Back in February for the Charcutepalooza challenge, I made several bacons, and at the same time I mixed up a wildly fragrant dry cure including salt, a bit of Muscovado sugar, toasted and crushed black & white peppercorns, fresh thyme, coriander, crushed bay leaves, juniper berries, allspice, nutmeg, smashed garlic, and a few of my fiery dried chili peppers, and I rubbed all of this into a 4-lb slab of pork belly which I sourced from Mike Bowen at North Hollow Farm. The bacons cured in each their own ziplocks in the fridge, and after a week and a day or so, they were roasted and turned out extremely well.
The pancetta in it’s ziplock also went into the ‘fridge, but it cured a bit longer than the bacons; there was a lot of packing & moving upheaval, so the pancetta was probably in the ‘fridge for closer to 12 days.
I was undecided as to whether I wanted to do the classic pancetta arrolata (rolled) or the tesa or stesa version, which is air-cured flat. I was uncertain because I had a curing environment which was hard to keep decently humid, and I worried that the rolled version might not be able to dry steadily, that the surface might dry too quickly which might cause the inside to not be able to dry properly and perhaps even rot! However, after extensive reading and consulting with fellow charcuterie folk, I was pretty sure that I’d be okay humidty-wise, so I went for the arrolata.
I have to say that I’m really glad I chose to do the rolled version; even with my humidity-challenged curing environment I ended up, after 25 days, with the best pancetta I’ve ever tasted, and it is really handsome to boot.
After rinsing off the cure and patting the belly dry, I sprinkled the inside with pepper, rolled it up tight, tied it very snugly, and rubbed the entire roll with pepper, paying special attention to each end.
At this point I hung the pancetta to dry in my curing environment, which averaged around 45% humidity and 50°F/10°C. The Big Move happened, and for the last week the pancetta hung in a much different environment which averaged 65% humidity and 60°/15° to 65°/18°. Despite its tumultuous cure, the pancetta just seemed to get better and better: fragrantly sweet and spicy, no mold of any sort, and a nice firm feel. I suspect I could have cured it for longer, but I was a little concerned about the new warmer environment, and I just felt like it was time. Also, having just returned home from the excellent Cochon workshop in Maine, I was very inspired to taste the fruit of my most recent charcuterie project!
I sliced the pancetta in two and was delighted at how beautiful the inside was:
..and it smelled fantastic. I decided to fry up a slice to go with two of the duck eggs I’d brought home from Neal’s farm. With a bit of buttered bread, it was a delicious breakfast:
This is a charcuterie project that I will without a doubt repeat many times; It’s straightforward and produces such a versatile and tasty cured meat. I’m looking forward to using it in more complex dishes in the weeks to come, such as Marco Wiles’s parsley & pancetta salad, or maybe some fresh spring asparagus wrapped in pancetta and fried. All in all I’d have to say that the deliciousness potential is at an elevated level