Friday, August 15, 2008

Pancetta - Off to the curing chamber

The pancetta has been curing with its spices and salt for about 10 days. It's become pretty firm and the flavors should have permeated the meat fully. Time to move it to the curing chamber.

This is what the pancetta looks like as it comes out of the bag.

The spices get rinsed under cold running water, and then the belly gets patted dry.

Here is the rinsed pancetta. Really pretty uneventful, or uninteresting.
The meat looks darker and definitely feels firmer than it was when raw.

A spice mixtures is made up. For this one I mixed 2 teaspoons of very coarse black pepper, 5 crushed bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper.

Here is the cured pork belly rubbed with the spice mixture. Really press the pepper and spices into the meat. Put a string through it to hang and that's it. Easy.

Now, for people who don't have a curing fridge, the drying is also very easy. Put the pancetta on a cake rack, and then on a plate, and put it in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks. The cake rack on the plate will allow the air to circulate around it reaching all sides of the meat. If you just put it on a plate, the surface touching the plate will stay wet.

If you do have a curing fridge, put it in there. I put mine in, at about 54 deg. F and about 60% humidity.

Humidity for pancetta isn't super critical since it is quite thin and has a lot of surface area, which will allow it to dry pretty evenly even if the ambient is too dry for other cured meats (like in a fridge).


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pancetta - The easiest cured meat of all!

If bacon makes everything better, then pancetta makes everything better still! It's similar to bacon, in that they are both made with pork belly, but that's where the similarities end. Pancetta is normally unsmoked and dry cured and can be made flat or rolled into a pinwheel, whereas bacon is smoked and not left to dry and always sold flat.
Pancetta is really very similar to guanciale, and the spices and herbs used could be used on either one. This particular pork product is probably the easiest and most accessible cured meat that can be made at home. So, why didn't I show this one first on this blog? Because I already had some in my fridge at the time! I still don't really need any, but I had a defrosted piece of Tamworth pork belly that had to be used, so I figured I'd make pancetta. After all, is it really possible to have too much cured pork belly? I think not!

The reason I say that it is the most accessible cured meat is that it can be made without a curing chamber. I've done it. It works. I even did a side by side comparison of 2 pieces of pork belly one cured in my chamber, and one in the fridge, and they were almost identical. So...if you're looking to get into cured meats, dive in with pancetta!

IngredientQuantity(g)% of Meat+Fat
Pork belly
Black Pepper
Brown Sugar
Cure #21.10.26%
Bay Leaves
Dry Thyme
Garlic1 clove

I had a pretty small piece of pork belly, so that's what i used. It's preferable to have it skin on, but if you can only find it without be it.

All the spices, salts, sugar and herbs are mixed together. The small piece of pork didn't require much cure.

The cure is rubbed all over the pork belly and massaged into the meat. The meat is then put into a zip bag and into the fridge to cure. Allowing the salts and herbs to penetrate the meat.

In about 7-10 days the meat will be rinsed, and hung in the curing chamber for as long as one might choose to wait. 2 weeks minimum though.