During last fall's Pigstock, we learned how to bone out an entire pig, which required the better part of a day and lots of sharpening and resharpening of our knives. For the ribs, however, we used a rib puller to pull out the ribs and leave the sides of the pig clean and boneless. The rib puller is just a loop of cord attached to a stout handle. One end slips under an edge of the rib, then you just drag it down the bone to minimize any meat clinging to the rib.The result is a large slab of what looks like pork belly. In Austria, this would be cured into speck with herbs and juniper. The large cap of fat, and the gentle striations of dark red meat kept reminding me of bellies, so I thought I would cure it like bacon.
Rubbed in salt and sugar, I didn't add anything else to the meat, as the mangalitsa is just so naturally tasty and flavorful. I cured it for 7 days, then let it dry in the fridge overnight before smoking it with hickory. Thinly sliced, it does look exactly like speck. In the frying pan it crisped up quickly, rending out lots of delicious, smoky fat that yearned for sauteing potatoes and frying eggs. And it does taste great, with a smooth sweetness to the fat, and a gentle smokiness in the meat. I think I could have pulled it from the cure a day or two early, as the meat is a bit on the salty side. But all in all, a successful experiment.