I have always been intrigued by salt pork at the store. Yesterday I saw salt pork sliced like bacon and couldn't resist buying it. I tried cooking it like bacon, but it did not turn out as I had hoped. What should I do with it?
closed as not constructive by rumtscho♦ Sep 21 '12 at 10:46
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Salt pork is usually used primarily as a flavouring for a dish. It's similarities to bacon are really just superficial as it generally contains a lot more fat and it's not smoked.
Essentially, when used for cooking, the fat is rendered down to form a rich base for the ingredients that will follow. Think of something like pork and beans, for the general idea, but it can be used with a variety of other ingredients
Use it to make your own hamburger by grinding (in food processor if you don't have meat grinder) with lean-but-flavorful cuts of beef like brisket, rib, or sirloin. It makes a nice burger by adding fat and salt to those beefy cuts.
Lay slices of it on top of turkey breast during roasting to provide flavor and moisture. Better than usual butter rub or liquid-based cheese cloth.
Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew made with black beans and salted meats. My mom, who is Brazilian, will adapt the traditional recipe to whatever meats she has at hand. As long as there is some salted pork and some salted meat the dish will turn out great. The version at cookthink has easier to find ingredients.
I treat Pasta alla Amatriciana as a recipe template and freely substitute almost any smoked meat. I find salt pork works well for this. Briefly:
Cut salt pork into small cubes (or use pancetta, or guancinale, or bacon, or pretty much any salty smoky pork product). Brown in a large pan or casserole. Remove to paper towels to drain.
In the fat left behind, (or take out some of the fat if it's more than a heavy coating), cook a large onion, chopped -- somewhat hotter than a sweat, but not a full-on saute. You want some carmelization, but not to burn it. Salt at beginning of cooking to help onions release their juices.
After about eight minutes, add a clove of two or garlic, minced, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes -- let that heat for half a minute or so -- then add a can of whole tomatoes (28 ozs), or fresh tomatoes if they are perfectly in season, otherwise canned is probably better. Wash your hands and break the tomatoes up with your fingers right in the cooking vessel. (You could seed them over the sink first, but I don't usually bother). Add the salt pork or other meat back in and let the whole thing simmer until saucy. Could be ten minutes if you are in a hurry, or more like 40 minutes if you aren't ready to eat yet.
Green herbs can be added near end of cooking, or not. Handfulls of fresh parsley, for example. Or nothing. Just use what you have on hand.
Serve over spaghetti or other pasta, with generous pecorino or parmesan grated on it.
In my family we use it to make Kroppkaka - a traditional Swedish dish. It's a bit heavy for the summer months though... :-)
Salt pork is also used as a "home remedy" for small skin infections (from cuts, splinters, that sort of thing).
In the winter when I make a pot of beans or gumbo or chowder or any hearty stew I will add about 1/4 pound of salt pork diced finely to the initial saute, this renders out the fat and browns the pork, along with the onions, garlic, peppers, etc. The richness of the salted fat carries well into the finished dish. Don't use it at all during the summer, cook rather lighter fare then.
I use it for the grease to fry my meatballs in for spaghetti gravy(sauce). I use some of the leftover fried meatball grease in the sauce as well(i just dont let saltpork grease from meatballs drain completly off or pat dry). The salt pork is an extremely important part of the entire sauce and is a must when browning all the meats. When you brown your meatballs, you must fry up some salt pork first so you can have a good amount of salt pork grease in the pan to brown the meatballs in. It also makes your cast iron pan nice and slippery so the meatballs don't stick. You will need to use about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of chopped salt pork. You want to produce enough salt pork grease to cover the bottom of the pan. Here is Secret grandma tip: Be sure to chop up the salt pork into 1/2" pieces. Keep the grease in the pan and put the small fried salt pork bits on a paper towel to drain. Here is Grandmas meatball recipe.
•1 lb. Ground Chuck (80/20) - (This means with 20% fat, you want at least 20% fat. Do not use lean meat for the balls!)
•1-1/2 slices of dark wheat bread with crust
•A little less than 1/4 cup bread crumbs (Progresso Italian style)
•1/4 cup fresh finely chopped parsley(you can use bottle/jar from spice shelf in store) I prefer fresh myself
•1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano!)
•3 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic •1/4 tsp. garlic powder
•A dash of coarse black pepper and Salt (more pepper than salt)
•A couple splashes of red wine
•1/2 tsp. sweet basil •1 to 1-1/2 cup chopped salt pork - Also called Fatback (you will use this when you brown the meatballs)
~Get a big bowl and put the 1 lb. of ground chuck in it. It's very important to have 1 lb. of ground chuck and not more or less. This recipe works best with 1 lb. of ground chuck. If you want more meatballs, just double the meatballs recipe.
~Chop up 1/4 cup of fresh Parsley as fine as you can. Don't mix anything yet. You're going to add all this stuff and mix when your done.
~Add (1) Egg to bowl.
~Chop up (2) large or (3) small cloves of garlic as fine as you possibly can and add to bowl.
~Add 1/3 cup of Parmesan Cheese to the bowl.
~Take your (1) slice of dark wheat bread and rub it under the faucet and get it soaking wet. Then squeeze as much of the water as you can out of the bread. The bread should be a gooey consistency. What I call meatball glue, this is very important. Break the bread up into the bowl. At this point you need to also add about about 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.
~Add coarse black pepper, salt, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, a splash of red wine and about 1 tsp. of sweet basil.
~Mix all the ingredients in the bowl well. You will need to work the meat for about 3 minutes until you end up with a big relatively firm ball. You are shooting for the consistency of play dough. If the meatball mixture is still wet you might need to add just a little bit more bread crumbs, but not too much. however it's OK for the balls to be a little wet, you just don't want the meatball mixture wet to the point of being mushy.
~VERY IMPORTANT STEP! Chop up the salt pork into 1/2" small bits and fry it up in the cast iron skillet so you get enough salt pork grease to fill the bottom of the pan. Then take your meatball mix and make 1-1/2" to 2" balls. Roll them around in your hand and try to make them as firm as possible. You might want to start out with 1-1/2" balls the first time you make them. 1-1/2" balls are easier to handle. What I mean... is they don't fall apart as easy. Also what I use is two flat wooden spoons to roll the balls around while browning. Important note: The meatballs will not be perfectly round when your done searing them, you may have some odd shape balls, but don't worry about it, you're more concerned about the taste. :-)
~Get the pan very hot, heat should be on medium high to high, need to get a good sear on them they will finish cooking through out when u add them to your sauce. You want to sear the meat to a dark brown. Be careful with the balls at first, you don't want them to fall apart. They should be cooked to a point where you can roll them around the pan and have them appear to be firm.
~When the meatballs appear to be seared well and firm take them right from the frying pan into the sauce. Don't set them on a rack or paper towels to remove excess grease of meatballs. The grease is an important ingredient to the flavor of the sauce. Especially salt pork grease!
Cut salt pork into fairly small dice. Render the fat. Reserve the remaining crispy bits once they've turned golden. Add onions, potatoes, water, clams, and eventually milk or cream to make a New England clam chowdah. Serve the chowdah with oyster crackers and the reserved crispy bits as a garnish.
It's excellent as a seasoning in a clam boil - adds a lot of flavor to the other ingredients. Cube it and add it into the boil bag.