Six weeks have passed since I have buried a slab of fatback lard in sea salt and herbs and left it in my refrigerator to cure. Why six weeks when I originally mentioned three or four? Well, you know how life goes – at first I was impatient and checked on it quite soon, and then I was more impatient, but then I got busy, and the three-four weeks became six, and because I knew I didn’t have to worry about over-curing the fat (since Lardo is cured for months without any harm), I didn’t worry about it.
And then I have worked through my whirlwind-but-fun schedule and went back to the fridge to see how things have progressed. I dug the slab of lard out, cut off the tough skin (next time I will cut it off before curing, but it did the lard no harm to cure with it on), and brushed off the excess salt.
Placed on a cutting board and attacked with a sharp knife, the result has not only justified the (frankly minimal) effort and wait, but exceeded all expectations. The fat has remained a beautifully creamy white color, without discoloration at all, and hardened to a great easily-sliced consistency due to water drawn out into the salt (which had darkened but still had no liquid collecting in the bottom of the dish). And the taste… well, let me put it this way, I’ve paid 60€/kg for a few slices of imported Italian Lardo and I don’t think this was actually any worse, and perhaps even better: clean, well-seasoned but not overly so, with the distinct notes of thyme and lavender coming through on top of the rich flavor of the fat itself. No off flavors of any sort, at least none that my rather sensitive nose could detect (nor did I expect any).
Bingo. I am not sure I’ll want to buy Lardo/Salo ever again. Granted, six weeks is a fairly long time to wait for something to be ‘ready’, but so long as you have the fridge space, and can get your hands on good-quality fatback in thick pieces, why not?
So what to do if you want some of this for yourself? It’s really very easy and simple.
- Take a piece of fatback (preferably 3+cm thick), and trim off the skin.
- Mix enough* coarse sea salt with whatever seasoning floats your lard. In my case it was a few tablespoons of Herbes de Provence and about a teaspoon of culinary lavender. (*enough to put a 1-2cm thick layer below the slab of fatback in your nonreactive container, and then to cover it completely).
- Place the fatback onto the seasoned salt and pour the remainder of salt over it, ensuring that all parts of it are covered. Close your nonreactive container** – plastic tupperware box will probably be fine – and place it in the back of the refrigerator. (**I used a glazed ceramic bowl covered with a plate this time, but I suspect I will use tupperware next time for convenience.)
- Leave the container alone for 6 weeks. You may check on it occasionally, pour off any liquid if it appears on the bottom, and make sure the piece is still completely covered in salt.
- At the end of 6 weeks, take the fat out, brush off excess salt and enjoy on rye bread, as part of charcuterie board, with asparagus, or whichever way you wish to consume your awesome Lardo/Salo.
And that is it, folks. I prounounce this experiment an unqualified success!