House-Cured Lardo

by Robert Booz

Lardo is the Italian term for cured fatback, and perhaps the best-known variation on the theme. Italian lardo is traditionally aged with herbs and spices in marble vessels. Ukranians make an air-dried version known as Salo, simply salt and fat, that traditionally relied upon the flavor of specific breeds of pigs. Here’s a simple recipe for the home. Feel free to mix up the types of spices and herbs you use, but always use the highest quality fatback.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound of kosher salt
  • 4 ounces of cane sugar
  • 1 ounce of pink salt*
  • 15 sprigs of rosemary
  • 6 fresh bay leaves, torn in half
  • 1/4 cup of crushed red pepper
  • 1 rectangular piece of back fat measuring approximately 4-6 inches by 6-8 inches
  • Cheesecloth
  • Butchers' Twine

Mix all of the ingredients but the pork, twine, and cheesecloth together well. Put about half of it into a glass baking dish large enough to hold the backfat. Place in the backfat and then the rest of the salt mixture. Make sure that the backfat is covered well in salt, then place another glass baking dish over it so it presses against the fat, and fill it with about 10 pounds of weight (I like to use canned goods). Let it stand in the fridge for 10 days or so, turning and redistributing the cure twice in this time. Finally remove it from the cure, rinse it well with cold water and dry it. Wrap it in a few layers of cheesecloth and let it hang in a cool (about 60° F), humid (60-70 percent humidity) and dark place, like a cellar for about 20 to 25 days.

*Pink salt, also known as curing salt or Prague salt #1, is the modern stand in for sodium nitrate. You can sometimes get it from your local butcher, or you can order yours online.