Salt pork is, by definition, salt-cured pork that is mainly obtained from pork belly. Salt-cured meat is, essentially, any type of meat that has been preserved using salt.
Curing can simply be defined as a method of preservation or flavoring foods. The aim of adding salt is to ensure that any bit of moisture contained in the food is drawn out.
In summary, salt pork is fat cut from the back or belly of a pig that is heavily salted for preservation. Aside from adding a savory yet salty flavor to dishes, it can be a source of cooking fat.
How To Make Salt Pork at Home
This is one of the simplest things you can do in your kitchen.
- Start off with clean pieces of pork belly or back.
- Take some salt and rub it into your pieces of pork belly or back.
- Wrap up your chunks of salted pork belly or back properly in cling film.
- Place them in the refrigerator for a few days.
- As the chunks of salted pork belly or back sit in the refrigerator, they lose moisture. This then makes them firmer to the touch and better for use in meals.
How To Store Salt Pork
Salt pork on its own can last from between four to five months when continuously stored in the refrigerator.
It is good that this shelf life can even be doubled if it is frozen. Always ensure that you wrap the salt pork properly (in cling film).
This is so that it is completely sealed. This way, it will not absorb or pick up any smells or flavors from the foods around it.
Note to keep the refrigerator functioning throughout the storing. Also, ensure that there is no air in the wrap before you seal it.
Uses of Salt Pork
Salt pork basically enhances anything that you add it to. To begin with, it is a source of fat.
When preparing any dish, especially vegetables, it can be used as a base for your saute.
Likewise, while cooking beans and other pulses, it can add flavor and a bit of fat. An adage has it that people used salt pork either as a means of preservation for other dishes or as a main dish.
While salt pork is a potent ingredient to have, do not worry if you have no access to it. There are some substitutes for it. These include olive oil, salted butter, beef jerky, smoked ham hock, bacon, and pancetta.
Some of the ideal substitutes for Salt Pork are; Olive Oil, Salted Butter, Beef Jerky, Smoked Ham Hock, Bacon and, Pancetta.
This article will delve into the various substitutes available, what they add to our meals, and what they have to offer our taste buds.
This is one of the healthier options to vary salt pork. In any event, you can even opt to use flavored olive oil.
The variety in flavored olive oil ranges from garlic, chili, lemon zest, and basil. The best time to use olive oil is when preparing a soup or vegetable stew.
This is because olive oil will not offer the same flavor as salt pork but can replace the fat. Note to substitute a tablespoon of olive oil with an ounce of salt pork.
One of the best substitutes to use is salted butter. We are fortunate enough to live in an age where there are many options available.
You can choose between dairy or vegan salted butter, depending on your preference.
If you are on a mission to realize the flavor and fatty goodness of salt pork, it is advisable to opt for salted butter instead of the unsalted option.
This is because it may not offer the same amount of flavor. Since we may miss out on the meatiness of the salt pork, you can choose to add some sauteed vegetables such as mushrooms.
This is the best alternative for those who do not eat pork but want to experience similar flavors.
Other than it having an extremely long shelf life, it is also often sold ready to eat. When used in place of salt pork, it adds meatiness as well as saltiness.
Smoked Ham Hock
If you are looking for something that will add denser and richer texture and flavor, smoked ham hock is the place to be.
Unlike salt pork, smoked ham hock, commonly called pork knuckles, contains bones, fat, and meat. It is best for use in dishes that need to simmer and in stews.
The only downside to using smoked ham hock is that it can take a long while to prepare.
This is one of the most readily available substitutes. Although bacon is preserved with more sugar and smoke, it also offers the closest similarity in taste to salt pork.
It is also not entirely necessary to soak the bacon before use. For bacon, the same amount can be substituted for salt pork.
You will still achieve the same flavor and sweet aroma. If you can, go for the non-smoked, unsliced bacon option.
Although it cannot boast of being the closes alternative, pancetta comes a close second. Often referred to as Italian bacon, pancetta holds less fat than salt pork.
It is also readily available at the grocery store or farmer's market. Since pancetta is sold in rolls due to the high-fat content, it can be hard to cut through.
A hack for this would be to freeze for a few minutes then slice it. Pancetta is used in equal portions as you would salt pork. It is best for recipes where you need to add both flavor and fat.
Choosing or settling on a substitute for salt pork varies majorly from individual to individual.
The decision can be based on diet, budget, and accessibility to the various options. Although the options discussed above will not deliver the same results as salt pork, they come really close.
I personally enjoy using bacon in place of salt pork. However, try any of them out, and I am sure you will not be disappointed.