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October 6, 2012

Making Pancetta

Since the bacons on our just butchered pig were not very big (as expected), I'm making pancetta from some of the better belly pieces.

A small small bacon which is the belly part of the pork. Not like last year's.

Pancetta and not bacon? Can you believe it? Rest easy, friend.... pancetta is a kinda of bacon. Its cured with savory spices and then hung to dry. Its not smoked. But you can use it the same way. Most of last winter I'd slice paper thin pieces and fry them up for breakfast. And when used as the start of a complicated bolognese... oh heaven.

I love Ruhlman's, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curingand have been using this as my reference for all bacon and meat salting. But he's just released another book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curingand I'm going to be all over that. It has a chapter dedicated just to making pancetta!

The pancetta process is easy - first get yourself a pork belly. If you don't have a pork standing in your yard begging you to butcher it- then you can always just ask the guy at your meat counter to order one for you. I don't have any idea how expensive they are. Mine are free. Ha!

Trim up your belly then get your cure ready. The only specialty ingredients you need are "pink salt," such as Instacure #2 for Drying Meats 1 Pound, which has nitrates in it to help with the curing process and also juniper berries (a spice).  Folks have different opinions about nitrates. I think they make salted meats more "bacon-y" and I don't worry about it. I can't find juniper berries at my local grocery so I'll be ordering some online (such as, Juniper Berries Whole - 1.6 OZ). I didn't have it for previous pancettas but those turned out fabulously. The key to pancetta is the savory spices.

Spices - how easy is this? Salt, spices, brown sugar.

Mix up your spices, coat your belly, and seal it up in a bag. Everyday take it out of the fridge and turn it over to keep the cure evenly distributed. After about a week you are go for action. Then find a cool spot and hang your cured meat. I'm a little squeamish about properly rolling a pancetta, as per tradition, so I just wrapped them in cheese cloth and hung them in the basement.

At this point someone normally starts screaming about food safety and aren'tcha gonna die, die, DIE with all that reckless meat hanging? Um. I'm not dead yet and folks have been doing this for centuries. Truth is, I'm more concerned about those folks who got the listeria from their bagged salads and cantaloupes and what not.  The fact is, food from your yard is probably safer than anything you can buy in the store. By the time your food products get to your cart they've probably traveled hundreds of miles and been handled by who knows how many people.

Our pork traveled on its own accord up the hill from its yard.  Then we drug it into the house in big chunks. All within 2 hours. So you go ahead and squawk about food safety but I think I gotcha beat by a mile, if you catch my meaning.

So while I'm disappointed that I'm not going to get any smoked bacon from this pork - I can't wait for this pancetta. It looks to be the best one yet.

Happy Saturday everyone! Whatcha standing there for? Go and cure your meat!