Manotick Village Butcher providing local ethically raised meat to the Ottawa area

Pork

Pork Fat

With it's high proportion of fat to meat, the pig is truly the king when it comes to animal fat. The pig also has more than one type of fat. There's back fat, belly fat, caul fat and leaf lard. Then there are the many porcine products like bacon, ham and lardo. The pig is valued as much for his fat as for his meat, and pork fat is at the heart of the traditional cuisines in Europe, America and China, and many recipes begin with some sort of pork fat.

Pork fat in all its forms is not only very useful, but it is also good for us. Like all fats, it is a mixture of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fatty acids. While the exact percentages vary with the pig's diet and the breed of pig, pork fat is mostly monounsaturated in the form of oleic fatty acid, plus it contains palmitoleic fatty acid, which has antimicrobial properties. Its saturated fatty acids are stearic acid, which converts oleic acid in the body, and palmitic acid, believed to have a neutral effect on cholesterol.

The quest for lean meat is so ingrained in us, that butchers often meet resistance when customers see rosy meat covered with a thick layer of fat. We need to understand that this coat of fat tells us that the animal was raised slowly and that the meat underneath it will be much more flavourful.

Back fat or Fatback

As the name implies, this comes from the back of the animal, but it is also found on the shoulder and rump. The layer of fat lying just below the skin, back fat is sold in pieces, usually with the skin still attached. Chilled, this fat can be thinly sliced, making it ideal for wrapping around lean cuts of meat, poultry and game to protect them from drying out when they are roasted. Slices of back fat are also used to line terrine dishes, and finely ground back fat is added to sausages, pates and ground meats to keep them moist. Rendered back fat is good for sauteing and frying.

Belly

Pork belly consists of both firm and soft fat layered with meat. The primary use for this cut is in making side (slab) or streaky bacon. Its combination of fat and meat makes it an ideal roast, as its thick layers of fat prevent the meat from drying out. You can cure it with a salt rub to make Salt Pork.

Leaf lard

Also called flead ar flare fat, leaf lard is the fat from around the pig's kidneys. Ideal for making pastry because of its brittle crystalline structure, this is the creme de la creme or pork fat.

Caul fat

Caul fat is the membrane of fat that encloses the pig's intestines. It resembles a spidery web, sometimes studded with large pieces of fat or delicately flecked with fat. It looks more like a piece of lace than something edible, and is often called lace fat. Caul fat is ideal for lining terrine dishes and is perfect for enclosing sausage mixtures. Caul fat sticks to itself, eliminating any need for string or toothpicks to keep it in place. This makes it ideal for wrapping lean cuts of meat, poultry and game before roasting them. Usually sold fresh, caul fat needs a soak in warm water before using it to make the membrane flexible.

Source: "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes" by Jennifer McLagan