This is a pretty requested recipe, and I'm finally getting around to making a batch, so I hope this answers the numerous questions I've gotten about it.
Lardo in Italian means lard or fatback. It's cured in numerous areas of Italy, with the most famous being in Tuscany, where it's known as Lardo di Colonnata. This recipe is a recreation of a lardo style made in Arnad in the Valle D'Aosta region, or at least my rendition of this lardo. The fatback is cured and then sliced thinly and eating as a salume.
The hardest part of this recipe is procuring a piece of fatback that's thick enough to use. You won't be able to find it at a supermarket, you'll have to source it from your friendly local farmer. The rest is easy. It's just brine cured, not dry cured at all.
|Ingredient||Quantity(g)||% of water|
|Bay Leaves||8 leaves||N/A|
Lardo D'Arnad is traditionally brine cured in large wooden boxes called "doils". Clearly I don't own chestnut wood boxes in which to cure my lardo, so i used a large plastic container.
Nice fresh rosemary. It's washed and ready to use.
Sage and garlic cloves.
Juniper berries lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle.
The water is brought to a boil, the salt is added and all the spices, herbs, and curing salt is dumped in. Turn off the fire and cover. Let cool to room temperature. Basically an herbal, salty tea is made.
Here is the brine. Ready to cure the fatback.
I want to take a minute to detail how i calculated the amount of curing salts to add. This is actually somewhat complicated and not exactly agreed upon.
There is a detailed discussion of brine curing on the sausagemaking.org forum. Parts of the discussion on brine curing can be found here and here. Keep in mind that curing in a brine is different than dry curing. In dry curing, it's pretty safe to assume that the amount of salt you add and curing salts you add, pretty much end up in the meat. With a brine, that wouldn't be correct. There are a few brine curing calculation methods which are detailed by the FDA, I'm assuming an equilibrium method for brine curing, which is detailed in the FDA processing inspectors handbook. Based on all this reading, I decided i wanted the residual parts per million of nitrites to be about 150. I decided on 150PPM as that is the residual nitrite allowed by the European Union, which to be perfectly honest, i trust more than our own FDA, which allows up to 200PPM.
To achieve 150PPM, based on experimental analysis by some fellows on Sausagemaking.org, that meant I had to add 175 ppm of nitrites to my brine. The main discrepancy with my product and the FDA book is that the book assumes a piece of meat, whereas my item is pure fat, which means the uptake may be slightly different. Unfortunately, i have nothing else to go by, so i assume it acted the same as meat.
Given the quantity of salt (25% brine), I would actually feel OK about leaving the cure out in this case, but I added it in this instance.
So to calculate my 175PPM of nitrites i used the following math:
(grams of nitrite to add) = (PPM required*(weight of meat + weight of brine))/1000000
Using this equation : g=(175*(2800+1600))/1000000 = 0.77g (the brine with all the stuff added weighed 2800g)
So I could use 0.77g of pure sodium nitrite, which i do not have. I have cure #1, which is 6.25% sodium nitrite. That means I would have to use (0.77/0.0625) = 12.3g of cure #1.
So that's our math lesson for today. Please take the time to read the FDA processors handbook, as well as the forum posts. There is a very interesting discussion in there. The processors handbook has great examples for the calculations, as well as safety limits for many of the products we use.
So here is the piece of fatback that is about to go into the brine. You can see this is no normal piece of fat from a factory pig. This is an Ossabaw fat back from Caw Caw Creek. Attempting this with a piece of fatback that's thinner than 1.5" would be pretty much useless I think.
The fatback is put into the brine, and flipped once a month. It's left in the brine to equilibrate for a total of about 3 months. Once it's done, it's sliced super thin and eaten with some black pepper and some crusty bread.