I bought salt pork at the grocery store yesterday. I've never cooked with it before. I was thinkng of cooking beans in the slow cooker this week. Should I cube the salt pork and add it to the beans and water? Or should I just leave it in one piece and add it? Should I rinse it first?
I usually use bacon, but basically everything is better browned so I would cook the salt pork (cut into large chunks) in a pan over med-high or high to brown and render some fat and then brown whatever onions, garlic, and/or veggies you will be adding to the beans in the fat before adding to the slow cooker. Just a thought!
Is it streaky, or is it all fat? If it's streaky, you can make carbonara with it. I always use locally cured pork in place of pancetta or guanciale when I make carbonara.
The traditional long-cooked bean-pot beans call for an uncooked chunk of salt pork (down-easters never used bacon), sealed up in the pot with the other ingredients and cooked overnight. But since you're doing this in a slow cooker instead of the oven (or a banked fire!) I think I'd do the browning/frying as suggested above.
The older Fanny Farmer book we have has a recipe for fried salt pork with cream gravy, which I have tried and it's insanely good, but not what a chubby old guy like me needs to be eating! However, one of the best Chinese dishes I've ever had was slices of salt pork, about 1/4" thick and 2" square, fried to a tender crisp and served with braised greens - not cooked together, just combined for serving so that the crisp salty pork provides a crunchy counterpoint.
I make a dish of sliced potatoes and onions fried with diced salt pork. My mother used to call it scootin.
It's also a good fat for sautéing with greens or veggies.
You don't really need to brown the salt pork first but it is quite salty. So, if you are going to cook with it without soaking (depends on how salty you like your food) don't add salt to your dish until it's finished cooking. My family's southern and my grandmother used it in her greens & beans; she used the fat for fried potatoes & pan fried slices until crispy with biscuits among other things.