lardo? It is definitely a conversation piece, served over bread on a charcuterie platter. But lardo also works well in any recipe you might want to use English salt pork or French petit salé in — only lardo is better.
Here’s how to make it.
Lardo, Cured Pork Fatback
A few things to remember: Don’t bother trying this with a factory pig. They’re bred lean and pumped full of nasty hormones and antibiotics, and those things tend to lodge themselves in fats. Go with a small grower who is raising pigs the old way. Farmer’s markets are a good place to look.
Another thing to remember is that fat hates light. Light can turn pork fat rancid, so cure and hang lardo in the dark.
Makes 3 pounds of lardo, but you can halve the recipe if you want.
Prep Time: 60 days
- 3 pounds high-quality pork back fat, in roughly 1-pound slabs
- 1/2 pound kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked salt (optional)
- 1/4 pound sugar
- 1 ounce Instacure No. 2, about 2 level tablespoons
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 star anise pods
- 10 crushed bay leaves
- Mix the salt, curing salt and sugar together in a bowl. Do the same with the herbs and spices.
- Lay down a layer of the salt mix on the bottom of a large non-reactive (plastic, stainless steel or glass) container, then a layer of the herbs. Put a layer of pork fatback on it, then cover with more salt and spices. Keep layering like this until you are out of pork. Top with the rest of the spices and salt.
- Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then put a plate or other lid on the pork that is smaller than the top of the container. Weigh down this lid with something heavy, like a dumbbell or some heavy canned goods.
- Let this cure for 12 days, rotating the pork every three days. What I mean is bring the fatback on the bottom up one level, rotating the piece of fatback on the top down to the bottom. This helps evenly distribute the cure.
- After 12 days to 2 weeks, remove the pork and rinse it well. Pat it dry, then poke a hole about 1/2 inch in on one corner, so you can run string through it to hang. Hang the pork for at least 2 weeks, and preferably 4 to 8 weeks in a dark place that is between 45°F and 60°F, with between 65 and 75 percent humidity. If you are curing other things with your lardo, you might want to wrap the fatback in cheesecloth, and then again loosely with foil. The foil blocks the light when you open the curing fridge door. The Italians have special marble boxes just for this purpose.
- NOTE: You can leave the fat in the brine that forms far longer than 2 weeks. The Italians leave it for 6 months or more. It will get saltier the longer you leave it.