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Uncured Slab Bacon for Lardons


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apologies in advance for what is probably a dumb question, but why not just buy pork belly at a Chinese grocer like Super H (if there's one nearby)? I mean, if it's uncured you want? Or is there some seasoning or processing short of a "cure" on so-called "uncured slab bacon" that makes it superior to plain ol' pork belly for lardons? (I am not a gourmet cook or even a particularly competent one! ergo the question)

oh--Edit to Add: it's probably the organic or sustainable or pastured or local aspect? I can see all of those as a critical value-add...

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apologies in advance for what is probably a dumb question, but why not just buy pork belly at a Chinese grocer like Super H (if there's one nearby)? I mean, if it's uncured you want? Or is there some seasoning or processing short of a "cure" on so-called "uncured slab bacon" that makes it superior to plain ol' pork belly for lardons? (I am not a gourmet cook or even a particularly competent one! ergo the question)

oh--Edit to Add: it's probably the organic or sustainable or pastured or local aspect? I can see all of those as a critical value-add...

Not a dumb question at all. I've thought about pork belly, too, but I think it tends to be too fatty for my purposes. I don't know what part of the pig proper lardons come from, but the kind I want to make are relatively meaty--the kind you would use in a bourgignon stew, a salad, or a coq au vin. I guess it would be similar to "streaky bacon," just in one piece and not smoked.

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Typically with lardon you are trying to get a certain amount of fat.  I really like the smokiness of bacon for most lardon applications, but if you are looking to keep the flavor cleaner you are going to want something like a panchetta (which is from a belly as well).   If you are going to make it yourself those are the recipes you should target.

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I'm confused.  Bacon in the States is almost always made from pork belly.  Are you looking for a European-type product?  (Yes, I'm a vegetarian, but my Grandparents had a farm and butchered their own animals.)

Edited to add, maybe you want fatback?

No, fatback is pure fat (also very hard to find fresh and not cured with salt), though technically you can make lardons from it as well. It's true in Europe what I'm looking for is very easy to find. You can get lardons (meaty ones) in practically any good supermarket, already cut and packaged. I might have to go with chaofun's suggestion and live with the smoke (as I've done before), though it's not really classical for a coq au vin.

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I think our Dear Leader is playing a trick on us...

Oops!  :unsure: 

I. Could. Not. Stop. Myself.

Regarding fatback: cut it paper thin, call it "lardo," and charge sashimi prices for it. Think of it: Banco's Lardo Hut.

England was once playing Denmark in the World Cup (this is not a joke, btw), and some English fans were chanting "Shove your bacon up your arse!"

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No, fatback is pure fat (also very hard to find fresh and not cured with salt), though technically you can make lardons from it as well. It's true in Europe what I'm looking for is very easy to find. You can get lardons (meaty ones) in practically any good supermarket, already cut and packaged. I might have to go with chaofun's suggestion and live with the smoke (as I've done before), though it's not really classical for a coq au vin.

Well I will admit my earlier suggestions were based on the thought that you were just looking for belly. Having said that, I have found Truck Patch's belly to be quite meaty in the past. And as a bonus, they sell it in smaller chunks (versus Forest Fed for instance who sells you an entire belly). FWIW.

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Well I will admit my earlier suggestions were based on the thought that you were just looking for belly. Having said that, I have found Truck Patch's belly to be quite meaty in the past. And as a bonus, they sell it in smaller chunks (versus Forest Fed for instance who sells you an entire belly). FWIW.

Thanks! I will check this out on Saturday. I've never been to that market.

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I've just read through this thread and I'm very confused. What are people using the term "uncured" to mean? Fresh? Unsmoked? Whole Foods sells a bunch of obviously cured meats that are labeled "uncured", by which they seem to mean untreated with sodium nitrite, but very much salted and often smoked. To me, "uncured bacon" ought to be sort of like "fresh ham"-- a part of the pig most often encountered cured in some way, but in the present instance fresh. If that's what you want, then fresh pork belly fills the bill. They sell it at all the Asian markets, but they almost always have it also at Whole Foods, at least the Glover Park store, and it's usually pretty nice, and pretty meaty. If you really mean salt-cured but unsmoked pork belly, then pancetta would suit, and you can get it in chunks rather than sliced in a few places around here: Calvert Woodley usually has some. A pork-seller at the Dupont Circle farmers' market (I can never remember the names of most of the vendors there, but this one sets up at about the middle of the block on 20th Street below Q) sells an excellent product that they call "lomo", which is a salt-and-herb-cured unsmoked pork loin that's about half fat and half lean. Unfortunately, they charge $8 for a chunk that's about two ounces, but it's really fine stuff.

But If you're looking to go French, you can do no better than to harken to St. Julia, who writes in Mastering, Volume 1, p. 15: "The kind of bacon used in French recipes is fresh, unsalted, and unsmoked, lard de poitrine frais", i.e., fresh pork belly. She goes on to say that "this is difficult to find in America," but that was another time and it's no longer difficult.

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Trader Joe's sells cubed pancetta that could work as lardons.

Mark, thanks. Pancetta is too fatty and is cured with spices. If I can find pork belly that's lean enough, that certainly seems the way to go. But the lardons I've had in Europe have always seemed to me to come from a different cut. Any butchers here who can clear up the confusion I seem to have caused?

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Alright, here's what I mean. If this is pork belly, so be it, but I've never seen it that lean in the US:

342_____lardons_BD.JPG

ETA: I'm thinking this comes from the leg rather than from the belly (Schinkenspeck in German). Usually it's turned into ham or prosciutto, but fresh, or lightly cured with salt, this might be it.

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Alright, here's what I mean. If this is pork belly, so be it, but I've never seen it that lean in the US:

342_____lardons_BD.JPG

ETA: I'm thinking this comes from the leg rather than from the belly (Schinkenspeck in German). Usually it's turned into ham or prosciutto, but fresh, or lightly cured with salt, this might be it.

With that picture I think you are right, I don't think that is belly.  If it is a belly its not a belly I would really want to work with.  A good unsmoked ham cut into strips would work to match this as would some sort of back bacon like irish/canadian bacon.

Are you trying to make this cured product or more trying to locate it?

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With that picture I think you are right, I don't think that is belly.  If it is a belly its not a belly I would really want to work with.  A good unsmoked ham cut into strips would work to match this as would some sort of back bacon like irish/canadian bacon.

Are you trying to make this cured product or more trying to locate it?

Chaofun: Thanks for your post. I'm just trying to get a cut a of pork that can produce lardons somewhat like the picture (i.e., more lean than fat) not make it myself. It probably is the leg and in Europe is usually sold as such, though I'd really like to hear from a butcher about this. What's become clear, if anything, in this thread, is that "lardon" means many things to many people depending on their experience and how they have used them in their cooking. My experience with lardons in Italy, France and Germany is that they can withstand a long braise and still retain their character--in a well-made coq au vin you can still pick out a piece and say, "here is a lardon." They retain the geometry of the bladework used to produce them and are nice to eat. They play a similar role in salads and tarte flambées. In a braised application like a coq au vin a too-fatty lardon will simply render and you'll end up with bacon bits and a lot of fat you'll have to skim from your sauce later. Of course, some may prefer that, as well as the taste of smoke, but that's not how I read the classical technique, which is what I'm trying to follow.

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Chaofun: Thanks for your post. I'm just trying to get a cut a of pork that can produce lardons somewhat like the picture (i.e., more lean than fat) not make it myself. It probably is the leg and in Europe is usually sold as such, though I'd really like to hear from a butcher about this. What's become clear, if anything, in this thread, is that "lardon" means many things to many people depending on their experience and how they have used them in their cooking. My experience with lardons in Italy, France and Germany is that they can withstand a long braise and still retain their character--in a well-made coq au vin you can still pick out a piece and say, "here is a lardon." They retain the geometry of the bladework used to produce them and are nice to eat. They play a similar role in salads and tarte flambées. In a braised application like a coq au vin a too-fatty lardon will simply render and you'll end up with bacon bits and a lot of fat you'll have to skim from your sauce later. Of course, some may prefer that, as well as the taste of smoke, but that's not how I read the classical technique, which is what I'm trying to follow.

It just makes sense that leg meat is more muscular than fat; belly meat is more fat than muscular.

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It  makes sense that leg meat is more muscular than fat; belly meat is more fat than muscular.

Right, but the American butchering and curing practices in this particular area are so different from those in Europe that I find it difficult to find the right product. I am eager to be convinced otherwise.

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Pat, thanks for the link, which confirms much of what I was thinking during this banal/earth-shattering quest. In the end I managed to get a hunk of what I needed from a friend.. And who doesn't want that on occasion? At any rate, the dinner for a dozen tonight turned out great.

I followed Madeleine Kamman's recipe for coq au vin. It prescribes "pork brisket" for the lardons. And it's "soigné" so I've been dreaming of pigs and chickens all day.

We served a beautiful 2003 Chateau d'Arche just when people were making the usual noises to leave. That kept them.

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No, fatback is pure fat (also very hard to find fresh and not cured with salt), though technically you can make lardons from it as well. It's true in Europe what I'm looking for is very easy to find. You can get lardons (meaty ones) in practically any good supermarket, already cut and packaged. I might have to go with chaofun's suggestion and live with the smoke (as I've done before), though it's not really classical for a coq au vin.

You can get them in the not so good supermarkets in Switzerland as well.  This thread is interesting because I've noticed the less fatty cuts of bacon and wondered how they differ from what we get in the US.  I've had American students complain that they miss real bacon, which you can get.  I haven't played with lardons yet but the less fatty bacon brings a different level of pork goodness to potato hash and bacon, vegetable frittatas.

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You can get them in the not so good supermarkets in Switzerland as well.  This thread is interesting because I've noticed the less fatty cuts of bacon and wondered how they differ from what we get in the US.  I've had American students complain that they miss real bacon, which you can get.  I haven't played with lardons yet but the less fatty bacon brings a different level of pork goodness to potato hash and bacon, vegetable frittatas.

I'm becoming more and more interested as this goes on as well. I actually prefer my bacon meatier and tend to buy from 2 vendors at local markets who consistently offer a meatier bacon and just stock up when I do and freeze extras. If we're just talking, eating up some slices of bacon, when you cook the bacon, the bulk of the fat is rendered off anyway. So in my opinion, meatier bacon is a better value and equally delicious. I do save the rendered fat to use for cooking, but my supply is quite plentiful (and I cook with bacon fat A LOT) with just the meatier cuts. In fact, I find when I experiment with a new bacon that ends up being fattier (or in some cases has way too much sugar in the cure, what is up Red Apron?!) I throw that fat away. There are only so many jars of fat I'm willing to store in my fridge at once (although the fat rendered from the Benton's bacon I get at Union Market always gets saved in its own special container :) ).

Am I alone in this?

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