Pork Fat, Sadlo, Shortening, Lard
All I really wanted were a couple dozen eggs. The butcher down the street has free-range chickens and eggs so I always try to buy them there; but, as I stood there looking at the meat I couldn’t help but feel kind of repulsed by the sight of it. Now don’t get me wrong, I like meat, I respect meat and I eat meat, just not a lot of it; in other words I “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”; but lately, after having gotten whatever meat we eat off the farm by killing it and portioning it myself, seeing it sitting in the butcher’s made it seem kind of plastic and not all that fresh and yummy.
But wait, this has nothing to do with the eggs I went in for in the first place, or the fat that this is supposed to be about.
Living here in Prague is in fact a rustic experience, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not. You say, “Hello” on the sidewalks and you acknowledge the presence of others as if you were neighbors. Even here. Most of the time. Still.
One of the more important things that we divvy up amongst the families when we kill a pig is the fat, which is then taken home to be rendered. First of all, nothing is wasted, and I mean nothing. And secondly, pork fat is still used a lot here in cooking, baking and snacking. Yes, I said snacking. I’ve read that the Germans have a similar culinary delight called Griebenschmalz, but what my wife used to do before I introduced her to vegetables was simply to slice a piece of bread and slather it up with cold, homemade lard. She didn’t even bother with the little crunchy bits!
So staring me in the face at the butcher’s was a lot of unpleasant pieces of meat, but for some reason the cold, white stare of the pork fat sitting there seemed irresistible. So, here I am now in the kitchen finishing up with my rendering of pan upon pan of fat not only for the quart of fat it will produce but also for the small pieces of “škvarky” or as the Brits call it, “cracklings”. I’ve no idea what this is in American English to be honest, something akin to “pork rinds” I imagine. Hey, I grew up at a time when lard was on the out and no one used it except my grandmother in her awesome Angel Food Cakes. I’ve come to find more recently that it’s a great substitute in my Bran Muffins etc. whenever there is a call for shortening. It’s basically the same thing, no?
So what was it about those slices of white pig fat that was so enticing? I’ve no idea. Maybe the purity of it and the knowledge that within about 30-40 minutes of slicing and slowing frying, I could have something pretty simple and natural to cook with (or let others snack on) and I cannot fry eggs in anything other than pig fat, no way. And as for the “simple and natural” side of the argument, it seems that more and more, some of the old ways might have been the better ways, at least in terms of health.
Gotta go, I’m making Avocado Soup with home-made chicken broth, and my wife is home so I think I’ll surprise her with some škvarky!