What better way to celebrate "Fat Tuesday" than to make our own rendered fat!
Strutto is rendered pig fat or lard. It is the process of removing water and bits of meat from the lard so that all that is left is pure fat. There is no smell or no taste.
The finished product can be used in baking or cooking anywhere that fat is used. We think of Italy as the land of olive oil - but in some places here in Le Marche there are no olive trees but plenty of pigs, leaving strutto or lardo the main source of fat for cooking, etc.
Lard is simply uncooked pig fat. Jason uses lard to rub on roasts in particular - usually salt is added & tastes/smells like pig. Strutto to on the other hand is boiled and should have no smell/taste and can be used to make pies, in baking and to fry. In fact, according to our resident Cardiologist, Dr. Gaggi he prefers and suggests to frying in strutto over olive oil because of the way the fat molecules penetrate the skin of the potato! Pork Fat Cardiologist Recommended
He's not alone...our free range hens love it too!
|the chickens go crazy for the bits of fat left behind!|
The best part of making strutto at home is the by-product of the fat (if you can call something this amazing a by-product), the ciccioli, all those bits of meat that were stuck to the lard are now crispy fried bits of deliciousness! Some call it cracklings even thought there is no skin, we call it ciccioli (pronounced: chee-cho-lee in our area) but whatever it's name, it's porky goodness! Everytime we make this - we are reminded "do not eat them while they are hot because they will give you an upset stomach." And every time we all reach in and devour handfuls while they are piping hot until our bellies ache…not sure if it’s the ciccioli or the sheer quantity we consume!
Types of Fat/Lard
The best type of pig fat for strutto is usually cut from the back.
The fat must be ground, similar to grinding pork shoulder for sausages. Each person has their own preference for the size of the grind - this will affect the time it takes for the fat to melt.
The courser the grind the larger the pieces of “ciccioli" or fried bites you will have.
How to Make Strutto & Ciccioli
In a large pot, melt down a little bit of already made strutto on the bottom of the pot to get it started so the fat does not stick and nothing burns. Add in your ground lard a bit at a time, stirring to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Once everything is in - allow the lard to completely melt and start to boil. Lower the heat and allow the fat to simmer until the little pieces of “ciccioli" can be mushed apart when pressed with a spoon upon the side of the pot. Once the ciccioli are golden & ready, strain them from the fat and toss with bay or laurel leaves and salt.
Extracting the Strutto
There are a number of different ways to press the fat out of the ciccioli - from homemade strainer to two pieces of wood as a press (as seen above). Be prepared this could get messy!!
Allow the liquid strutto to cool slightly, then funnel into whatever mode you like: long plastic sleeves, empty water bottles, etc - then you can freeze it or hang in your cellar and use as needed. In the rustic Italian countryside this is considered a beautiful gift - an old plastic water bottled filled with rendered pork fat, just cut the bottle away as you use it!
|Jason & Dr. Gaggi at our farmhouse making homemade strutto|