Best Pancetta Ever

Spicy pancetta dry cure

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.

a slab of pork belly in dry cure

A slab of North Hollow Farm pork belly after 11 days in dry cure

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.

The pancetta rolled, tied, and peppered

The pancetta rolled, tied, and peppered

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!

The finished pancetta

The finished pancetta

I sliced the pancetta in two and was delighted at how beautiful the inside was:

A rolled pancetta cut in two

Pancetta arrolata cut in two

..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:

First taste: two fried duck eggs a lá Neal, fried pancetta, and bread

First taste: two fried duck eggs a lá Neal, fried pancetta, and bread & butter

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 😉


About mosaica

Ugly & fabulous, warm & obsessive, brilliant & dorkmeisterish: striving to be a warrior in her little context.
This entry was posted in bacon, charcuterie, pork and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Best Pancetta Ever

  1. Mark S. says:

    Looks awesome. I love the photos including the books.

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Mark! I dunno if you can see what the bottom book is, but it’s a great old book of physics & chemistry formulae. In my old kitchen, that stack of books often served as a laptop stand when I was chopping & watching films simultaneously 😉

  2. Wonderful looking slices of bread!
    Great plate too!

    Sis ^^

  3. Gorgeous! Our rolled pancetta didn’t work out this time (didn’t roll it tight enough – got a bit gooey and yucky on this inside) but like intrepid Charcutepalloozers (?) we salvaged what we could which will be going into a frittata this weekend. Strangely, our first ever attempt at Pancetta, 2 years ago, before we even knew about Charcutepalooza, was a huge success. We used Charcuterie then too – I guess we just weren’t careful enough about the rolling. Sigh. I will live vicariously through your success!

    • mosaica says:

      Thank you, Mardi! There really is a fine line, I’m finding, in making charcuterie: a hair’s breadth of uncertainty on my part, or a pesky wild culture can turn one’s pride and joy into an expensive “oops.” I actually got my first bit of white mold (which I rubbed off with vinegar) on this pancetta after it went into the fridge. It was on the outside, which made it easy to spot, but boy am I glad I tied it as tight as I could.

  4. Ross says:

    The dry cure sounds delicious, Where can I find the recipe? I am looking to get into the world of charcuterie and a bacon/pancetta seems like a good entry point for a newbie. Would you agree?


    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Ross; it really was (and is) scrumptious! I adapted slightly the recipe given in Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn’s excellent Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. I used Muscovado sugar, which is really lovely and dark, and I added a bit of allspice and a few of my own dried hot peppers, ground up.

      I’d also encourage you to visit & explore the blogs of Jason Molinari and Mark S. both of whom make some stunning cured meats.

      Finally, if you’re looking for a good starter project, I highly recommend guanciale, which because of its slim and small size is great for less-than-ideal curing enviroments; guanciale cures fast. If you do go with Pancetta, consider making a tesa or stesa version, which is cured flat, instead of the arrolata version, which because it is rolled needs to cure for a bit longer. Good luck!

  5. Leif says:

    Your pancetta is beautiful and well rolled, a great job.
    Will you store this in the fridge now, or in your curing room? How long do you think it will keep?
    PS. I had a great week with Kate Hill and Co. and enjoyed the course a lot, it was really instructive

  6. Wayne says:

    What were the measurements for the cure.


    • mosaica says:

      Hi Wayne. Essentially, I followed the instructions and ingredients in Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie, with some loose & liberal tweaks. I honestly wish I kept better records, but at some level once I understand the basic ratios of a given cure, I follow those and then embellish using my cook’s intuition. Hope you succeed with your pancetta!

  7. birthemor says:

    That Pork Pie is a piece of beauty and it tasted great! Not only are you a great cook, but also an artist!

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