On the kitchen counter of my parental home, my father always used to keep a large glass jar with what to my knowledge was mostly leftover fat rendered from smoked and salted lardons (gerookte spekblokjes) with no more than a tablespoon or two of said (now super-crispy) lardons hiding in the solidified off-white grease plus a large spoonful or two of dark-brown sugar(beet) syrup, either the thick kind from a jar (keukenstroop), or the thinner kind that’s often used for Dutch pancakes (schenkstroop) stirred through it (my father says he has used both). Any time smoked lardons were fried for a stamppot dinner, which was relatively often, the jar would get topped up with leftover grease and a little bit of syrup. The caramel-coloured, sweet and savoury spread would then be used as a spread on slices of wheat bread, perhaps topped with some aged Gouda, if you want to be real indulgent.
I know this unusual spread is called stroopjesvet, stropiesvet, or stroopvet in Dutch – the first being what my dad called it – but I can only find a few sources online that refer to it in detail and most of those are messages on forums of people inquiring whether other people still remember this spread as well. ‘Stroopjesvet’, in particular, is nearly unfindable and seems to be a colloquialism or dialect according to an article I found on the Neerlandistiek website about the word itself, but on Wikipedia (and consequently, copy-pasted into many other references to stroopvet), you can find a simple description under the spread’s ‘proper’ name stroopvet:
Tot ongeveer 1960 was het een veel gebruikt broodsmeersel voor mensen die zware lichamelijke arbeid verrichtten, met name op het platteland. Het werd thuis gemaakt van twee delen spekvet of reuzel, een deel stroop en wat zout. Een minder bekend recept bestaat uit een deel reuzel en een deel appelstroop. Stroopvet smaakt volgens liefhebbers het best op een snee nog warm tarwebrood.
Until about 1960, it [stroopvet] was a widely used bread spread for people whom performed heavy physical labour, especially in rural areas. It was made at home by combining two parts bacon* drippings or lard, one part (sugar)syrup and some salt. A less commonly known recipe consists of one part lard and one part apple syrup. According to enthusiasts, stroopvet tastes best on a warm slice of wheat bread.
Indeed, stroopvet is exactly what it sounds like: a mixture of ‘stroop’ (syrup) and ‘vet’ (fat)’. *I’ve translated the ‘spekvet’ in the fragment above as ‘bacon drippings’ or ‘bacon fat’, but technically the ‘spekvet’ in the Dutch description above can refer to any kind of leftover fat or grease rendered from (raw, but mostly smoked and salted) fatty pork belly and pork belly products as well as from ‘vetspek’ (fatback), a cut of pork taken from the back of the pig, which consists of mostly fat and can be sold salted and smoked as well (not unlike Italian lardo). Lard (reuzel) is made from pure raw fat or leaf lard taken from around the loins and kidneys and is usually unsalted and unsmoked. When using unsalted or unsmoked pork products to make stroopvet, salt is usually added later to taste as mentioned in the description.
From the basic description above, it may come as no surprise that stroopvet has kind-of been forgotten in the anti-fat and anti-sugar diets of today and mostly exists in the memories of the older generations, in a few local shops that sell regional products (mostly the South-West of the Netherlands), and a few old cookbooks. Even when it was commonly eaten in rural areas in the past when extra calories were much wanted, stroopvet had always been considered a poor man’s food and a means to make food last longer rather than it being a real delicacy. That does not mean, of course, that people did not enjoy eating it (my dad certainly does), however, because of these reasons, the particular ratios and ingredients were subject to change to personal preference and to what was available at a particular time and area, and, as a consequence, it’s quite hard to find a real conclusive history or recipe on this nearly-forgotten bread spread.
Whilst writing this post, coincidentally a Dutch article about stroopvet was posted on the website of NRC Handelsblad (a Dutch daily newspaper) in which Karel Knip does an excellent research on this somewhat elusive bread spread. He states that this sweet and fatty concoction was “never eaten by those whom could afford butter” and that the outdated treat only made a quick comeback during WW2 as a replacement for butter during imposed rationing, and after the war as a cheap and calorie-rich supplement to people’s lacking diets. Knip also states that because of the ever-changing (un)availability of products, several different recipes on how to make stroopvet exist – mostly having to do with the types of fat, types of syrup, and the ratio between the two.After making some stroopvet himself, he does conclude that the mixture really does need salt (he had used unsalted and unsmoked pork belly) and that “stroopvet with more than 60 percent fat is really fat”. I agree with the first part, but my father actually never really added that much syrup to his stroopvet and liked it quite fatty, or added some extra syrup to taste once spread on the bread.
Concerning the type of fat: of course, you can go to your local butcher and buy a chunk of lard or pork belly to make stroopvet, but I personally wouldn’t do that. As stroopvet was meant, in a way, as a means to make food last longer, I think it’s best to just make it with leftover grease from smoked and salted lardons, bacon, and the earlier-mentioned vetspek (fatback), like my father used to do. The smoky and salty flavours that are already infused in these products are a real bonus and, according to me, an indispensable part of stroopvet, whether its traditional or not. The ultra-crispy pieces of fatty pork you’ll be left with – ‘kaantjes’ in Dutch, a word sometimes used to refer to most crispy pieces of fried pork, but real ‘kaantjes’ are technically only the residual pieces of crackling after rendering lard – are pretty good on bread, as a snack, or in other dishes as well. Some small pieces of this crispy pork (either from lardons or lard) can even be left inside of the stroopvet to give it a bit of a crunchy texture – something my father always did, but that might not be ‘authentic’ either. More bacon, more better, I guess. As for the type of syrup, both syrups mentioned in the introduction of this article will do.
While bacon-flavoured anything is quite popular these days – from bacon-flavoured ice cream, to bacon soda, to maple and bacon frosted cupcakes – chances are that a majority of people reading this post and the description of stroopvet will have a negative reaction to it. And sure, you probably shouldn’t gorge on large amounts of pork-fat and sugar every day… depending on your lifestyle, that is. It is delicious, though, and definitely a great way to reduce food waste and make use of something that you might otherwise throw out – which I think makes it something that actually fits with ‘modern times’ quite well. I believe it’s time for stroopvet to make another comeback, so I’ve got a little glass jar of my own on the kitchen counter as we speak.
Knip, Karel. “Geen Boter? Dan Had Je Stroopvet.” NRC, NRC, 21 Jan. 2022, https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2022/01/21/geen-boter-dan-had-je-stroopvet-a4081295.
Van der Wouden, Ton. “Stroopjesvet.” Neerlandistiek, 30 Sept. 2018, https://neerlandistiek.nl/2018/09/stroopjesvet/.
“Stroopvet.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 July 2021, https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroopvet.
Stroopvet / Stroopjesvet / Stropiesvet (Dutch Lard or Bacon Drippings and Sugar Syrup Bread Spread)
- 2 parts fat rendered from salted and smoked (pork belly) lardons and/or fatback (vetspek) + few pieces of leftover crackling/crispy fried lardons
- 1 part Dutch Kitchen Syrup ‘keukenstroop’, or Dutch pancake syrup ‘schenkstroop’ (sugar(beet) syrup)*
- If you’ve got a big piece of (salted and smoked) pork belly and/or fatback, cut it into smaller cubes.
- Add meat to a pot over medium heat and allow the fat to render out for about 30 minutes, or as long as it needs (depending on the amount). Stir occasionally. I find it helps to occasionally pour out some of the fat into a container to help the rest of the fat to render out of the meat.
- Once all the fat has been rendered out of the meat, pour into a container, or pour through a sieve into a container, depending on if you want a smooth spread or a spread with (some) crispy pieces (I prefer the latter). Allow fat to cool and solidify completely; when the fat is hot and liquid it will not mix with the syrup at all!
- Once cooled, stir in 1 part (eyeball about half the amount of the fat, or even a little bit less to start with) Dutch kitchen syrup or Dutch pancake syrup (dark sugar(beet) syrup) until the mixture is well combined and caramel-y brown. Taste and add more syrup and/or salt, to taste. Because it’s a sweet and savoury spread, the actual ratio of fat, salt and syrup is subject to personal taste. However, salt is a must to balance out the sweetness of the syrup and to give flavour to the fat, so if you can’t find smoked and already-salted lardons and fatback, or have used un-salted and un-smoked lard, make sure to stir in a generous pinch of salt.
- Store in a jar in a cool, dark place (or refrigerate).