Last week’s posts really brought the crackling lovers out of the woodwork! I received all sorts of great stories and literally scores of recipes. Here’s one from reader Brigitta:
Your blog post brought up old memories for me! My mother was Hungarian, and she would occasionally render her own lard. She did it on the stove top, in a wide stew pot, but otherwise she did it the same way as you describe: dicing up the leaf lard and starting it off with water in the pot. The best part of the process is what she would make with the cracklings. She made a yeast biscuit with cracklings which we would immediately scarf up. They wouldn’t last even half a day. Crackling biscuits are a VERY traditional and ubiquitous Hungarian …er…dish, I guess. Hungarians eat them with tea, or coffee, or with beer, or with wine, or with brandy, or with pretty much everything.
Funny, I was just thinking a little about cracklings. Here in central western Mexico, we have access to a good supply of cracklings, in the form of the asientos derived from cooking carnitas. There’s als lots of chicharrón about, which might lend itself to some cracklin’ cornbread; or better, hot water corn cakes with cracklin’.
Distantly related, from Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine, is a salad of coarsely grated black radish, chopped hard cooked egg, chopped onion, a little salt, and a light dressing of melted chicken schmaltz plus some grebenes. The latter are the cracklings from rendering chicken fat with the nearly ubiquitous onions to an almost burnt state. I suggest a nice slice of rye bread to go with the black radish salad.
I also learned that cracklings are called scratchings in Britain, grillons in France, and that variations of cracking bread and buns are enjoyed in places as disparate as Germany, Italy, Greece, Afghanistan and Iran (though in the Middle East their cracklings are made from lamb fat, and in Argentina, they’re made from beef).
Quite a few lard lovers also checked in, as you might imagine, talking about all the ways lard is enjoyed around the world. A story from an Australian world traveler reminded me of a beer hall I once went to in Prague, some 25 years ago now, where I was served slices of lard with slivered onions and paprika. Who needs dinner with pub grub like that?
It’s darn good to know that there are so many crackling and lard lovers out there. In fact it feels like a subculture. Maybe we need to start our own pan-national society. Could cracklings bring peace to the world? I wonder…