Now that summer has come to a close, my family takes to the kitchen to stock up for winter. Blueberry jam, cranberry marmalade, crabapple sauce are some of what we use with our annual harvest, but lately my dad’s been experimenting with bacon and pancetta.
If you haven’t been introduced to my father, he is the owner of Sausage Mania, a website with thorough tutorials on sausage making, lox, pesto and more. Here’s a photo of the Sausage Meister in action:
He hasn’t added pancetta to his site yet so I thought I’d take this opportunity to post on his behalf.
If you’ve ever cooked an authentic Italian soup, pasta dish or risotto, chances are the recipe has called for pancetta, which is like bacon but not smoked. It can be expensive at grocery stores and sometimes it’s hard to find.
Here’s a little intro video to pancetta:
Here’s how to make it yourself. It’s a six-week process, but it’ll be well worth the wait! A digital kitchen scale that can weigh 1-1,000 grams will come in handy as you will need to weigh the curing spices.
- One pork belly, 10 pounds
- 125 g. kosher salt
- 11 g. Prague powder No. 2 – a curing salt
- 79 g. brown sugar
- 82 g. whole black peppercorns
- 23 g. red pepper flakes
- 23 g. juniper berries
- 11 g. garlic powder
- 11 g. thyme, dried
- 7 g. bay leaf, dried
- Wash the pork belly with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. This reduces the amount of bacteria present on the pork.
- For semi-dried pancetta (must be cooked before consuming), use cure #1 in your curing mixture.
- For traditional, fully dried pancetta (can be eaten without cooking), use cure #2 in your curing mixture.
- Combine all of the cure and spice ingredients in a spice grinder and pulse until ground finely.
- Coat the belly very well on all sides, rubbing the cure into the meat. Use all of the cure. What doesn’t stick to the meat should be included when wrapped.
- Wrap belly tightly several times in cling wrap, or vacuum seal in a bag. Place the curing meat into the refrigerator. The meat will expel water as it cures. If using plastic wrap, something to catch drippings will come in handy. Allow the meat to cure in the fridge for two weeks, flipping every couple days.
- After meat has cured, remove from wrapping and rinse. Dry well.
- Toast peppercorns in a pan until fragrant, but not burnt. Thoroughly coat the meaty side of the belly with cracked peppercorns. Use more than you think you should.
- Roll the meaty side with peppercorns toward the middle. The fatty skin side should face out. It’s important to roll and tie the pancetta as tightly as possible. If there are air gaps inside it will rot.
- Tie each end with a butcher’s knot, then truss the entire belly tightly. Here’s a great how-to video.
- Weigh the trussed belly and record the date and weight on an attached tag.
- Hang in an area with higher humidity, like over a kitchen sink, or in a basement. Temperature is ideally under 70F. Keep out of direct sunlight, as light makes fat go rancid. You can wrap pancetta in cheesecloth.
- Allow to hang for at least a month for semi-dried pancetta, which should be cooked before eaten. For pancetta that is fully cured and dried, hang until 20% of the weight is lost; after which it will be safe to eat without cooking.
- If there is white fuzzy mold on the ends, that’s OK. Just cut off and discard the ends. Green and blue mold is OK too. If you have orange or red mold, it is not safe to eat and meat should be discarded.
- Slice your pancetta into 1/2-inch rounds and vacuum seal, then place in freezer.