Salo is a white pork fat known as a national Ukrainian dish. Salo has little or no meat; it is not rendered as lard and is not necessarily cured as bacon.
In Ukraine and many other countries salo food and its variations is considered as a main dish of national cuisine.
In the old days due to its high nutrition value salo was an important element of people’s ration (100 g of pig fat amounts to 800 calories).
Also salted or smoked salo can be preserved for a long time without refrigerating.
Today due to healthy nutrition spreading salo becomes a chaser or a starter on a national festive table rather than a main course.
Ukrainian salo history
In Ukrainian cuisine salo plays very important role. It is as popular as other traditional Ukrainian dishes – borscht, varenyky, golubtsi, galushky. Ukrainian salo is a unique chaser because it is served in slices with bread, garlic, pickles, while in other cuisines salo is consumed after rendering in a form of lard.
Salo wasn’t invented in Ukraine. First it was made in the territory of Italy about 3000 years ago. It was used as cheap high-calorie meal for slaves.
Salo has been eaten in Ukraine since the XVI century. Ukraine is a country with developed agriculture, and pigs are easy animals to keep. The farmers sold the meat, but the salo they kept for themselves, because it was easier to store and it had more calories.
As a dish salo became popular because Ukrainian people were poor and could afford meat only on holidays, while salted salo was affordable the whole year. Peasants took bread with salo as the lunch during field work.
Nowadays salo is still popular among the Ukrainians, but the village population eats more salo than the townsfolk. The majority of the country-dwellers keep pigs. Eating salo in Ukrainian folklore is an indicator for somebody doing hard physical work. They say: “If you don’t eat salo, you’re not working hard enough”. Today it is only partly true.
Salo in other countries
Salo is really popular not only in Ukraine, but also in neighboring countries Belarus and Russia. But still it is stereotypical attribute of Ukrainians, analogous to spaghetti for the Italians and burgers for Americans. It’s hard to find a post-Soviet person who isn’t able to recite at least two or three jokes about Ukrainians and their love for salo.
There is a difference between Russian and Ukrainian salo – Russian version contains bits of meat, while traditional Ukrainian salo consist of a white layer of fat only.
Belarusians and Russians agree that the best salo is made in Ukraine, especially in its western part. After the Soviet Union break-up in 90’s Ukrainians smuggled salo into Russia and sold it at the railway stations in Moscow.
Salo in Ukrainian culture
Salo is often called the Ukrainian treasure, but Ukrainians are not as obsessed with salo as one may think. But still salo plays an important role in Ukrainian culture. In Ukrainian folklore there is a lot of jokes, songs, poems about salo.
For example, one of the jokes:
«Kum (friend), do you know what Russians call our salo? – What? – Cellulite”.
Ukrainian songs about salo are also joky.
In Ukraine there is an annual championship “With Love to Salo” held in Lutsk (Volyn oblast, Western Ukraine). Salo lovers compete in eating salo and in cooking salo dishes (for example, large salo sandwiches called “salburgers”).
Ukrainian salo recipe
There are three methods for cooking salo:
- Dry – using salt and spices. The easiest and the quickest method. Salo will be ready to serve within 2 weeks, but storing of salo shouldn’t be long – only 4-5 weeks.
- Wet – using pickle-water. More time-taking method, but salo made like this can be stored for a month.
- Hot – salo is boiling up, then it is seasoned with spices and cooled in a fridge. It can be stored for 6 months.
- salo (pork fat) – 1 kg;
- garlic – 10 cloves;
- bay leaf – 5 pieces;
- salt – 4 tbsp.;
- garlic – 10 cloves;
- whole black pepper – 3 tsp.;
- red ground pepper – 2 tbsp.;
- black ground pepper – 1 tsp.;
- black seeds – 1 tsp.
How to make salo
Rinse the pork fat under the water, dry it with paper napkins. Place it on a cutting board skin downwards and make 2-3 mm cuts using a knife.
Mince garlic, bay leaf, mix, season pork fat and press into the cuts.
Mix salt, peppers, black seeds, season pork fat.
Place salo on foil, roll and put into the fridge for two weeks.
If you want to use the 3rd method, you can take the same spices, but first boil pork fat in boiling water for 15 minutes. Then take salo out of water, cool down, dry with napkins and season with spices and salt.
To cook Ukrainian dish salo using wet method prepare the pickle-water first. Take 1-1,5 l of water and boil it up. Add about 200 g of salt, wait until the salt dissolves. Then add sugar – 1-2 tbsp. and spices – bay leaf, black and red pepper, garlic.
Cool the pickle-water down. Meanwhile slice pork fat at even pieces and put slices into the large bowl skin downwards. When the pickle-water is cooled down, pour it over pork fat and put a plate over (or any other press). Put the bowl into the fridge.
How to serve salo
Ukrainians eat salo with borscht, fried potatoes, with black bread. Salo is a great chaser. Ukrainian men bite horilka (strong alcoholic beverage, vodka analog) after with salo – it helps them to carry their liquor.
Salo can be used as an ingredient for many dishes.
For example, minced salo mixed with garlic and spices in a blender is often used as a spread for sandwiches. Mixture of minced salo and minced fried liver can be used as a stuffing for varenyky.
Salo is often fried. Small pieces of fried salo are called “shkvarki”. Ukrainians add these cracklings to borsht or fried potatoes.
Fun facts about salo
Odessa confectionary factory invented a new dessert – “Salo (pork fat) in chocolate” (“Salo v shokolade”). It is called “Ukrainian Snickers” or “Ukrainian Bounty”. Salo is cut into small pieces, hot chocolate is poured over it. The dish is placed into the fridge for half an hour and is served chilled.
If you want to taste the dish, visit “Lviv Modern Art Museum “Salo” in Western Ukraine. It is a museum-restaurant where you can try more than 30 sorts of salo.