Cannon and Cannon’s British take on a highly prized Italian ingredient
‘Lardo’ is an apt name for what is, essentially, pig fat cured with herbs. What it fails to convey, however, is what a truly delicious and highly prized ingredient this is. But if its less than poetic moniker doesn’t convince you of its charms, its unique taste and texture certainly will.
“It’s absolutely stunning stuff,” enthuses Sean of Cannon and Cannon, where this prized ingredient can be found. “It’s made using the fat from the loin of the pig, which runs along the animal’s back—think the white fat of back bacon; that’s what it is.”
Produced by the Harding family on Norton Barton farm near Bude, Cornwall, it’s made from high quality, heritage breed British lop pigs. “They’re slow-grown, pasture-fed pigs—the only kind we advocate using,” he continues. “They live to three or four times the age of a commercial pig, so the fat develops slowly and naturally, which means it’s dense and has the creaminess that lardo requires. If you made it from factory pigs, it would just crumble and fall apart.”
The fat is then cured with rock salt, black pepper and herbs, before being left to dry for three to four months. “It’s a serious business! It needs to lose around half its weight,” he explains. “This is a truly specialised ingredient.” It’s certainly not one you’d use to cook with, like ordinary lard.
The most famous lardo of all, lardo di Colonnata, has been made in Tuscany since Roman times, traditionally cured in porous marble basins and left open to the elements of the Apuan Alps—head to Italy, and you’ll find it served rolled or sliced up thinly like prosciutto, served simply on good bread as a small plate or cold starter. Sean recommends doing the same with this British version, or else serving it atop hot new potatoes.
“It’s like when you eat a really good piece of belly pork, and you crunch through the crackling and hit that silky, salty fat—it just melts in your mouth,” Sean concludes. “The texture is beautiful. If my body could take it, I’d eat it with three meals a day.”
Chunky bacon jam
Over at Borough Plates, head chef Justin’s been somewhat more inventive: “Here we use it as part of a play on the English breakfast,” he explains. “The dish comprises blood pudding, also from Cannon and Cannon, pickled mushrooms, our own chunky bacon jam and a poached egg.” The lardo is sliced painstakingly thinly on site, and placed over the hot egg “like a veil”, melting and enveloping it with flavour.
“I’ve known Sean for several years and am always impressed with the quality of his products,” Justin continues. “But the lardo at Cannon and Cannon is some of the best I’ve ever tried.”