Streak O’ lean, Fatback, and Cracklin’s

In the winter when there was a cold snap it was hog killing time. Since there was no refrigeration, hams and shoulders were smoked or salt cured, some of the meat was made into sausage which was stuffed in casings and cured, streak o’ lean and fatback were rendered into lard (which also produced cracklin’s) or they were salted down . All of the hog would be used. It was said that all was used except the squeal. Because it was difficult to preserve much of the meat, fresh meat was often shared with neighbors who were always willing to reciprocate. Many called this a time of living “high on the hog.”


Fatback is actually a fresh layer of fat that runs along the back of the hog. This was the part that usually was used to make lard and cracklin's. We also called this part “fatback” after it was salt cured. To us there were two kinds of salt pork: fatback and streak o’ lean (which was like fatback but had streaks of lean in it).

Not living in the rural part of the county, my family never raised hogs. We bought fresh meat, sausage, and hams from those that peddled these during the time when it was necessary to get rid of the meat that could not be used or cured. Grocery stores always sold cured meats like ham, salt pork, lard and some refrigerated items like sausage and pork chops.

Two very essential items for most family diets were flour and lard. If they had nothing else, families had flour and lard, even the poorest. I never thought of my family as being poor, although we didn’t have much and ate a lot of biscuits and “lard gravy”. My daddy bought some hoop cheese one time thinking we would have a special breakfast of hot biscuits and cheese. As a baby I’d only had biscuits and lard gravy for breakfast and I pitched a fit to have some gravy. Daddy never let me forget this episode as long as he lived.

Working in several grocery stores as a teenager, I noticed an interesting fact. After the great depression and World War II, most families’ financial status improved. Many quit farming, had salaried jobs, owned automobiles, and dressed better but they still bought that large sack of Holly Hawk flour and a package of Rex lard. (During World War II the red metal lard bucket was replaced by a durable cardboard container). We also sold many pounds of fatback and streak o’ lean. Having acquired a taste for certain foods, even out of necessity, it’s hard to give them up.

Although I work hard to keep a diet low in saturated fat, it would be a real treat to have a breakfast of streak o’ lean, hot biscuits covered in lard gravy (and in memory of Daddy a small piece of cheese). For dinner I’d like a pot of turnip greens cooked with a chunk of fatback, cracklin' bread, and a large glass of buttermilk

You can only take the boy out of the country.