I have debated with myself for a long time about whether to post this recipe. A really long time. Not just because almost nobody is going to know what it is. Those folks are going to be few and far between. But mostly because old-time southern food has had such a bad reputation. It doesn’t need me adding fuel to the fire with old recipes that just reinforce that stereotype. Yet, despite all those reasons nagging me, I still wanted to do it. So, here it is. Streak o’ Lean.
Who’s ever heard of Streak o’ Lean? Speak up. <testing, testing, is this thing on?>
Okay, well Streak o’ Lean is kind of the opposite of bacon. Where bacon is smoked and has a streak of fat among the lean meat, streak o’ lean is salt cured and has a streak of lean among the fat. Yes, that’s right, streak o’ lean is salt pork. Salt pork taken a step further by coating it in flour and deep frying.
Now before you send the food police around to my house and start proceedings to revoke my official food bloggers license, just wait a minute. As crazy as the food world is today about bacon, if I had said I was deep frying bacon some of y’all would be in a swoon right now. You know you would.
And besides, this is not something to be eaten every day of the week. As a matter of fact, the best I can remember it has been about 25 years since I last cooked Streak o’ Lean. Although it can still be found on restaurant buffet lines in rural areas of the South, it’s really one of those once or twice in a lifetime kind of recipes. But be warned, once you’ve had it you’ll never forget it. You’ll crave it. You’ll look for it at every buffet and you’ll make an excuse to “just have a little bite.”
So how do you cook Streak o’ Lean? Well, you start with some salt pork. It’s the same thing that you use to season your pot of greens or a pot of baked beans. You can buy it in one piece or sliced. Go ahead and get the sliced for this recipe.
Before you go any further you need to soak the salt pork. This step draws out a lot of the salt and believe me you don’t want to skip this. I know some restaurants that don’t soak it at all, just fry it up. I prefer to draw out some of the salt first. I happened to have buttermilk on hand and used it this time. Any kind of milk works just fine. Some people, instead of soaking, will boil the salt pork for about ten minutes, drain it and then proceed with the recipe. If you’re short on time, that works great.
Now remove the salt pork from the milk letting most of it drain away. Discard the milk. Place the salt pork on a baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with ground pepper.
Then flour it well on both sides.
Heat about a 1/4 inch of peanut oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the prepared pieces of salt pork into the pan. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, crispy, and cooked through.
Put the finished sliced on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil.
A very old deep south recipe for Streak o' Lean.
- Salt pork
- Milk or buttermilk
- Peanut oil
- Place the sliced salt pork in a container and cover with milk or buttermilk. Let sit for several hours to draw out some of the salt. Remove the salt pork from the milk. Discard the milk.
- Pepper each slice of salt pork and then dredge lightly in flour.
- Add peanut oil to a depth of a ¼ inch to a heavy skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Carefully add the prepared salt pork slices to the hot oil. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned and cooked through (about 7-8 minutes).
- Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
This recipe is presented primarily for historical purposes. Nobody really eats this way every day :-)
I usually link to other similar recipes in this space, but I have to tell you there’s almost nothing on the internet about Streak-o-Lean. So, instead here are a few links about salt pork.
- Less Meat, More Flavor: Salt Pork from The Kitchn
- How to Make Your Own Salt Pork from eHow
- Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Salt Pork from Bon Appetit
- Salt Cod and Corn Chowder fromFine Cooking
- Boston Baked Beans from Fine Cooking
What I was up to:
- One year ago: Lemon and Cherry Muffins
- Two years ago: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Three years ago: Shrimp and Artichokes with Noodles