Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Can you pick the speck?
Easy, isn't it.
Look again, there are two lots of speck on the platter. If you picked the pickled mushrooms or fermented cucumbers, hang your head in shame!
Any self respecting German would point excitedly at the pure white fat slices at the bottom and exclaim, "That is the real stuff", while an Austrian would remonstrate with him that the only true speck was at the top.
Both would be right...and wrong - for each are indigenous to their respective countries and have the right to be called speck.
The German version is pure pork fat, called lardo in Italy; it's salted and cured, sometimes cold smoked, whilst the Austrian speck is more easily explained as a deboned prosciutto that has been slowly cold smoked.
German speck can be eaten thinly sliced, just as it is, though your cardiologist might be a tad nervous. It has the same silken unctuousness of good smoked salmon, but also finds its way into many of the local dishes as the fat of choice.
It would be easy to mistake Austrian speck as good quality prosciutto, but the gentle smoking makes it presence subtly felt and the meat seems to retain a bit more moisture. Whilst it is superb eaten as is with some crusty bread, it also brings a special flavour to cooked dishes.
I really recommend trying the Austrian speck if you can get your hands on some, it's sometimes known as raw smoked ham. In Melbourne, it's available from Malvern Continental Butcher & Delicatessen, 79 Glenferrie Road, Malvern, or you could try your local Continental delicatessen.