The fat of the land…

This morning, shopping at Sainsbury’s, I wanted a gammon joint to roast. Partly because I wanted roast gammon, partly because I wanted that thick layer of fat, to render down for lard.

I got such a joint a few weeks a few weeks ago, with a gloriously thick layer of fat (meat without fat is unutterably dull), but I boiled it. Today, the store was heavily stocked with gammon joints – and some bastard had trimmed almost all the fat off every bloody one of them.

These dietary Nazis really piss me off. Yes, too much fat is bad news, but some fat is actually essential to the proper functioning of the body (just as some cholesterol is), but the bottom line is that to eat or not to eat fat is – and ever should be – a personal decision. And, just as important, as long as it’s treated with care, fatty meat can be very good to eat (and I speak as someone who, in his youth, would surgically remove every vestige of fat from meat – I missed out on a lot of pleasure).

Next time you’re shopping, have a look at the cold-cuts section – pastrami, minus its natural fringe of creamy fat that adds so much to its savour, ham in a zillion varieties, all devoid of the smooth, sweet, border of fat that makes ham so succulent, beef, with no sign at all of the fatty marbling that keeps it moist. And I’m talking about the “quality” end of the market, not the wafer-thin, re-formed crap; slices of meat that would, quite naturally, be bounded by a layer of fat if left alone.

It’s the same with joints of meat. Beef joints for roasting have added fat tied to them – usually back fat from pigs, not a bad thing in itself, but if the bloody meat hadn’t been trimmed almost to oblivion, it wouldn’t have been needed.

What interfering asswipe decreed that all meat would be sold almost completely stripped of its essential fat? And where the hell does it all go? Look, just don’t tell me this doesn’t happen at farmers’ markets, I don’t care because, for the vast majority of people, that’s irrelevant. Most people shop, as I do, at supermarkets, because there’s no other choice.

Personally, I’m on a pretty low-fat diet, but when I have an occasional  treat, like bacon for example, I enjoy it for its fattiness, without which it would be dire. I also like a rim of fat on brisket, because it tastes wonderful, even though I’ll skim the cooking liquid before making gravy with it.

The fat purge happens, in part at least, because of the food fascists who persuade supermarkets that people don’t want fact on their meat. Here’s a thought, guys – try asking the real people, not poxy focus groups with nothing better to do than make decisions based purely on personal taste and prejudice. that are then inflicted upon the rest of us.

Meat should be sold as naturally is possible, fat included. You don’t like it? Fine, that’s your choice, don’t eat it. But do not dare to presume to foist your faddiness on everyone else, you sanctimonious, joyless gits, not least since animal fats have been shown not to be the demons of the food world that they have been portrayed as for decades.

Anyway, back to my almost fatless gammon. If I roast it as is, it’ll be as dry as buggery. So I’m going to get a hypodermic syringe, and inject it here and there with olive oil. I’ve got lots of hypos kicking around, because I refill my printer cartridges – it’s the work of a moment to wash one. It doesn’t need a lot of oil, just a tiny blob in each injection spot, left for a day to permeate the tissues (hopefully), and it should make a big difference. Animal fat – melted and mixed with oil to keep it fluid, would be better still, but for obvious reasons I don’t have any. Every gram of fat that the gammon yields up, though, is going to be meticulously harvested and stashed away.

By the way, if you’re tempted to try the oil thing, just remember that oil is somewhat viscous, and inject it very slowly.

I’m thinking seriously, too – if I can find any – of buying some very fatty belly pork, roasting it slowly, on a rack, so it yields up its fat, then letting it cool, stripping out the meat and returning the trimmings to the oven, with the skin cut into strips, to extract every last ounce of fat. The crisped skin, with its layer of ultra-crisp fattiness, will be salted and eaten – perfect pork scratchings as they originally were – a by-product of the lard industry.

And if, like me, you wonder why pork is so devoid of fat generally these days, this is part of the answer.

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