Tasso


Many cultures have a version of some kind of seasoned smoked pork they use in dishes. This is ours.  Tasso is not pretty to look at, but boy is it good.  Traditionally, tasso was made from leftover pieces of pork when the pig was butchered, and the spices and smoking were ways of preserving the meat.  Tasso is spicy but not hot and once you try it you’ll be hooked.  If you've had great jambalaya in Louisiana and wondered why the jambalaya everywhere else is mediocre, it's probably because the mediocre jambalaya didn't have any tasso it it.  You can buy tasso on the internet or in markets in Louisiana, but homemade tasso is so much better.  It adds a great flavor to a variety of dishes, from soups to jambalaya to pastas and seafood dishes.  Tasso is usually made with pork shoulder (butt) but I find that pork loin is easier to use and makes more uniform pieces. Wait until pork loins are on sale and make some yourself.  What ever sut you use don't try to make tasso out of some really tender cut of pork.  All recipes I know of use it cut into small pieces, and when you add it to a recipe it ends up cooking again.  If it isn't a little chewy it will fall apart.

Here's a few notes about supermarket tasso versus homemade tasso.   First, if you can find tasso in a supermarket it will be called "tasso ham".  Don't let the name fool you, it's not ham, it's shoulder. 
Second, supermarket tasso will almost always be pink and homemade tasso will be dark brown after it is smoked.  The reason supermarket tasso is pink is it has been treated with sodium nitrite.  I'm not going to get into whether sodium nitrite is good or bad for you I just don't see any need for it.  
 

1
whole pork loin
5 tbl
salt
1 tbl
cayenne pepper
2 tbl
black pepper
2 tbl white pepper
2 tbl paprika
1 tbl cinnamon
2 tbl granulated garlic

Trim the excess fat off the pork and cut it into slabs about ¾" inch thick.  Mix the seasonings together and then pour them in a shallow pan.  Place each piece of pork individually into the seasoning and coat them well on all sides as if you were coating them in flour for frying.  Place the pork in a resealable plastic container. Put the a lid on it and refrigerate at least overnight (preferably 2 to 3 days).

Get your smoker heated to between 200° and 220°. Use pecan or oak, not hickory. Place the pork in the smoker and crank up the smoke.  Leave it in the smoker for 4-5 hours. Make sure there is lots of smoke but don't let the smoker get above 200°-220°. Remove the meat and let it cool completely. Put it in resealable bags or vacuum seal it. It keeps forever in the freezer.

This what mine looks like just before going on the smoker.



And after it comes off the smoker.


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