It is made in the town of Colonnata in Tuscany, Italy. Colonnata is outside Carrara, on a ridge between two marble quarries. The town is small, with a population around 300 people (2003.) There are only about a dozen producers of the lard; the geographical setting of the town makes it impossible for a large-scale production facility to be built as there is literally not enough land for one.
To make Lardo di Colonnata, a curing vat (called a “conca”), made of grey marble (called “canaloni” marble) and kept in a cellar, is first rubbed inside with garlic.
The fat used may come from locally raised pigs, or be purchased from the prosciutto consortiums of Parma and San Daniele.
Slabs of pork fatback (pork belly has too much meat) are then trimmed, and coated in salt, then packed in layers in the vats.
In between each layer of fat slabs, the producer puts diced garlic, rosemary, sage, oregano, pepper, and other spices.
Lids are placed on the vats, and the fat is let sit to age for 6 to 12 months.
During the aging and curing process, the salt draws the water out of the fat, creating a brine which prevents any spoilage from happening. At the same time, the lard draws in the flavourings.
The fat comes out pure white, firm and creamy. Each slab will be a minimum of 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) thick. The lower side of the slab may still have rind on it. Both sides of the slab will have a coating of salt on them. There will often be very small, thin streaks of meat in the fat.
The producers call themselves “larderie.”
There is no “lean” version.
The town of Colonnata evolved as a place in Roman times for marble workers to live close to the marble quarries where they worked. There was no arable land on the ridge, but pigs did well foraging for themselves in the forests of the steep hills.
In the late 1990s, the safety of it was challenged by the EU, but the producers passed the inquiries. The concession they had to make was to steam-clean the vats between each production round.
The product was granted European PGI status in 2004.
Cortese, Amy. Hog Heaven: Lardo di Colonnata. Leite’s Culinaria. 1 November 2010. Retrieved July 2011 from http://leitesculinaria.com/10251/writings-italian-lardo-pig-lard.html
Williams Daniel. In Colonnata — Betting On the Fat of the Land. Washington Post. 29 January 2003. Page F01.