Polish smalec (SMAH-lets) is made from rendered white pork fat flavored with onion and garlic, spices that vary from region to region, and sometimes chopped apple. Sometimes skwarki (pork cracklings) are added for extra crunch.
See Lard Is Better for You Than You Think, below, after the directions to this recipe.
In the old days, peasants ate smalec as a kind of insulation against the cold weather. Today, it's often served with hearty bread as a complimentary starter at restaurants.
In the old days, peasants ate smalec as a kind of insulation against the cold weather. Today, it's often served with hearty bread as a complimentary starter even at the most elegant restaurants.
It is often served in a scooped-out bread bowl or bread loaf and, in the mountainous Zakopane region, it is often accompanied by moskole, a griddled potato pancake, which is very different from fried potato pancakes or placki ziemniaczane.
- 2 1/4 pounds white pork fat or leaf lard, diced
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 pound słonina or fatty bacon, diced
- 2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and diced small
- 1 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Grind the diced white pork fat and place it in a large skillet. Fry until fat is transparent, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, garlic and bacon, and sauté until bacon is golden brown and the fat has rendered out. Add the apples and season to taste with optional marjoram, and pepper and salt to taste.
- Transfer to a stoneware crock or heatproof jar. Leave at room temperature until fat has solidifed. Then store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Serve this spread on rye bread with sliced onion on top and pickles on the side, if desired, and a steaming hot mug of sweet or spiked tea. Do like the Poles do and enjoy this after a cold-weather activity like skiing, sledding or sleigh rides (kulig).
Lard Is Better for You Than You Think
Lest you think lard is more unhealthy than butter, unhydrogenated lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than butter, and none of the trans fat found in shortening and margarine.
Rendered Pork Fat Popular Among Most Slavs
Smalec isn't unique to Polish cuisine, in Hungarian, it's known as disznózsír. Russians and Ukrainians call it (unrendered slices of pork fat), while Lithuanians say taukai. Croatians, Serbians and Slovenians say mast, Czechs and Slovaks say sádlo. Bulgarians say svinska mas, and Romanians say untură. And, of course rendered chicken fat is known as schmaltz in the Jewish culture.
I have fond memories of slathering smalec on Polish rye bread and sprinkling it liberally with salt. We had precious little of this phenomenal pork lard spread in my house because my mother didn't prepare it by rendering white pork fat, she used the onion-flavored congealed drippings that were a byproduct of a pork roast dinner. We fought for the last schmear of this treasure.