Salo: A Staple of the Winter Diet
I don’t believe there are many people who look forward to winter. Along with snow and holidays, it also brings wet weather and colds. But even this dark season can be survived with comport and pleasure. And your defenses against colds and flus can include your favorite warming and immunity-boosting foods.
Winter is not the time to cut back on fats and carbohydrates, because they supply your body with the calories and energy so needed in cold weather. The fats in your diet should be both of vegetable and animal origin. And a real treat on frosty winter days is salo (pork lard). It contains various antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, E, F, D and microelements (including selenium) and fatty acids.
A special health benefit comes from the arachidonic acid contained in the lard, which is one of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 6). It stimulates the brain, heart, kidney function, and improves your blood by removing excess cholesterol. This acid also helps the body activate the “immunity response” when attacked by viruses and bacteria. Seasoning your lard with garlic will boost its healing properties.
Lard is also a source of such indispensable fatty acids as linoleic, linolenic, stearic, palmic, and oleic acids. The lecithin contained in lard strengthens vessels and cellular membranes making them more elastic.
You shouldn’t forget, however, that lard is a calorie-rich and fatty product (790 calories and 89 grams of fats per 100 grams), so consuming it in large amounts can be harmful. Nutritionists recommend limiting the intake of lard to 50 grams per day.
Another important thing is to choose a high-quality product. What should you take into account when buying lard?
- It should be white where you slice it. If it is grey or yellow, it means the lard is old. Pink can mean that at the time of butchering the blood wasn’t drained and it could have penetrated the lard along with parasites.
- You can tell the quality of the lard with the help of a match. If it enters the lard easily, the product is good. If the match finds obstacles on its way in, it means that the lard has many fibers in it.
- The thickness of the skin will help you know whether it will be soft or stiff. The thinner the skin, the softer the lard.
- If the skin has a brand sign on it, it means that the product has been vetted for quality and has not been contaminated by parasites.
The best solution is when you know that the pig was fed natural feed without any hormonal or other additives. This type of product will be most healthy. Korchma Taras Bulba offers its guests just this sort of salo – fresh, natural, grown at our own Kazachye Farm located in an ecologically clean area. The farm has not only cowsheds, pigsties, poultry houses, but also land where we grow our own wheat, barley, and forage crops.
Traditional Ukrainian cuisine can hardly be imagined without salo. It can be served as a stand-alone snack or as part of various dishes. It is often used for frying. Food fried on lard is usually tasty and nourishing. Its benefits were long under question, but recent results of a 20-year-long study by British scientists revealed that lard is better suited for cooking hot meals than the praised olive oil!
Vegetable oils are still considered to be very healthy salad dressings. Yet, it turns out, it’s harmful to cook something with olive, corn, or sunflower oil. In the process of cooking, these oils release aldehydes – special substances that provoke cancer, heart diseases, and brain disorders. The authors of the above research say that fish fried in vegetable oil contain 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the amount allowed by safety standards.
The benefits and harmful effects of vegetable oils, oddly enough, are closely interrelated. Their main value is that they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Their problem is that when heated they release more toxic compounds than the monounsaturated fats contained in the lard and butter. Thus the researchers think it is better to use dense animal fats for cooking hot meals.
When faced with a choice of what salo is best as a stand-alone snack, you should go for a salted or marinated one because smoked, fried, or boiled lard loses many of its beneficial substances in when cooked. Moreover, if the lard is of high quality, it needs no sophisticated processing. With limited efforts and simple spices, you can prepare a delicious treat.
You will need the following ingredients:
- Coarse salt
- Ground pepper (black and red)
- Dried herbs – whichever you prefer
- Bay leaf
- Garlic bulb
Now follow these steps:
Make sure you scrub off all the dirt from the lard and the skin. No need to rinse it. Peel the garlic and crush it. Break the bay leaf. Mix all your spices with salt and garlic. Take a container (plastic, wooden, or glass) and spread a thin layer of salt and spices at the bottom of it. Then use the same mixture to rub the lard on all sides. Don’t worry about overdoing it. The lard will absorb as much salt as needed. Then place your piece of lard at the bottom of the container, skin down. Sprinkle each layer with spices. Then cover the container with a lid and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. Then place it in the fridge for another 3-5 days. Now you can taste your salo: if it was evenly salted, if its meat layers turned reddish-brown, then your salo is ready. Store the salo in a freezer. But I doubt it will remain there for long!