Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guanciale - Finally ready

After 2 months in the curing chamber, starting at 54 deg. F and 75% RH and dropping to 54 F and 65% RH after the 1st month, the guanciale is finally ready. It has a nice firmness and nice aroma.


It's lost about 17% of its weight. Such a low weight loss is to be expected for pieces that are largely fat like guanciale and pancetta. The majority of the water in meat is stored in the muscle, and a small amount in the fat, so on pieces that are mostly fat well...there just isn't much water to lose!
Either way, it had a nice firm feel to it. Probably about as firm as a tennis ball if i had to compare it to something, maybe even a little firmer.

This started off as 1/2 of a face of a Large Black pig from Caw Caw Creek. I've previously stated my preference for pancetta over guanciale....boy was I wrong. I might have to take that comment back after this latest product.

Here it is in all it's glory coming out of the curing chamber. It smells herby and delicious, but not really as strong as you might expect.
It really doesn't look that much different than the picture before it went into the chamber!
Just a little darker really.

Hey look! I can do those artsy, slightly overexposed closeups that other blogs do :) But we all know you're not reading for my pretty pictures, and normally I wouldn't dedicate too much time to it, but this time it was like a beautiful model posing for a camera...it was hard NOT to take beautiful photos. (Is it odd that I compare a cured meat made from pig throat to a model? I don't think so)

This one isn't quite as up-close as the last pic, but it's just too beautiful to not post it. You can see how the guanciale is really mostly fat, with a thin streak of meat in it. I'm sure the breed and DEFINITELY the way it's raised has something to do with that.

Guanciale has a strange textured fat. It's silky and smooth feeling, but when biting it it has a slight "crunch" to it, almost like a beef tendon which isn't fully cooked. I sliced it nice and thin on my slicer because of this, and it was a great choice.

This cured meat is normally eaten cooked in other dishes, but i couldn't help sneak a taste of a slice (note slice missing!). It's amazing. Slicing it thin alleviated the texture issue, making it feel and chew like a slice of pancetta. It's really rich and the salt is perfect this time. The spices are there but it tastes mostly of delicious delicious pig. That was my goal; given the quality of the meat i didn't want to overdo the spicing. I succeeded.


Pasta alla Gricia. This is how the guanciale ended up the 1st night. It's a very traditional Roman dish, sometimes called Amatriciana bianca. It's only oil, black pepper, guanciale and Pecorino Romano. The cheese and the fat from the guanciale, together with some of the pasta cooking water combine to make a creamy, smooth velvety sauce.

1/2 of the guanciale is in the fridge ready to be devoured and the other half was vacuum packed and frozen.

This has to be one of my most successful cured meats so far. It's really amazing. It's perfectly balanced and the flavor is outstanding. No off flavors at all. I have to think a great majority of the success is due to the pork I used.

48 comments:

scott said...

Pork candy if there could be such a thing. I've always favored it over pancetta. Nice pics, too!

Gioel said...

Please send me a piece

Jasonmolinari said...

GGGGGioel. I'll see what i can do. This stuff is like gold.

splicethemainbrace said...

That looks absolutely amazing.
Very nice work.

Jennifer S said...

One of the tastiest ways I've found to serve guanciale has been to slice it thin and serve it on crostini. It disappeared from the plate at our local Ferragosto dinner pretty darned fast!

I'm curing some now that's from a Red Wattle pig, and I'm looking forward to comparing it to my last batch.

Anonymous said...

I'm at work and I just saw the post...
I had to excuse myself and take a moment.
Incredible great stuff!

Russell Hews Everett said...

Excellent! Here's another use for it. When you buy guanciale from Salumi here in Seattle, they'll give you a copy of Armandino (Mario's dad) Battali's Carbonara recipe. I've transcribed it here. I make the recipe fairly regularly with my own guanciale, it's easy and pretty fantastic!

jimmy said...

looks better than mine Jason, thanks for all your guidance!

Need to take you up on that espresso maker some time...

Marc said...

Absolutely beautiful! Can't wait to find a source for pork like that!

matt said...

dang that looks absolutely fantastic. Nice work!

Jasonmolinari said...

Jimmy, anytime. Give me a call and come over and have a few espressos and borrow the loaner.

thanks mark & matt.

Bbq Dude said...

I love what you do. Neat stuff, I'm going to have to make me some guanciale. I mostly only cure bacon.

Question. What meat slicer do you use? I've heard the consumer-grade slicers suck, and I've had troubles finding a restaurant-grade one on craigslist at a reasonable price. Interested to hear what you use...

Jasonmolinari said...

BBQ dude, i dont think there are any decent consumer grade slicers....i use a small commerial 9 inch blade Berkel.

Kevin said...

Jason - looking at buying my first digital kitchen scale. I was looking over your pancetta recipe, and it calls for ingredients under 1 gram increments (0.8, 0.3, etc) - just wondering what type of scale you use to get that accuracy? All the one's I am seeing on Amazon for $30-45 say they have accuracy to 1 gram only.

ex: http://www.amazon.com/Polder-KSC-310-28-Digital-Glass-Silver/dp/B000G2OTM2/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1284479521&sr=1-1

Jasonmolinari said...

kevin, look on ebay. they're about $10 shipped from hong kong normally

scott said...

Like Jason said, look on ebay for a jeweler's scale.

AFI said...

Hello - I am planning my first cured meat. I have a bracaola curing now. I have read in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing that i can heavily salt water for my humidity. Have you or any of your readers ever tried this? I will be using a normal household fridge. Also, let's say the humidity is a low. the mat dries out faster, especially on the outside, but is is still safe since i am using cure #2?

Anthony

Jasonmolinari said...

Anthony, you need to use a tray of heavily wet salt, not just a salt solution. There needs to be excess salt in the tray of water. I have heard of people using that, and the downside is that it changes humidity very slowly.

If you run into case hardening, which means the outside dries before the center, the center will not be able to dry, and will eventually rot, even if you use cure #2.

AFI said...

I wonder if poking holes through the meat would prevent case hardening, or misting the meat once in a while?

Anthony

Jasonmolinari said...

AFI: those methods may or may not work...i'm not sure.
I don't think you want to be poking anything though, as it raises the possibility of contamination.

gabagool said...

Jason
Hi
Sorry for highjacking this.....but...
Since Im not into computers so much (after food info)I can't find where I can email you. So I am commenting HOPING that you read this comment and email me.

I am looking for your advice on two related subjects. I currently own a few restaurants. I WANT to open a chef driven gourmet (really can't think of the word for a shop that uses only the BEST ingredients, even the best BOLOGNA, but the BEST and even more important the BEST DOMESTIC ARTISAN products. I have made a little headway in getting names, but not as much as I want.

So, can you please tell me where I can find DOMESTIC artisan products such as proscuitto, pancetta, various salami's, etc. I really don't want to import, because I think we are beginning to make some really good stuff right here and I want to showcase it. (Really, I would like to make ALL my stuff in house, but I lack the experience. I will start off with a few that I do well, however)

So, charcuterie, cheeses, etc, anything you deem worthy. I would really appreciate it if you would get back to me. I look forward to it.
Thank you so very much.
nick

ps My email nck.romano@gmail.com
thanks.

Dave said...

Beautiful work! I'd kill for that pasta.

Jasonmolinari said...

thanks dave.

Cindy said...

Looks absolutely amazing. I need to get up the courage to cure meats.

JohnDipa said...

Hi Jason
I've never posted on your blog but I absolutely love the things you do. I lurk often. I have 2 questions for you, I notice you said that you vacuumed packed and froze half the guanciale, how long does it keep and how does it taste when thawed?
TIA
John

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks John.
Given that the guanciale lasts nearly indefinitely in the fridge, vac. packed in the freezer it'll be even longer!
I haven't defrosted this piece yet, so i don't know if the flavor will be affected, but other stuff i've made in the past hasn't been any different.

Tim said...

Jason,
So I procured myself some Caw Caw Creek jowl. Wow!!! What an amazing piece of meat. Huge, and covered in a beautiful layer of fatty goodness. Thanks for mentioning Caw Caw, I would have never known about them if it weren't for you. I actually do have a question though. So last year was my first attempt at Charcuterie and I ended up with a pretty amazing couple rolls of Pancetta, some Canadian Bacon and a few misc. items. Being that I'm obsessed with authenticity and food....I decided to try my hand at some Guanciale. The recipe I used was from, "Charcuterie." His recipe called for a 2lb jowl. Well mine was about 3.5lbs...I scaled up the amounts for salt, sugar about 175% due to the difference in weight. Was I right to do this? Second...They recommend a cure time of 4-6 days. I'm guessing mine will take longer due to size, thickness, etc. I see you cured yours for about 20 days. The recipe I used called for a little more salt. Will this shorten my cure time, or do you think the 20 days is what I'll need as well? Lastly it doesn't recommend a temp/humidity. Just says cool/dry place to hang. I'm shooting for 50-60 degrees and 60-70 RH. Sound good? Thanks for everything you do. You're an inspiration to all Charcuterie enthusiasts.

Tim

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Tim. I'm sure you'll enjoy Caw Caw pork!

You did the right thing in scaling. That's why i give me formulas with a % of meat+fat. That way you can easily scale based on how much you have.

I don't think 4-6 days is enough time in the salt cure to get it all the way to the center and equilibrated. More cure won't hurt it, since ultimately you want the cure fully penetrated across the thickness of the meat. 14-20 days should work. It will depend on thickness, and i prefer to err towards curing longer to make sure it's gone all the way through. Could you do it less? Sure...but how much less? No idea.

The amount of salt will shorted cure time a little, since you can assume that the product is cured once you have about 3%-3.5% salt in the middle. If you start with a higher concentration of salt on the surface, you'll reach that 3.5% in the center quicker. But the time is unknown without a lot of complex math and analysis of salt distribution over time through meat and fat.
I rather just put what i know i want it to absorb (about 3.5%) and leave it for enough time that i'm sure it's gone all the way through (14-21 days).

Guanciale and pancetta a forgiving on their temp/humidity. 50-60 (i would prefer about in the middle of that. 60 is a tiny tiny bit high,but still ok probably) and 60-70RH will be ok for this, but is probably a tiny bit low for salame. Well 60 is a tiny bit low, 70 would be fine.

Sounds like you're on the right track!

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

So I ended up using about 122 g of salt following Charcuterie. With this amount you think 14-20 days will be good? Thanks for your quick and thoughtful response. Again, I appreciate what you're doing here.

Tim

Jasonmolinari said...

that's 7.6% salt if my math is correct. It's very high. 14-20 will cure it, but it may be quite salty when it's done.

TCollins said...

Yikes....I just put it on last night. Would you recommend removing then re-applying the correct amount? Would I just rinse, dry and re-apply? Thanks Jason

Tim

Jasonmolinari said...

I'm not really sure, b/c now some of the salt and cure #2 was absorbed but you dont know how much.....i would probably leave it...

TCollins said...

You're probably right....Maybe I'll just increase the cure time in relation to the difference I adjusted with the actual cure. In Charcuterie Ruhlman/Polcyn say 4-6 days for a 2lb jowl with the same ratios I used. So I'll go 7-10 days and maybe the end result will not too salty. Jason you are like Yoda of Charcuterie. Thanks for working through this with me. I'll be sure to post results down the line.

Tim

Jasonmolinari said...

heh, thanks Tim. I think if you cure it for 10-12 days you should be ok. It'll feel nice and firm, but not hard as a board.

TCollins said...

10-12 days it is! I'll keep you posted. Thanks Jason

Christopher I said...

Hi Jason,

I'm ready to store my guanciale, it turned out great, very tasty, so thanks for all your advice along the way!

Only one question now -- I have this huge chunk of pork... what's the best way to store it? I don't have a vacuum packer unfortunately, so that's not an option unless I can find some local store willing to do it for me.

Other ideas? And what about fridge storage...what should I wrap it in, etc?

Thanks!
Christopher

Jasonmolinari said...

In the fridge it'll last a good long time wrapped in plastic wrap and zip lock bag.
You could also plastic wrap and then aluminum foil wrap and then bag and put it in the freezer...it'll last.

Mosaica said...

Ciao Jason :-)

I'm another one who has started to make guanciale from Procyn & Ruhlman's Charcuterie. I don't have the means to DIY a curing chamber as such, and so I have planned to hang it in front of a window which I always cracked a few inches. I'm up in Vermont, and so that window area is generally around 55 degrees.

So I'm thinking of hanging it there, and putting a drip pan under it.

I'm concerned about how the (limited) light will impact the guanciale, especially the fat, so I've thought to make a sort of bell-shaped cardboard guard to hang around the guanciale. Or maybe I should swath it in a bit of cheesecloth? I know I can't specify (or even measure yet) the humidity, but my understanding is that guanciale is more forgiving than most charcuterie with regard to humidity.

I'd very much appreciate a little feedback if you have time; this is my first attempt at curing, and I'm a little unsure.

And thanks for all the fantastic inspiration you provide!

Buona serata,

../mosaica

Jasonmolinari said...

55 degrees will work well, and yes guanciale and pancetta a little less demanding on humidity...but you should still get a hygrometer to measure it, so you know where you stand.

You can even dry it in your fridge on a cake rack on your bottom shelf...

Mosaica said...

Thanks Jason --that's just the sort of thing I needed to hear. Now I go shopping for a hygrometer :-)

Grazie!

Mosaica said...

Buon natale Jason :-)

I just tasted my first home-made guanciale, and it's beautiful. thanks for the advice and encouragement along the way! You can take a look at my blog when you have a chance: http://butchersapprentice.wordpress.com/

Again, thanks for being such a generous resource :-)

Jasonmolinari said...

Grazie Mosaica...i'm glad it worked well!

TCollins said...

Jason,
Mine turned out excellent as well. Thanks for all the help and advice along the way. You're doing gods work here. Keep on keeping on.

Tim

Jasonmolinari said...

Heh, thanks Tim. Idont know about God's work, but i'm glad i'm helping people have some fun and make some good stuff.

Toast said...

Hey Jason - I just discovered your blog. Thanks a million for your specifics on your curing chamber etc... I've got a spare fridge in the basement that is just begging for a conversion.

I'm on the south side of Atlanta and was curious as to where you get your meat locally?

Also, just out of curiosity... how long will something like this, providing it doesn't get eaten up in a few days, last/keep in a fridge?

Thanks in advance and keep up the great work!

Jasonmolinari said...

I get a lot of my meat from Costco or Buford highway farmer's market. Caw Caw creek is my source for premium meats.

Once an item is properly salted and dried, it'll last close to indefinitely in the fridge. Teh quality will degrade, but it'll be safe.

Jay Bui said...

I made this using your recipe and just took it out of the curing chamber yesterday and made carbonara. It was SO GOOD. There's a natural sweetness to guanciale that you don't even need to add sugar. And you are right about the salt, it is just right.