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The truth is I never liked foie gras, and I don’t bake much because I can’t bear adding as much butter as most recipes need. It’s a quality that probably disqualifies me as a serious eater in some foodie minds, but I don’t think it’s a true eating disorder as far as the DSM-iv is concerned. Eating hot melty fat was just never my thing.

Then our half-hog arrived with 10 pounds of snowy fatback, which I’d requested as part of the plan to use as much of the pig as possible. Naturally, I took on the fat in an altogether practical and unromantic way. I studied my sources. I pondered possible solutions. A scant pound is now curing as lardo in the fridge, wrapped tightly in sheets of newspaper. See ya someday.

Meantime I began trimming our pork chops of their thick fat strips since eaters were always cutting off the strip anyway — wasting it! — and Ruhlman’s Charcuterie suggests that salt pork can be ready in two weeks time, a good choice for impatient cooks. This weekend the pork chop strips emerged from their cure as ruddy, dark slivers of meat embedded in drifts of dull white fat.

I had no idea what to do with them.

Brief investigation yielded some interesting facts, like that salt pork was eaten by soldiers in the days before vacuum-packing. Like that it’s an old-time New England staple and seasoning that colonists kept going in a brine for years at a time. So I consulted my 1970 Time-Life Foods of the World booklet American Cooking: New England, picked up for 50 cents some years ago, after I met my Boston born-and-raised husband. I hadn’t quite gotten around to using the recipes, though I never doubted that Codfish Balls are delicious in the right setting.

Well it happens that salt pork is a key ingredient in all kinds of Northeastern specialties such as baked beans and clam chowder. It’s probably what my chef friend Evan was talking about when he called some weeks ago and rattled off his cured pork recipe, which calls for fresh rosemary. Anyway, you see where this is headed. Yesterday I cooked up a pot of clam chowder using potatoes, celery, and onions, sort of following the recipe in the booklet. It wasn’t a terribly local concoction save the potatoes and thyme, but I suspect the wonderful depth of flavor came from, yup, the homemade salt pork. There was little trace of the original ingredient itself, just creamy goodness. It was enough of a success that I’ll be rationing the material ’til more is ready.

Check out this detailed post on salt pork from a Rhode Island blogger. My recipe:

Recipe: Salt Pork

2 parts salt / 1 part brown sugar / chopped herbs to taste such as sage or rosemary / pork scraps with approximately equal parts muscle and fat

Mix salt, sugar, and herbs in an amount that will coat your scraps generously. Trim pork so that it is squared off, cover with mixture and rub in gently. Place pork in tightly sealed container or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 7 days. Remove from fridge and shake to redistribute the salt mix again, then refrigerate 7 days more. When ready, gently rinse off salt and pat dry. Store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, or in the freezer for longer. Adapted from Michael Ruhlmann.

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