I love to write about Lardo. Mostly because it’s something my fellow American’s can’t seem to stomach. And I, being a contrarian, can’t seem to stomach the American propensity for wretching over the concept of a thin sliver of the spiced and cured backfat of a pig laid gently over a slice of grilled bread—who then moments later bellyache over the fact that Italians don’t serve butter with the bread that comes to the table.
In any case, I’ve made it my duty to study this delectable victual. So when super-guide Serena Giovannoni invited us to tour the lardo works of Al Lardo, Al Lardo in Colonnata, I jumped at the chance (well, as high as an old fat man can jump that is).
After we had awakened the owner from his mid-day slumber he walked us to his laboratory, wrenched open the door and walked over to this huge conca, or marble vat. He opened the lid. “This, he explained, is lardo that’s been aged over six months and is just about ready to package.” I remembered that he eyed us suspiciously, looking for signs of a reaction. I asked him about the liquid on top. It was a brine solution, liquid that had been drawn out of the backfat by the copious amounts of salt that had been used to cure it—and the spices, including fresh rosemary and garlic, were floating in it as you can see in the picture.
Then he continued on with his tour, always eyeing me suspiciously as if I was about to make off with one of his vats full of fat. We saw some lardo that had just been started on the curing cycle. We saw an old conca that was maybe 200 years old and was caked in the salt that the process and the humidity had drawn from the inside to the outside of the marble. It was impressive.
Then the tour was over.
We left through the little shop. Serena bought a package of guancale for pasta all’Amatriciana and I bought some lardo in a tub. While we’re waiting for him to ring us up the guy casually asks me where I’m from.
He’s surprised I’m from the United States. Really surprised.
“You’re one of the few Americans who didn’t run when I opened that first vat,” he said.
Yes, he estimates more than 90% of Americans scapare when they see the curing brine. No other nationality can even come close to that figure. I mean really folks, it’s salt water. It’s like the Med only garlicky and a bit murkier. And you swim in that.
I don’t understand the squeamishness of Americans. Pink slime in our burgers? No problem. Brine? Lemme outta here!
What’s up with that?
(See: Lardo Tales, Part II)