A cracklin is a fried piece of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin. Cracklin is generally considered to be part of soul food or Cajun cuisine. Cracklins are not frequently served as part of a regular meal unless they are served in cracklin bread, which is cornbread in which cracklins have been placed in the batter prior to its being baked or fried. Rather, they are a snack item which would typically be served at times other than regular mealtimes, and are regarded as more of a delicacy or treat.
Cracklins are naturally very high in fat and cholesterol, which is to be expected considering what they are composed of and the fact that they are generally prepared by being deep- or skillet-fried in lard. Cracklins prepared by persons who conduct the home butchering of hogs, which is still occasionally conducted in the rural South although with decreasing frequency, have a decidedly different taste from those which are distributed nationally or internationally.
In the early 1960s the FDA implemented new rules regarding the commercial preparation and sale of cracklins, and the availability of the traditional cracklins diminished rapidly. Today's commercial versions, which are light and airy, bear little resemblance in either appearance or taste to the old-fashioned cracklins which used to be available from local butchers and supermarkets. The new version is heavily fried and light in taste compared to the older cracklins, which are greasy and occasionally have hair still attached to the fried flesh and fat combination.
Many aficionados much prefer the original variety of cracklins which today sometimes can be found in small enclaves, such as the Amish, who still prepare the product using traditional methods. But the Amish are reluctant to sell them to outsiders, unless they know them personally.