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December 4, 2011

Sassaka, or "bacon butter"

The lumberjacks in northern Italy know how to keep warm. Centuries ago--even before salame was a widespread Italian tradition--the tree huggers of Udine along the Slovenian-Italian border needed a way to keep meat on their bones...and to keep their recently butchered harvest from spoiling.

In their cool cellars, they cured pork belly and back fat in garlic-marinated wine, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Both sides went into a cool smokehouse so the sweet smoke permeated the cured the slabs but didn't render the fat.

The lot was finely chopped and blended with crushed white onions to make a paste that could be packed into jars or rolled into logs. Kept cool and covered, the flavor-packed schmear would keep for months as the lumberjacks moved through the northern Italian forests.
To warm up from the inside out, those ancient foresters only had to toast a slab or two from their hearty loaf then spread on a thick layer of the sassaka. On top of hot toast, the "bacon butter" warms and begins to render for a stick-to-your-ribs starter layered with sweet, smoky, salty flavor.

Come into the Smoking Goose soon--check out the Meat Locker hours--for your allotment of bacon butter! We've revived this traditional recipe with all-natural, pasture-raised Duroc pork from Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, Indiana.

Prep at your table is simple. Squeeze the sassaka out of the its package and let it come to room temp, about 20 minutes. Cut slices of crusty bread--the Italians prefer rye--and slather on the bacon butter while the toast is still hot, red plaid flannel optional.

Any leftover sassaka can be kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge. If properly stored, it'll keep till New Year's. But with flavor like this, we wager there'll be a need for seconds before 2012, Mr. Bunyan.

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