Monday, February 21, 2011

Bacon and Pancetta

Charcutepalooza is in full swing.  It took me a while to get my hands on pink salt, meaning that I'm a bit behind schedule.

A while back I bought a slab of pork belly from my friend and favorite pig farmer, Lisa.  My intent was to cure some pancetta - this was pre-Charcutepalooza  - but I was intimidated by the prospect of taking a $20-slab of meat and hanging it up.  The pork belly languished in the freezer for a couple of months. 

Luckily for me, Charcutepalooza came along, and with it the February challenge to make either fresh bacon or pancetta.  It was time for the pork belly to awaken from its deep slumber.

Not knowing what I would do with several pounds of pancetta, I opted to make both the fresh bacon AND the pancetta.  As you can see here, I've trimmed the meat to make it rectangular (more important for the pancetta than the bacon).  The scraps got cut into chunks and made into salt pork.

For the pancetta I made up the meat rub, a combination of pink salt, pepper, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, and a few other things.  Since freshly ground nutmeg can be a pain to weigh, I put the entire grater into the bowl and zero-ed out the scale.  Then I grated my nutmeg and periodically weighed it.  When it hit the correct weight, I opened up the grater and dumped its contents into the bowl.  This was much easier than grating the nutmeg directly into the bowl.

Wish you could have smelled this.

The fresh bacon called just for the "Basic Dry Cure".  It contains sugar, kosher salt, and pink salt.  I've found it's helpful to write down the page number & source book so that I can replicate it at a future date.  If not, Sharpie comes off with rubbing alcohol.

Here are the meats in their respective cures, bacon on the left, pancetta on the right.

These went into a pyrex dish and into the fridge for a week to cure.  I flipped them daily and was really grateful for that dish after about day 2 - baggies will leak.  Yuck.

I'm now in phase two of curing these meats.  The bacon has to get baked at 200 degrees until its internal temp reaches 150.  Unfortunately, I am sans oven until at least 2/23 when our new one gets here.  It's gas and the old one is electric so we have some plumbing work to do between now and then.  Back into the freezer the bacon went... sigh.

The pancetta, however, is another story.  When its week of wet curing was over, I trussed that sucker up.  To do this, you rinse off the meat, pat it dry, then sprinkle it with pepper.  You roll it up from the short end and then secure it with cotton butcher's twine.  The goal is to get it as tight as possible with no air pockets trapped inside.  It was kind of fun, actually.

I had this image in my head the whole time.  I relate to Mammy in a whole new way now!

The stairwell to our attic goes up from our kitchen.  Many people don't notice it because I've hung all my pots and pans on the door.  A few years ago I hung wire shelving in the stairwell and call it "the pantry".  Since our attic isn't insulated (OK, much of the house isn't), the pantry is the perfect place to hang my pancetta.  It's cool, dry, and out-of-reach of our 2 cats and 1 dog. 

The meat weighed 1043 grams when I trussed it.  The goal is for it to lose 30% of its weight (730 grams).  I'll weigh it in a few days to see how it's doing.

In the meantime, I'll be looking up recipes that use pancetta.  Let me know if you have a must-try recipe!

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