Cured Pork Fat Experiment – Day 5

View off the balcony this morning.
View off the balcony this morning.

This is the 2nd post in a series – you can read the first post here and the 2-week update here.  The final post is here.

This morning has dawned bright and sunny, yet another of the glorious early-Autumn days we’ve been having lately, prompting me to throw all the windows and the balcony door wide open, and run a cycle of kitchen-maintenance tasks beyond the mundane loading of dishwasher – such as checking on the contents of fridge, feeding the happily bubbling sourdough starter (if it keeps behaving, I will mix a batch of dough tonight for a test bake tomorrow), and checking on the pork fat that I am attempting to cure.

It has been four days since I, in a frenzy of glorious food-preserving greed, buried three pieces of pork back fat in a mixture of mostly coarse (some fine) sea salt and Herbes de Provence with some freshly-ground black pepper generously thrown in, covered the bowl and stuck it in my refrigerator with hopes and dreams of something like Russian/Ukrainian Salo or Italian Lardo di Colonnata.

Julia’s mother, a Russian lady of some renown (or so I hear!) where it comes to traditional food preparations has relayed that in her opinion, based on the size of my pieces of lard, it should be dry-cured for at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator, which sounds much more reasonable than the 5-10 days that I have read elsewhere.  As I’ve mentioned in the previous post on the subject, Lardo is cured for far longer periods of time, and fat does not take up much salt in the curing process, so there is little chance of ‘overdoing it’.  Armed with that knowledge, I venture forth to check the progress in my fridge.

Salo in closed bowl
Stylishly covered with a turned-over IKEA dessert plate.

So how is it doing?

Fat buried in salt

Well, the salt has absorbed some moisture and darkened somewhat, although not enough to drain any liquid out when I tried to tip the bowl sideways a little.  From what I could see digging cautiously into the pile, it is still very much in solid crystal shape all the way down to the bottom of the bowl.  The lighter patches of fine salt is where I had ‘patched’ the salt over previously-exposed parts of fat with a sprinkling of fine sea salt.  I brushed the salt off the top piece of fat and used tongs to shake it clean to take a closer look.

Part-cured fat

And it looks great!  The fat retained its beautifully creamy-pink color (seen against the backdrop of salt which took a slight grey-green cast from the spices mixed into it), with no sign or slightest whiff of decay.  It has hardened somewhat – I have not touched it with my fingers, but poking with tongs feels like it is less yielding than it was when it was freshly defrosted four days ago.  The only detectable smell is that of the herb mixture.  I have to say that it surprised me somewhat just how pretty it looked after this short a time – supremely tempting to slice off a piece, but – it isn’t ready.

Fat buried in salt again

So I carefully reburied the slice in the salt, adding a light sprinkling of fine sea salt to help coat it properly and replaced the bowl in the fridge.  From all I can tell, the process is working, and the product – so far! – looks very promising.  I really hope it delivers on its promise in a couple of weeks!

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