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Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 02-24-2016, 03:30 PM by ShadowsDad.)
Rediscovered! How strange that folks who lived 100 years ago should know something! (Written as a joke, but I do sometimes think the new batch of youngsters think that.)

A neighbor raised 3 pigs and approx' a month ago had them slaughtered. When raising a heritage breed there is a substance that is missing in a modern agribusiness breed; backfat. It's (near as I can figure) as high as one can get on the pig and up near the shoulders. For years I heard mutterings about how supermarket lard was just junk and not "real lard". I suspect these folks were comparing it to backfat lard. They're absolutely correct, supermarket lard has nothing in common with backfat other than it comes from the same animal.

OK, so I know what you're thinking, "Hey ShadowsDad, it's fat, it's no good for you and in fact will kill you.". Maybe in large quantities you'd be correct. But that myth started from people who probably shouldn't be trusted with ANY information as they simply can't be trusted with it. Pork fat is actually good for the human body. It's other fats that are damaging, beef fat is one. Of course as with anything, it should be consumed  in moderation.

Before beginning my foray into backfat I had to learn about it, enter google. I found that it's been used in pretty much any culture that utilizes pigs for food. The Italians slice it exceedingly thin and warming it to liquify the fat still retained in the tissue that thin slice of fat is eaten on bread. If you look into it you'll find more uses for it. But it's considered extremely good. OK, I'll use the word, though I never found it used to reflect the backfat through any google hit. It's a gourmet item.

So I took the 18# (approx' - I didn't weight it "wet" and before curing) of backfat that I'd been given and cured it in food processing salt. Our local farm supply has it for this very use. Every autumn/winter they go through a lot of it with folks slaughtering their animals that were raised for food. The 50# sack of salt cost under $10. That was my expense for the product. Using an 8 gallon food grade bucket I put a layer of salt in the bottom and layering each slab of backfat with a layer of salt I fit all 18# and the 50# of salt in the bucket. I up the lid on it loosely to that no mice could get into it and weighted it down. Then it went into my unheated shop to cure. I call it unheated, but that's really not true. I heat it to between approx' 34°F and 40°F, so it's basically a large refrigerator and ideal for curing backfat. It takes two weeks to cure, but I couldn't get to it until 3-4 weeks after it had been in the salt. That hurts nothing.

The other day I removed it from the salt cure. Frankly I was wondering what, if anything, the salt would do. After all, salt and fat don't mix, so how could any curing occur? It was clear from the outset that the salt had sucked water out of the fat tissue. The salt was tightly packed around the fat slabs and was quite moist to the touch. The salt was brushed off and the final product weighed. I wound up with 17lbs 8 ozs of fatback.
[Image: Fatback_zpsjieepuyu.jpg]
Here is the cured fatback product in bags before heading to the freezer. The meat seen is only incidental. It's not like bacon at all, but clear fat.

Knowing that some cultures eat this on bread I had to bring out a pan and warmed up a piece. Eating it just like that wasn't the easiest thing that I've ever done. But it was absolutely delicious! I don't want a plate of it but it showed me what the product was. The "meat" flavor was just incredible and that's exactly what my google search told me to expect. But while I felt I could find uses for it I still didn't know how to use it.

This morning I took 3 thin slices of it (too much by a factor of 3) and rendered it out to get the lard. Removing the pieces I made an omelet in the pan. It had salt cured chive/onion in the egg mixture (I learned that from the French, the call it, in English, salted herbs. ), and as a filling contained shredded swiss and finely diced spam. The eggs were from our hens. I've had other omelets before with similar ingredients. This omelet was by far the best I've had in years. The only difference was the lard from the fatback. And my neighbor was going to use it as coyote bait before I told him to hand it over for curing.

What a shame the product is no longer available commercially. We intend to go to the Amish Charcuterie store in Unity Maine soon, maybe a 30 mile drive. I intend to ask the gent if he has access to backfat from their locally raised hogs. I won't need any for quite some time, but I want to know of a source to replace what I have when the time comes. Next door, at the Community Market, also Amish run, they make donuts. I hope they're fried in lard. I already know that  donuts fried in lard are the very best. I haven't had one in years but they're memorable. (The last one I had was in Bingham Maine 30 years ago.)

Anyway, with backfat so scarce these days I just had to post of my rediscovery of the product as fatback. Whoda thunk that the oldtimers actually knew anything? BTW, I mentioned this on The Primo Forum and one gent mentioned how he'd eat it on cornbread as a child. That's got to be delicious!

I need to split the fatback with the gent who raised the pigs, and I'm thinking of cold smoking a few slabs of it. But it tastes so good that I question the wisdom of that.

It cost me less than $10 for the salt, and it's something that can't be bought unless one goes to a specialty shop that has farm raised heritage hogs. So for me this is priceless and worth far more than the $10 and the little time that it took to make. Would I make it again? You bet!

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Brian. Lover of SE razors.

Austin, TX
(02-24-2016, 03:19 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: BTW, I mentioned this on The Primo Forum and one gent mentioned how he'd eat it on cornbread as a child. That's got to be delicious!
That is great Brian- there's a place here in Austin called Dai Due, last time we went there they served backfat in lieu of butter with house baked bread. So incredibly good!
Very interesting post! I learned a lot Big Grin.

Super Moderator
Brian, you are the source of amazing recipes and food information. You pointed out that fat has got a bad rap lately. You probably know that if you went to a 100% fat free diet (if thats even possible) you would die. If you read about survival you might come across the term "rabbit starvation" where people lost in the woods have subsisted on wild rabbits for an extended period of time. Rabbit is so lean that you don't get your vital fat content and will eventually die.

Central Maine
Thanks for the compliment Marko.

Murderous "cabin fever" is thought to derive from the brains starvation for fat. We still use the term cabin fever today, but most folks haven't a clue what it actually means.

Fat requirements go beyond the brain though. Blood vessels require animal fat to repair cells. The "alternative" fats, margarine and hydrogenated oils, when used in arteries and such make for soft arterial walls. They are a disaster for the human body. But the folks who should be looking out for us get big donations from the people making huge bucks by turning cottonseed oil into something resembling butter. They are making huge $ by killing people through false information and the folks who should be on the battlements blowing the trumpet are having their palms greased to keep them quiet.

I haven't used any of that crap since I was 17 and I won't have it in my home. Correction... my FIL used margarine so my wife bought it for his use. After he left it would quietly go into the trash.
Brian. Lover of SE razors.

Southern Ohio
(This post was last modified: 02-25-2016, 02:43 PM by Cincinnatus.)
I read a lot of history including Civil War history.  Fatback was a dietary staple of people 150 years ago - the whole "Waste not, want not" mentality that you take on when you don't have a grocery store within a mile of your house.  Confederate soldiers diet was a mixed bag due to the lack of reliable supply trains and the embargo.  Below is a recipe using fatback.  I know that the Union also used fatback - they would soak the Hardtack in the hot fat to soften the crackers before eating them.  

Sloosh - Authentic Confederate Army Recipe


1lb fatback or bacon
1 cup cornmeal
1 musket ramrod
salt and pepper


In large skillet, fry fatback or bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet and lower heat until grease no longer bubbles. Add cornmeal and stir.

Remove from heat and continue stirring 5-10 minutes, until doughy. Roll cornmeal dough into long (8"-10") snake and wrap evenly around end of ramrod, being careful not to overlap.

Hold snake over open campfire and toast until crisp.

Let us know if you make this Brian!

Early War Mississippi Troops Cooking
[Image: 9th-mississippi2.png]

Freddy and kwsher like this post

Central Maine
Big Grin

I'm going to pass on it in it's entirety. But only because my ramrod is made of fiberglass.

I might try it with a smaller quantity and fry it instead of using the ramrod. But it's one of those recipes that doesn't grab me and shout, "WOW, DOESN'T THAT SOUND DELICIOUS!". It might take me quite some time to get to it. But I do like fried corn meal mush or polenta; to me it tastes like buttered popcorn. So it might actually be better than I'm envisioning.

caleb31 likes this post
Brian. Lover of SE razors.

Southern Ohio
Hard times called for desperate measures. I'm sure in 1864 after spending 3 years marching, fighting, surrounded by hardship - this was probably the greatest meal they could envision - fit for a king.

Packet Gourmet - sells backpacking meals - one I like is Creamy Italian Polenta. Great tasting but the do leave the fatback out....


caleb31 likes this post

Central Maine
I rendered out a piece of the fatback this morning and fried up a mess of hash browns. Delicious. BTW, I rendered it by removing the skin and dicing it up. It rendered incredibly rapidly. The resulting lard is water clear.

caleb31 and andrewjs18 like this post
Brian. Lover of SE razors.
Yes sir fat back is truly the Fat of The Gods imo. Smile

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