Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heritage Foods Guanciale Taste-off

20131214-IMG_4097 Heritage foods is a company which sources and resells premium, small farm, meats from around the country. Really, this is the kind of pork you want to be curing. Small farms raising heritage breed pigs in a happy environment on good feed. A while back someone from Heritage Foods contacted me asking if I wanted to try some of their products for curing. Of course I did! After a little back and forth with them, I told them that rather than just curing a couple different cuts of pork, why not cure the same cut from two different breeds, and see if there are any organoleptic differences between just breeds, keeping all other variables the same.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 10.20.59 PM As you can see, I kept the curing mixture about as simple as it comes.

You’ll have to excuse the generally poor pictures. It was really hard to get the right color balance and exposures of the meat for some reason. Anyhow, you’re not here because this is a photography blog!

20130519-IMG_2273 2 Berkshire jowls in the package. These came from Larry and Madonna Sorell of Lazy S.Farms in Cloud County, Kansas.
20130519-IMG_2275 The untrimmed, just out of the package Berkshire jowls
20130519-IMG_2276 Back side of the jowls. Unfortunately the processor skinned them. I’m not sure why, but it would be nice if one could request these skin on, it’s very preferable, you’ll see why later.
20130519-IMG_2277 Berkshire side shot
20130519-IMG_2278 Red wattle package with meat from David Holthaus's 500 acres in Decorah, Iowa.
20130519-IMG_2279 Again, untrimmed red wattle jowls
20130519-IMG_2281 Trimmed from glands and other undesired materials.
20130519-IMG_2282 I cured one of each jowl type under vacuum
20130608-IMG_2703 After a couple weeks the jowls were rinsed and patted dry and then….
20130608-IMG_2704 Coated in plain black pepper. Nothing more.
20130608-IMG_2710 Ready for the curing chamber

20131214-IMG_4093 The jowls dried for 5 months at about 55 deg. F and 75% RH.
Berkshire on the left, Red Wattle on the right.
20131214-IMG_4097 The finished, cut product. Berkshire on left and Red Wattle on right again.
These are beauties. The only “error” is the very slight oxidative rancidity that can be seen as yellowing fat on the outer bottom edge. This is do to the jowls being skinned, and not having that extra protection.
Not a huge deal, it can be removed, or eaten if one prefers.

So….what’s the result? Do different breed pigs taste different? The answer is…..maybe! :) Let me explain. The two guanciali I produced taste REMARKABLY different. The Berkshire is smooth, tasty, mellow and nicely porky. Really nice…it’s like a warm embrace of pig. The Red Wattle is a punch in the mouth of porkyness. It’s heavy, thick in flavor, intense and punchy.

So, what’s the deal? Obviously the breed made a big difference! Well, maybe! There are a couple of uncontrolled/uncontrollable variables, a major one being feed. While both these pigs led happy lives, their diets were almost certainly very different, and THAT could have been the major contributor to the flavor difference, and not the breed. We’ll never know I guess.

The question remains unanswered then, in the meantime I will thoroughly enjoy BOTH these jowls immensely, and want to thank Heritage Foods for sending me this amazing product. I highly recommend you guys take a look at their products, they’re really superb. If you order, ask if they can leave the skin on:)


Unknown said...

Very interesting Jason, thanks for posting. I am doing some guanciale at the moment but they have only been curing for about 2 months.. I skinned the jowls, thinking that the cured skin would be tough and unappetising. Is this so?

Jasonmolinari said...

the skin in inedible, but it's removed before used once it's dry

Heritage Foods USA said...

What a great experiment and wonderful report. We are so glad you enjoyed the jowls and made such an excellent product with them.
A note on breeds - though the animals were fed slightly differently at different farms, the different flavors you described for the Berkshire and Red Wattle are definitely characteristics of those breeds. The Berkshire is known to be smooth and flavorful and the Red Wattle is sought after for its punchy, earthy taste.
Happy eating!

GadgetGeek said...

Great info Jason. Thanks for the details.

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Heritage foods....good to know my tasting match up to what might be expected of the breeds!

Mark S. said...

first your Blog is awesome
second, over the last year I have gotten into curing meats and have adopted your methods as my baseline.

in the last year I have made pancetta, duck prosciutto, duck confit and cold smoked salmon.

I have been working through a 22lb pork belly I bought from Sherk Farms in Penn Yan Ny, a Mennonite butcher, and using your 2.5% salt, 1% sugar, .25% cure baseline and seasoning with whatever herbs and spices are coming strong from my vegetable garden. without exception, the product has been amazing.

all my xmas presents to my family (and several friends) were cured meats, at their request.

thanks for the great blog!

Jasonmolinari said...

thanks mark, i'm glad evertthing is working out!

Anonymous said...


Clearly you need to repeat the experiment again to get good scientific results. As a scientist yourself, you know that n must be at least 30 for statistical significance. It would be so sad to see so much pork go to waste once the experiments are over. So just send it all to me. :-)


Jasonmolinari said...

How right you are, ez !

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

hello jason your blog is very good,i am just starting to get into curing meats.only thing i dont know exactly haw to do is ,how to use curing salts.could you write a post or answer here whats the rule of thumb it 10 persent of salt that you are using or 0.25 persent of meat weight i dont get it.thanks in advance.i am folowing your blog from georgia tbilisi?)

Jasonmolinari said...

Misho, based on the cures available here, it's 0.25% of the weight of the meat.

Unknown said...

thank you for your answer.i will get the cures from so it will be the same i think,also i would like to know do you use sea salt or table salt or its the same as long as it does not have iodine in it and how do you decide to use 2,2.5 or 3 parsent salt.i like your blog very much and i wish to be at your level soon:)))

Jasonmolinari said...

Sea salt is great, but any salt that doesn't have iodine is fine.

Stick to 2.5% salt or higher generally, and experiment by taste.

Unknown said...

thanks again for your answer. i wish you the very best:)

Unknown said...

Hi Jason,

It's great to see a new post on your blog....thanks for being such a great resource and your willingness to answer questions!!

Your guanciale look amazing as always. Do you notice a big difference between guanciale dried for say 1-2 months versus drying for the 5 months that you did here? After drying for 5 months, do you cook your sliced guanciale like bacon, or do you serve it crudo?

Jasonmolinari said...

The flavor difference is definitely there between 1-2 months and 5 months, but i've never tried them side by side.
I usually use the guanciale for cooking, but sliced raw on warm bread is great too.

Anonymous said...

Love the blog. Ordered some goodies from Heritage foods including a jowl. They are leaving he skin on. I'll let you know how it turns out in 5-6 months. Keep up the good work.

Jasonmolinari said...

Very glad to hear they were able to "customize" your order! That's one great thing about a small company

Unknown said...

Have you ever considered putting all your recipes in a single place for quick reference? Or a table of contents? If that's the right term for a blog.

Jasonmolinari said...

You can see the recipes by selectiong the Recipes tag on the right side, it'll filter to posts that have recipes.

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

why do some of your guanciale recipes call for sugar but not this one?

Jasonmolinari said...

just depends on my mood. As long as salt is maintained you can vary other items.