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 is even rare on most domestic hogs. 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.
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; my source is a farmer named John Bledsoe in Yolo County, California.
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 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.
- 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 so you can run some string through it to hang. Hang the pork for 2-4 weeks in a dark place; you’re looking for 50-60 degrees and 60-75 percent humidity.
- 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.