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Pancetta

Posted by on November 25, 2013

Grocery store pancetta usually sells for $25 per pound and tastes like nothing more than salt. Using CHOW‘s recipe, I have created an $11 per pound version that’s twice as delicious. Translation: this pancetta has more than 4x more deliciousness per dollar than than the storebought version. Yeah, math!

A few notes:

  • Butcher’s twine looks just like normal twine, but hasn’t been treated with nasty chemicals that could leach into your food. This twine won’t cause you cancer.
  • I used sustainably-raised pork belly. It tastes better, no doubt.
  • Pancetta must be cooked, even after curing and drying.

Pancetta

Ingredients

The meat

  • 1  pork belly, about 5 pounds

The cure

  • 3 tablespoons freshly-ground or -crushed black pepper
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons curing salt, I use this one
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 dry bay leaves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves

Pepper

  • 3 tablespoons freshly-ground or -crushed black pepper

Equipment

  • Butcher’s twine, something like this

Directions

Mix the cure ingredients together in a small bowl.

To prepare the pork belly, you’ll need to remove the skin. This is tough. With a sharp boning knife (or other smallish sharp knife), make a slice just under the skin, leaving as much fat attached to the meat as possible. Rotate the pork belly so this slice is furthest away from you, and pull the skin towards you. Make cuts just under the skin while maintaining tension on the skin. Cut off as little fat and meat as possible. Remove the skin completely and make chicharrones. YUM.

Begin the curing process by placing the prepared pork belly on a rimmed baking sheet or glass dish. Rub the cure over all surfaces, including edges and corners. Wrap the pork belly tightly in plastic wrap. Place it back on the baking sheet and add weights to the top surface. I used 8 cans of tomatoes. Refrigerate for 7 days.

Flip the pork belly every day, leaving it weighted in the refrigerator. After 7 days, the meat should be noticeably dense. The article suggested matching the pork belly’s firmness to that of a soccer ball. I’m no soccer player, so this comparison is lost on me. If the texture feels like raw meat, cure for three more days.

After you’ve cured the meat, remove it from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap, and rinse off the cure. Don’t worry when a small amount of spices do not come off. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Don’t hold back. You want it as dry as reasonably possible.

Now you get to use that extra saved-up pepper. Sprinkle pepper on the meat (not fat) side of the pork belly. Cut about ten 12-inch lengths of butcher’s twine so you’re prepared to tie it up when the time comes. Now’s the fun part.

Starting from whichever edge makes logical sense, roll the pork belly into a tight cylinder. I started with the thicker of one of the shorter edges. You want the roll to have uniform thickness and as few air pockets as possible. Tie pieces of twine at 1-inch intervals along the length of the roll. Around one of the ends, tie a long piece of twine which you’ll use to facilitate hang-drying. Trim the excess twine from all the knots except the one used for hanging; this will make your pancetta look much cooler.

Roll the pancetta in the remaining black pepper. This helps both for appearance and allegedly keeps flies away. Hopefully your home is not fly-infested. Hang out of direct sunlight in a non-drafty, humid, and cool place. Basements work well, but I hung it over my kitchen sink and had zero problems.

Your goal is for the pancetta to lose about 30% of its weight. Check this by weighing it before and after. Letting the pancetta hang-dry for 2 weeks will do the trick. After drying, the pancetta will be firm and dense, and the outside will have the consistency of leather. You may notice some white or green mold on the ends. This is not a big deal; slice it off and discard after the drying process is finished. If you smell rancidity or nastiness, throw away that meat because something went wrong. You should only notice slightly sweet or savory smells wafting from the pancetta.

You have created pancetta! Store it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. When ever you have the urge, slice off a chunk, fry it up, and enjoy. It’ll last a month or more in the refrigerator.

Pancetta

4 Responses to Pancetta

  1. mayK

    Thanks both for the recipe and photo of the really good looking pancetta.
    I will make these now in the wintertime and hope for the best.

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