Salo is one of the most popular Slavic dishes you’ll ever find. The traditional salo recipe is popular in most Slavic countries but it originates from Ukraine and it’s a very important part of the local culture. In this post, we’ll show you how to prepare the tastiest salo but also teach you some important information about this at a glance unusual dish. Let’s start!
What is Salo?
The traditional salo recipe is the Ukrainian/Slavic version of cured pork fat. It’s a slab of creamy white pork fat that consists of little to no meat and is 3-5 fingers thick. In Ukraine, salo has the status of a national dish and is one of the most popular snacks. Salo is one of those dishes that everyone makes at home and every household has a special, slightly different way of preparing it. There’s an old saying that says every man in Ukraine knows how to make salo.
In fact, Ukrainians are so crazy about salo that they have a whole museum dedicated to it.
Traditionally, salo is eaten on its own as a snack with some rye bread and vodka or is accompanied by borscht.
Origin & History
The history of how the salo recipe became a popular dish in Ukraine is rather scary. It’s assumed that salo’s creation happened when the eastern Slavic tribes were conquered by the steppe nomads from Asia. The conquerors would often take all of the local people’s cattle, horses, goats, and even sheep, leaving short-legged pigs behind because they were less mobile. This left the local Slavic tribes with only one choice; to prepare and preserve enough pork to survive the winter.
During the Soviet era, Ukraine was often struck by years of poverty and these were not good years for salo. Most pigs were raised on collective farms with most of their diet consisting of muscle-building ingredients (to save money) and this made most pork meat available too hard to use it for the salo recipe. Fortunately, those days are over and salo is living its glory days and is more popular than ever. This leads us to the next point…
Salo Culture in Ukraine
As we mentioned above, salo is usually eaten with borscht baked/fried potatoes, and rye bread. However, Ukrainians also mince salo and garlic and use it as spread in a sandwich. Some people eat it raw, others fry it, or use it as a filling for varenyky. I’ve even seen people putting sugar and making a dessert out of it. But it doesn’t end there!
Salo holds a special place in Ukrainian culture. That’s why you’ll find a lot of events devoted to this national delicacy. One such example is the annual salo festival in Lutsk where participants compete in eating salburgers, making salo, etc. Then there’s the above-mentioned salo museum in Lviv where among other things, you can try salo ice cream and salo chocolate.
Finally, the salo recipe also holds a special place in Ukrainian folklore. You can hear a lot of jokes and anecdotes related to it and there’s even a local magazine named “Salo”.
How to Choose the Right Salo?
Fresh salo should have a light pink/white color while old salo has yellowish/gray color. Regarding the smell, any salo that has a sweet scent or smells of smoke is safe to buy. If you’re buying salo in Ukraine, take matches or toothpicks with you and test it; if the toothpick can penetrate the salo easily, it means that the lard is fresh. The vendor won’t mind this if his lard is high-quality.
However, if you’re not from Ukraine or the other Slavic countries, finding good lard might be hard to find. Salo comes from the back of the pig even though thick pork belly with two or more layers of meat can also be used. These are parts that aren’t always easy to find but try your local farmer markets and butcher shops.
When it comes to seasoning your salo, the most popular ingredients are thyme (rarely rosemary), paprika, and/or, garlic. Thyme and paprika contain antioxidants that help in preserving the salo and preventing harmful bacteria to appear. Now that we have that covered, let’s get to the most important part of the traditional salo recipe…
You can serve salo with bred, dark rye bread, onions, and gorilka, in a sandwich, with borscht or other stew, sauerkraut stew, and of course, baked potatoes and mustard. It can be consumed cooked or raw (more about this below). A lot of people also eat salo in a sandwich while drinking vodka with pickles on the side.
Small pieces of salo can be fried until they become crispy cracklings (called shkvarky but also known as chvarki, or chvarci) which are used as topping for other dishes.
Salo consists of pork fat. That means it contains a lot of vitamins A, D, and E, as well as carotene. But just like with everything else, too much of anything isn’t good for you. Pork fat also means a lot of cholesterol, so even if you love this salo recipe, please consume it moderately.
Cooking or Raw?
The most simple salo recipe includes eating salo without any cooking. Just cut it into thin slices, top it with garlic or spring onions, and serve some bread on the side. However, you can also smoke it or cook it. There are five different ways to prepare a salo.
- Dry salting; when you only use salt and other spices around two weeks before serving but can’t last more than 4-5 weeks.
- Wet salting; it includes keeping salo in pickle water, it takes more time, but it also lasts a lot longer.
- Hot brine; it includes boiling the fatback, seasoning with spices, and cooling it in the fridge. It can last up to 6 months.
- Deep frying (shkvarky).
Dry salting, wet salting, and smoking are ways to preserve the salo rather than cooking it, so these won’t be covered in this post. The shkvarky recipe is slightly different and this will be covered in one of our future articles. This leaves us with the third option that’s covered by this salo recipe (read more about it below).
But you can also cook salo with a piquant flavor. Take salo and divide it into 2 layers. Rub salo with salt and black ground pepper (if you do not like too spicy food then do not use pepper, salt will be enough). Press garlic and rub salo. Then roll salo into a tube, place in a plastic bat, and leave in a fridge for twenty-four hours.
A Few Things You Might Need For Making Salo
- 2.5 Lb pork belly/pork fat
- 1 and 1/2 Cups salt (for the base)
- 6 Teaspoons salt (for salt rubs)
- 1 Teaspoon paprika
- ½ Teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Bay leaves
- 3 Garlic cloves sliced
For Hot Brine
- 2.5 Lb pork belly/pork fat
- 1.5 Liter Water
- 2 Cups of salt
- 5 Bay leaves
- 7 Garlic cloves
- 1 and ½ tablespoon coriander
- 2 Tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
1. Put the pork on a cutting board and let it adjust to the room temperature for 20 minutes.
2. Pour the salt (for curing) in a glass container.
3. Break the bay leaves into tiny pieces.
4. Mix the pieces with coriander, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of salt and grind using mortar and pestle.
5. Add the paprika and the rest of the salt (for the base) and mix everything well.
6. Slice the garlic and mix it with the thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt.
7. Grind the garlic mix.
8. Cut the pork into four blocks and add them into the glass container with the salt.
8.1 During the whole process, you’ll have to replace the salt (it will get wet) with a dry one.
9. Blacken the pigskin using a torch and use some hot water to scrape the charred part. You may have to repeat this process 2-3 times.
10. Roll every piece of pork belly in the salt and place the pigskin down when placing it into the containers.
11. Cover the containers and let the pork cure for two days in a room with a temperature of 65F or four days in a room with around 40F.
12. In a couple of days, wash the salt rub under cold water and dry the salo with paper towels.
13. Place the salo into new, dry containers covered with paper towels and let it mature for 10-14 days.
15. Take out the salo, serve it, and enjoy.
For Hot Brine
1. Pour the water in a saucepan and boil. After 5 minutes, break the bay leaves into pieces and add them into the water together with the coriander.
2. When the water heats up, add the salt and stir.
3. Cut the lard, clean the pieces, rinse them, and pour the ready pieces with hot brine.
4. Place the pieces in a container (plastic or stainless steel), not too wide, not too high.
5. Pour fresh lard with hot brine.
6. If the pieces start coming up, cover it with a saucer.
7. In this form, let the pork pieces stay for 24-48 hours at room temperature.
8. Take out the pieces from the brine and use paper towels to dry them.
9. Cut the garlic into tiny slices and stick the pieces onto the lard, placing them onto different depths.
10. Roll the lard pieces in the ground coriander. If the pieces are dried up well, the coriander should stick without issues.
11. Wrap the pieces in baking paper and store them in the fridge.
12. Once it cools down, cut the salo into pieces, serve it, and enjoy!
- When using the dry salting method, make sure your lard consists of full-fat mass.
- If that’s not the case, we suggest the hot brine method, because this can make any meat softer.
- To keep the salo at the perfect temperature, if you don’t have any other options, you can use a fruit/vegetable refrigeration unit (45F)
Serving Size:100 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 550Total Fat: 70gSaturated Fat: 7.7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1.5gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 85mgCarbohydrates: 14gNet Carbohydrates: 14gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 12g
Did you ever try salo? How did you like our salo recipe? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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