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Salo

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Salo (Ukrainian and Russian: ) is a traditional Central and Eastern European food: cured slabs of fatback (rarely pork belly), with or without skin. The Central European one is usually treated with paprika or other condiments, while the South European one is often smoked.

Left: Salo, sliced small and sprinkled with black pepper, in Ukraine.

As a trend, the Eastern European one is salted or brine fermented, hence the names slonina/slana/szalonna (solonýna in Ukrainian and solonina in Russian mean any kind of salt-cured meat, such as corned beef).

The Slavic word "salo" as applied to this type of food is often translated to English as "bacon" or "lard". Unlike lard, salo is not rendered. Unlike bacon, salo is not necessarily bacon-cured. Salo has little or no meat (skeletal muscle), and low-meat high-fat bacon commonly is referred to as salo.

For preservation, salo is salted, sometimes also smoked and aged in a dark and cold place, where it will last for a year or more. For flavouring and better preservation salo may be cured, or covered with a thick layer of paprika, minced garlic, or sometimes black pepper. The slabs of fat are cut into manageable pieces, typically 15×20 cm, and smeared with salt. The slabs are placed skin-down into a wooden box or barrel, alternating with one-centimetre layers of salt.

Salo may be consumed raw, but can also be cooked or fried or finely chopped with garlic as a condiment for borscht (beet soup). Small pieces of salo are added to some types of sausage. Thinly-sliced salo on rye bread rubbed with garlic is a traditional snack to accompany vodka in Russia, or, and particularly, horilka in Ukraine.

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Salo is often chopped into small pieces and fried to render the fat for use in cooking, while the remaining cracklings (shkvarky in Ukrainian) are used as condiments for fried potatoes or varenyky.

Left: Salo chopped into pieces, ready for frying.

The thick pork skin that remains after using the salo's fat can also contribute to the stock for soup or borscht. After boiling it is discarded.

When salo has been aged too long, or exposed to light, the fat may become oxidized on the surface and become yellowed and bitter-tasting. Then it can be used as a water-repellent treatment for leather boots or as a bait for mouse traps or simply turned into homemade soap.

In Eastern-European humour, salo is a stereotypical attribute of Ukrainian culture, analogous to vodka and bears with balalaikas for Russian. In jokes salo is often represented as the highest object of desire for the stereotypical Ukrainian.

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