Friday, 7 March 2008

Petit Salé

Petit salé aux lentilles is one of my favorite French dishes. It probably isn't the best dish for people on low salt/low fat diets, but we all have our sins. Luckily, it is not a difficult recipe to prepare. We like to cure our own pork, partly because it is cheaper, but mainly because it is difficult to get petit salé in London.

This is how we salt our pork:
You need a fairly large piece of pork belly, with the rind left on, and lots of salt (at least 1kg/2lb). I use the cheapest salt I can find. Some people add juniper berries, sugar, bay leaves or pepper to the mix - I prefer to keep it as simple as possible.

Wipe the meat with a clean cloth - this removes excess moisture. Rub salt into the meat and pour enough salt into a large container (plastic or ceramic) to completely cover the bottom by 1cm (1/2 inch) . Lay the meat in the container, sprinkle a little more salt over the top, cover, and put in a cool place.

Check the container every day, pour off any excess juice the salt may have extracted from the meat, then add a little more salt. You will notice that the salt is starting to colour at this stage, but don't worry about that. I usually turn the meat over and sprinkle more salt as well.

Repeat this process for at least 5 days. During this time the meat will shrink slightly (it's losing moisture, after all) and darken. It will also become slightly leathery and less pliable. By the end of the 5 days I usually have the meat completely packed in salt.

Once you think the meat is sufficiently cured (in this case 8 days) remove the meat from the salt. At this stage the meat can be wrapped in a clean cloth and stored in a cold place or you can start butchering. Compare this photo to the first and you can see how much the meat has changed.

This piece was large enough that I managed to cut a pound (500g) of lardons, petit salé for 6 serves of petit salé aux lentilles, 6 thick rashers of streaky bacon and a half a pound of bacon fat for rendering.


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