Polish Smalec Spread

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When traveling in Poland, you’ll often be greeted with little pots of Smalec – a rich, delicious lard spread – instead of butter for bread and crackers. This spread is easy to make, full of homestyle flavor, and totally addictive!

A person holding a slice of bread spread with smalec, a traditional Polish delicacy, using a spoon.
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A slice of bread with a Polish spread, Smalec, on it.

Polish Lard Spread with Onions, Bacon, and Apple

Smalec, a beloved traditional Polish spread, is a rich and flavorful delight. This savory concoction is made from rendered lard, often combined with diced bacon, onions, garlic, and sometimes apples and marjoram.

It’s slow-cooked until the bacon crisps up then cooled until the flavors meld into a creamy, aromatic paste.

Smalec is a staple in Polish cuisine, cherished for its hearty taste and versatility. Typically enjoyed on slices of crusty bread or crackers, it offers a delightful contrast of creamy richness and crispy bacon bits.

The addition of marjoram and garlic lends it a fragrant and aromatic quality, making it a delightful spread for gatherings and celebrations.

Smalec reflects the essence of Polish comfort food, a nostalgic and beloved treat that has stood the test of time!

A plate with bread spread and a bowl of jam.

How to Make Smalec

  • Bacon: Diced bacon is a key component of smalec, providing a salty, smoky, and savory flavor. As it cooks, the bacon releases its fat, which combines with lard to create the spread’s rich and creamy texture.
  • Lard: Lard is the primary fat used in smalec and serves as the base of the spread. It adds a silky and smooth consistency to the dish. Lard is known for its ability to carry and enhance the flavors of other ingredients.
  • Onion: Diced or grated onions add a sweet and aromatic element to smalec. They become tender and slightly caramelized as they cook, infusing the spread with their delightful flavor.
  • Green Apples: Peeled, cored, seeded, and diced green apples provide a hint of tartness and freshness to balance the richness of the dish. They add a unique sweetness and a subtle fruity note.
  • Garlic: Minced garlic cloves contribute a robust and pungent flavor to the spread. Garlic adds depth and complexity to the overall taste of smalec.
  • Marjoram: Marjoram is a fragrant herb with a slightly citrusy and floral flavor. It imparts a pleasant herbal aroma and enhances the overall seasoning of the spread.
  • Garlic Salt: Garlic salt is used to season the dish, providing both saltiness and a concentrated garlic flavor. It ensures that the spread is well-seasoned and flavorful.

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following process:

  • In a large, heavy nonstick pan, melt lard on medium high heat.
  • Add finely diced bacon and onions and continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned – about 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and add in diced apples, garlic, salt, and marjoram.
  • Continue to cook until bacon and onions are a deep caramel brown.
  • Remove from heat and place in covered bowl and let cool. Refrigerate to cool and bring back to a thicker consistency, then serve. Smalec should be soft and room temperature, but white and solidified, not liquid like in the pan.
A spread of Polish smalec on a plate with bread and a bowl of dip.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Smalec

Choose Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality bacon and lard for the best flavor and texture. Opt for fresh and firm green apples to provide a pleasant tartness.

Render Bacon Slowly: When rendering the bacon, cook it slowly over low to medium heat. This allows the fat to melt gradually and prevents it from becoming too greasy or burnt.

Mince Garlic Finely: Ensure that the garlic is minced finely to distribute its flavor evenly throughout the spread.

Caramelize Onions: Take your time to caramelize the onions, cooking them until they are soft and golden brown. This process enhances their sweetness and contributes to the overall flavor of the smalec.

Control the Seasoning: Be mindful of the garlic salt and other seasonings. Taste the spread as you go and adjust the seasonings to your preference, as garlic salt can vary in intensity.

Balancing Flavors: Adjust the amount of apples, marjoram, and garlic to achieve the right balance of sweet, savory, and herbal notes.

Chill and Serve: Allow the smalec to cool and solidify in the refrigerator before serving. It’s typically enjoyed spread on bread or crackers.

Presentation: Garnish the smalec with fresh herbs or additional diced apples for a visually appealing presentation.

Storage: Keep the smalec refrigerated in an airtight container. It can be stored for several weeks and often improves in flavor as it matures.

FAQs

What is smalec?

Smalec is a traditional Polish spread made primarily from rendered lard. It often includes diced bacon, onions, garlic, and other flavorings like apples and marjoram.

How is smalec made?

To make smalec, lard and diced bacon are slowly rendered until the bacon becomes crispy and releases its flavors. Onions, garlic, and sometimes apples and marjoram are added and cooked until everything is well combined and aromatic.

What is smalec served with?

Smalec is commonly served on slices of crusty bread or crackers. It’s a popular appetizer or snack in Poland and is often enjoyed with a glass of beer or vodka.

Can I make smalec without bacon?

While bacon adds a distinct flavor to smalec, you can make a version without bacon if you prefer a lighter taste. The key ingredient is rendered lard, so you can omit the bacon and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Is smalec healthy?

Smalec is a rich and indulgent spread due to its high-fat content. While it’s delicious, it should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It’s not considered a health food, but it’s a traditional treat with deep cultural roots.

Are there variations of smalec?

Yes, there are variations of smalec across different regions of Poland. Some may include additional ingredients or slightly different seasonings to suit local preferences.

Can I store smalec?

Smalec can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will solidify when chilled but can be brought back to a spreadable consistency by warming it slightly.

Are there any customs or traditions associated with smalec?

Smalec is a symbol of Polish hospitality and is often served as a welcoming treat to guests, or as a bread course in restaurants – similar to chips and salsa. In some regions, it’s a customary offering during special occasions like weddings.

A plate with a slice of bread and a bowl of Smalec Spread.

What to Serve with Smalec

Crusty Bread: Serve smalec with slices of freshly baked crusty bread, such as baguette or rye bread. The combination of the spread and warm bread is delicious.

Crackers: Offer an assortment of crackers, including plain and whole-grain varieties. Smalec pairs well with the crunchy texture of crackers.

Pickles: Traditional Polish pickles or pickled vegetables, such as cucumbers or peppers, make an excellent accompaniment. The acidity of pickles complements the richness of smalec.

Radishes: Fresh radishes add a peppery crunch that contrasts nicely with the creamy smalec.

Mustard: Spicy brown or Dijon mustard can be served alongside smalec for those who enjoy a bit of extra kick.

Fresh Vegetables: Include a platter of fresh vegetables like sliced bell peppers, celery sticks, or cherry tomatoes for a refreshing and crunchy contrast.

Sauerkraut: Some people enjoy smalec with sauerkraut for a tangy and slightly sour element.

Hard-Boiled Eggs: Sliced hard-boiled eggs can be a hearty addition to your smalec spread.

Fresh Herbs: Garnish the smalec with fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or dill for added flavor and a pop of color.

Cheese: Offer a selection of cheeses, such as aged cheddar or gouda, to create a more substantial charcuterie-style platter.

Beer or Vodka: Smalec pairs well with traditional Polish beverages like cold beer or vodka for those who enjoy alcoholic beverages.

Cabbage Leaves: Use large cabbage leaves as a vessel for smalec, creating a unique and edible serving option.

A loaf of bread with a Polish spread, called smalec, on it.
Keywords: Spread, Polish

Polish Smalec Spread Recipe

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Polish Smalec: A simple spread made with bacon, onion and apple.

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A bowl of Polish spread and a plate with a smalec-spreaded piece of bread.

Polish Smalec

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Rich, indulgent lard spread with bacon, apples, onion, and marjoram that is a traditional Polish appetizer served with bread or crackers.

Ingredients

  • 8 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 cups lard
  • 1 onion, diced or grated
  • 2 green apples, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Instructions

  1. In a large, heavy nonstick pan, melt lard on medium high heat.
  2. Add finely diced bacon and onions and continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned - about 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add in diced apples, garlic, salt, and marjoram.
  4. Continue to cook until bacon and onions are a deep caramel brown.
  5. Remove from heat and place in covered bowl and let cool. Refrigerate to cool and bring back to a thicker consistency, then serve. Smalec should be soft and room temperature, but white and solidified, not liquid like in the pan.
Nutrition Information
Yield 24 Serving Size 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 182Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 20mgSodium 131mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 2gProtein 1g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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