Cured salt pork is a common ingredient found in Northeastern dishes of the United States, it’s beginnings may have come from Europe, the Slavic countries call it Salo. But it goes way back many hundres of years ago, potenially thousands. When you consider the Romans were salt curing whole legs of pork.
This savory cured meat can work well in many different cuisines.
Cured salt pork is versatile enough that it’s worth keeping around in your kitchen any time you want to amp up the flavor in your cooking.
Cured salt pork is most commonly used for rendering into fat or flavoring one-pot meals like chowder or baked beans. Salt pork can also be used to add salt and fat to roasted or braised vegetables. Cured salt pork is a great way to add umami to any dish.
Cured salt pork has many functions in cooking, but you have to know how to source good cured salt pork and how to cook it properly. Keep reading to learn more about the dishes you can incorporate cured salt pork into and how to prepare it.
How Is Salt Pork Used in Cooking?
Salt pork is a cured meat that is most commonly used as a secondary ingredient rather than the star of the show. This is because cured salt pork is very salty, almost too salty to eat on its own without preparing it first.
Instead, cured salt pork is usually used in the following ways (Source: Food52):
- Flavor enhancement: The fat and salt in cured salt pork mean that just a little bit can go a long way towards boosting the savory flavors in a dish. The fat in the salt pork helps the flavoring integrate with whatever dish you include it in.
- Added fat: For dishes that are naturally dry, like some lean proteins or vegetables, adding salt pork can add both flavor and a creamy mouthfeel that greatly improves the texture of the food.
- Bacon substitute: Any recipe which incorporates chopped or minced bacon as a secondary ingredient can have cured salt pork used in its place. These cured meats taste very similar when incorporated into starchy dishes like dumplings or potato casseroles.
- Flavoring for soups and stocks: Salt pork can be used in place of salt to give soups and stocks a meaty flavor. Salt pork can deepen the flavor of soups, stews, and chowders while still letting the potatoes and vegetables take center stage in the dish.
Salt pork makes a great addition to several types of food, especially if you just need to add a little extra pizzazz to a side dish when you already have protein in the main dish. Below you’ll learn about some of the most traditional meals that incorporate cured salt pork.
Dishes Prepared with Salt Pork
Really any stew can have that mouth feel added to give the savory side a real boost.
Cured salt pork can be used in tons of recipes where you might use bacon or other cured pork products, but there are several recipes where cured salt pork is one of the most important ingredients. Here are some iconic recipes that incorporate cured salt pork (Source: Fine Cooking):
- Baked beans: Cured salt pork can add a deeper, smokier flavor to baked bean casseroles and dishes than bacon, which is also a common ingredient in these recipes. Try adding green pepper in your baked beans alongside your salt pork to add some texture and color.
- Hoppin’ John: Hoppin’ John is a Southern-style dish made of black-eyed peas, rice, and cured salt pork. This recipe is typically served with hot sauce and is thought to bring good luck to whoever eats it. (Source: Simply Recipes)
- Salt Cod and Corn Chowder: Cured salt pork is a traditional pairing with salt cod since the rendered salt pork fat gives the fish a more authentic flavor than using other cooking oils. The salt in the salt pork can also help add some seasoning to the creamy base of the chowder, off-setting the sweetness of the corn.
- Jambalaya: Jambalaya is a one-pot stew that often uses whatever cured pork products are lying around, so it’s a good dish for using up cured salt pork. Try frying some blackened shrimp in the fat rendered from salt pork rather than butter or oil to give the shrimp a strong, savory flavor. They’ll make the perfect toppers for this Creole dish.
- Frybread: The rendered fat from cured salt pork is commonly used to fry the dough for Native American frybread, where balls of dough are dropped in hot oil. (Source: The Chickasaw Nation) Cured salt pork fat can also be used to substitute butter in other baked products like biscuits and cornbread.
- Stewed greens: Stewed bitter greens such as collard or turnip greens often incorporate a pork product such as bacon or cured salt pork as a flavor component. The fat and salt in the pork are used to help compliment the bitterness of the greens. Add a dash of vinegar for acid to get a full range of flavors.
As you can see, cured salt pork is a versatile ingredient for adding meaty umami and salt flavors to a wide variety of dishes. Whether you need it to pump up a plate of roasted vegetables or as an extra boost of flavor in a side dish of mashed potatoes, cured salt pork can make a big difference in the final quality of your meal.
Cured Salt Pork Is a Great Addition to Many Meals
If you need a secret ingredient that will have houseguests asking for the recipe, cured salt pork is a good one to fall back on. This product works well in any savory dish where salt and umami flavors are needed to help boost the natural sweetness of vegetables and the bland texture of starches.
Where Does Salt Pork Originate From?
Along with hardtack, salt pork was a standard ration for many militaries and navies throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, seeing usage in the American Civil War, War of 1812, and the Napoleonic Wars, among others.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom