Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cracklin' Bread Italian Style, Notes from Campobasso

Cracklin' bread, if you've ever heard of it, probably brings you notions of the rural South and of a past where concerns about weight and cholesterol were low on people's list of worries. A bread baked with cracklins in the dough is as delicious as it is dangerous.

Cracklins are sort of like pork rinds or chicharrones. Here's a definition: cracklin, cracklings
Also called gratons or grattons by the Cajuns. Cracklings are bits of roasted or deep-fried pork skins. You can make your own, or you may be able to find them at groceries. History: During slavery, after the slave-owner had rendered his pork fat, the skin was given to the servants. They would then deep-fry this skin and eat them plain or stirred into cornbread batter, which baked delicious cracklin' bread.
There are, in fact a lot of online recipes for cracklin' bread that come from the South.

It's interesting to note that this ultra-hearty food is international; cracklin' bread was a staple of Italy's past as well. There's an Italian bakery down on Halsted St. in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago that still serves delicious cracklin' bread. Here in Italy Concetta, a friend originally from Campobasso brought me back the beautiful bread you see here. Her hometown version, though contains lard (no actual pork rinds), raisins and candied peel, so it's something like a cross between a yeast dough powder biscuit and a panettone. Can you imagine such a thing? Salty, savory, almost bacon-y yet punctuated with sweet and zingy fruit. Let me tell you, a little goes a long way. It is as rich as rich can get and the calories that must be contained therein really let you know you're full once you've had a sizeable piece. Not for everyday consumption, it's still a little bit of history and a way to connect with our past.

14 Comments:

Anonymous scott said...

That does look riiiiich, Susan. Makes sense, too - pork and fruit do go together.

That's a good point about the internationality of this bread, as po folks' food is po folks' food just about anywhere. It's also interesting how such food makes its way upscale - seems like every restaurant in my town now has a pork belly dish, for instance.

3:12 PM  
Blogger ML said...

That sounds quite delicious!

3:21 PM  
Blogger beenzzz said...

What an interesting concept! I bet it's very delicious!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Scott, Yep. There was a delegation of African American Congresspeople who toured parts of Africa a few years ago and were constantly served "special local" dishes, things the hosts thought the guests had never tasted before. Those things turned out to resemble red beans and rice, gumbo, feijoada, etc. etc. They really got a kick out of how many similarities there really were. (But of course that's not as much a coincidence as a testament to how much knowledge was brought over on the slave ships.

Hi ML and Beenzzz, The bread is indeed delicious! So you two are family?

11:37 AM  
Blogger Tracie B. said...

natbone! candied yams! turnip greens! UNGH

you oughta know that song...

7:05 PM  
Blogger beenzzz said...

Yep, we're sisters. :)

10:30 PM  
Blogger Estelle said...

Wow. I wish I could eat some of this bread right now!

A little contribution to the internationality of cracklings: people also eat "grattons" on their own (as a snack... like chips) in the Lyon region of France. And of course they claim it's a specialty from there :-)

3:32 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Tracie, Um, what?! Natbone? Who sings that?

Hi Beenzzz, Oh! ML had written about a dream she had about your daughter. That's cool you all have this blog/family network going. And with J. as well, right?

Hi Estelle, Grattons, cracklins, pork rinds, they're all George Bush Sr.'s favorite snack too. Hope that doesn't ruin it! I'm guessing the cajuns got the grattons idea when they (their ancestors) were still back in France

8:09 AM  
Blogger hellomelissa said...

i haven't encountered this yet in the south, but i've heard of it. honestly, it looks delectable, and my cholesterol levels could handle it. bring on the cracklin' bread!

3:01 PM  
Blogger beenzzz said...

Yep, J is our cousin's (Py Korry)wife. So, she's our cousin-in-law. :)

6:23 PM  
Blogger Tracie B. said...

it's james brown, god rest his soul.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous katie said...

does anyone have a recipe for this cracklin bread?

9:43 PM  
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6:43 PM  
Blogger Christine Woods said...

What is the name of the bakery on Halsted? My grandfather is from Italy and is looking for a bakery that makes the Bacon kind.

11:05 PM  

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