Salt pork is an old, old food. It marched across continents with the Roman armies and sailed the oceans with the European explorers. Packed properly, salt pork can last for years – a major feature when you traveled the ocean back then, since you never knew where you might end up.
Salt pork was, and still is, used to flavor beans, greens, potatoes, and more, and was a lifesaver during hard times in America’s past. It’s still a staple item here in the South, though it’s become less popular as people became more salt conscious.
There are two kinds of salt pork: the pure white, full-fat version, and the meatier ‘streak o’ lean’ which I like a lot better, since I can at least pretend that it’s healthier
Streak o’ lean resembles bacon, but is unsmoked and has a purer, stronger pork flavor. It’s also WAY saltier, so it requires another small step in the cooking process, which is to simmer it briefly in the pan to remove some of the salt. After you do, it fries up crisp and brown and utterly delicious.
When making these salt pork lardons, be aware that these aren’t your grandma’s Bacos, lemme tell ya. They’re still plenty salty, but they’re so, so good that it’s okay to enjoy them in moderation, especially in combination with this very healthy salad. And if you can manage to be moderate after you taste these, you’re a better person than I am!
Here’s how to make the Vidalia Onion Summer Salad With Asparagus and Salt Pork Lardons:
4 oz ‘streak o’ lean’ –style salt pork
1 med head green leaf lettuce, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced paper thin
8 stalks of asparagus, sliced very thin on the bias
8 ‘baby bella’ or white mushrooms, sliced thin
Freshly grated black pepper
Slice the rind off of the salt pork and discard. Cut the pork into 1/8 inch slices and cut the slices into 1/4 pieces.
Put the pieces in an unheated skillet, add 1/4 cup of water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 2-3 minutes; drain. Return the pan to the heat and fry the pieces until golden brown and crisp, turning or stirring frequently.
Drain on paper towels.
To serve: divide the lettuce into four shallow bowls or large plates. Top with the mushrooms, onions, asparagus, and salt pork. Sprinkle with a few grindings of black pepper and serve with a light vinaigrette or lemon wedges. Serves 4.
Just for fun, you might want to hear this humorous salt pork inspired tune from 1930 called (aptly enough) Streak Of Lean, Streak Of Fat by A.A. Gray & Seven Foot Dilly.
Please join us tomorrow to read our new recipe for Blissful Red Anjou Potato Salad, a deeply delicious variation on the summery potato salad we all know and love.
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