How to prepare and enhance dishes with salt-cured pork meat
Dear salt-cured pork, how did it take me so long to fall in love with your bold flavors?
Yes, you read right. I avoided salt-cured meat at all cost for the longest time. I was the only one to do so in my family. And everyone knows those cuts were ever present in most of our dishes, and definitely in my grandmother’s kitchen.
As far back as I can remember, containers filled with coarse salt and meat were always lining up on my grandmother’s kitchen shelves. They even sometimes found their way into her fridge.
The meat of predilection was pork. Fresh pork cuts that mostly included feet, knees, tails or ears spent days and sometimes weeks macerating in coarse salt in those containers.
That process was enough for those cuts to acquire bold flavors. And their presence built up excitement. They announced future meals that would tantalize our taste buds.
Salt-cured pork is the secret to many successful Haitian staples. Prepped this way, these cuts enhance our soups and stews with their bold almost smoky flavors.
The fattier cuts are chopped into small pieces and used as lardon that flavor our diri kole and sòs pwa. In that particular bean sauce, some often refer to these lardons as nanm pwa, bean sauce’s soul. A bowl of fresh bean sauce simply has no soul without these fatty meat chunks.
Everyone at the family table rejoices and fights over those salt-cured pork cuts. I was perhaps the only one who, for years, could eat a bowl of tchaka without ever biting into a meat chunk.
Today, I wonder what was wrong with me.
Now that I have acquired a taste for those meats, I seriously question my sanity all those years. There is nothing comparable to savoring a salt-cured pork feet in my beloved tchaka. Our pye kochon dish in itself is a true delight.
Try those cuts for yourself. I leave you here with the quick steps to making your own salt-cured pork. Add them to your soups and stews. I am confident you will wonder how you survived without salt-cured pork all those years. You will discover a wonderful world of flavors, just like I did in recent years.
This article was first published on April 9, 2015. The 2019 updates includes more pictures and improved preparation instructions.
Salt-cure pork meat
Salt-cured meat add bold smoky flavors to soups and stews. They don't require a lot of seasoning to enhance dishes. You should definitely give them a try.
- Fresh fatty pork cuts skin on think feet, ears, tail, knees
- Coarse Salt
- Thyme optional
Place your meat in a tight container
Cover it generously with coarse salt. Add some thyme for extra flavor
Cover and let macerate for about two weeks
Use the salt-cured meat to enhance your food preparations.
The longer the meat macerates in the salt, the bolder the flavors will be. When cooking, simply season it with some sour orange juice, piment bouc, black pepper and garlic, and you'll be on your way to a delightful meal. If you're watching your sodium intake, make sure to soak the salt-cured meat in water before cooking so as to drain the excess salt.