martedì 30 ottobre 2012

I make homemade lard!

(Per la versione italiana, vedete il posto precedente.)

I took this photo last year, at a deli in a town called Varallo, in the Italian Alps.
I love saying to my American friends, ”I make homemade lard.” Looks of fear come over their faces. As if they could have a heart attack at the mere mention of the word ”lard”!

It is possible that I am one of the only people in the United States who makes lard. It is the recipe of my great-aunt Maria (De Pasquale) Ciampa from Sorbo Serpico (Avellino), born in 1884, told to me by one of her daughters in Boston, who was over 80 when she told it to me.

You start with pork fat. Technically, it can be from any part of the pig, but the easiest to find in American supermarkets is salt pork or pork belly. Cut it in little pieces, put them in a pan, cover it, and cook on very low heat for about an hour. (The cooking time depends on the amount of fat, the size of the pieces, etc.)

Meanwhile, in a bowl (I use Pyrex), put two cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.
When the pieces of fat have rendered all of their liquid (which is the lard), put them in a ricer, to squeeze out every last drop. Pour the lard into the bowl. (You will hear a little sizzle, when the hot lard makes contact with the garlic.) Let it cool, then put it in the fridge. When the lard becomes white, it’s ready!

You see from the photo how important it is to smile at your lard. Sometimes it smiles back at you!

(For even tastier lard, that resembles even more the drippings of pancetta, you can add – in addition to the four ingredients above (garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaves) – a few juniper berries and a little piece of nutmeg.)

And in this photo, you see the heart surgeon, working on my arteries.

Let it be known! Make no mistake about it! I make homemade lard!

Addendum
March 3, 2014

If you know a good butcher, you can obtain a cut of the pig's belly that is superior to what one finds in the supermarket. However! In January I made pasta with ricotta, a recipe by the great Mimmo Corcione. I didn't have any lard on hand. What I did have, however, was a beautiful, thick slice of pancetta, from the local supermarket. Remember that my great-aunt seasoned the lard with garlic, but also with salt, pepper, and bayleaf. But pancetta already has these last three seasonings, and perhaps also nutmeg and juniper. Rendering the fat from pancetta produces a lard that contains all of these divine flavors.

But the story doesn't end there! The cracklings from this pancetta ... well, there is no way to describe to you the taste — neither in Italian nor in English nor any other terrestrial language. Cibus deorum, food of the gods — but only the most fortunate gods!

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