I have been wanting to try my hand in Charcuterie forEVER, but in Bermuda I was always worried about humidity levels. You can't really hang dry a piece of meat when there is 77% humidity year round! A basement in the winter in New England is another story. There are perfect conditions right now; about 55 degrees and very dry. For those who do not know, pancetta is similar to bacon. They are both made from pork belly, but bacon is cured and smoked, pancetta only cured. It came out amazing, one of the favorite things I have ever made. I was a bit worried while it was hanging because it formed a hard crust on the outside that was not mentioned in any of the recipes I saw. Cutting away the crust was like unveiling a lost artifact from another time. People go nutty for bacon these days, with whole blogs devoted to bacon in anything from breakfast to dessert, but most people use the thin sliced, brine cured supermarket crap bacon. You have not tried bacon until you have tried it like this.
This picture was taken what seems like AGES ago. I like recipes that take a silly amount of time. These things take dedication and are worth every minute!
The basic dry cure mix from ruhlman's website.
Removing the skin from the belly.
And spreading on the cure. This went into the fridge in a zip lock bag. It sat for a week. I visited often to flip it over, rub in the salt, and read it bedtime stories.
After a week, it was more a liquid than a dry rub.
Rinse off the cure. Rinse it really well.
Tie it up tight! The chow website has a nice tying tutorial.
The tying was my favorite part. Ruhlman skips this step! I had a lot of fun with it and took a ton of pictures. Also, the rolling and tying made for less surface area and less of the "crust" I mentioned earlier.
This hung for about 10 days. Again, I visited often, this time to check on the smells, temps, and to play classical music for it.
Note the crustyness I spoke of.
I thought it was just salt leeching out of the meat, but it was really tough and off color too, so I decided to cut it off.
Unwrapping the greatest present.
The fat melting in my hand was a highlight for me, so I wanted to share it with you guys.
I needed to test some right away so I knew what I was working with in recipes later.
Meanwhile I cut a bunch into lardons, and left some in one big chunk.
The test strip was SUPER salty! Notice the salt sitting on it? It came out of the meat while it was in the oven! Crazy. But when I brushed off the salt, oh was it delicious. It tasted crazy savory like super bacon, but at the same time, didn't scream bacon the way grocery store bacon does. I feel like that isn't a good description, but that is the best I got for you. The texture was the more amazing thing. It was almost shreddy like a slow cooked pork, but not melty-shreddy.
To combat the salt, I soaked the cubes in water for an hour and a half, changing the water 3 times. Later in dinner, they tasted perfect.
Amazing carbonara with the homemade pancetta. The one everyone hates with cream in it!
I used a lot of help from the two websites I already mentioned. Chow, and Ruhlman. Other than that, I just took my time and thought about what I was doing. The way slow food like this should be. Speaking of slow food, shout out to Austin Brothers Farm in Belchertown, MA where I procured this delicious fresh pork belly.