Monday, May 31, 2010

Pancetta: Step by Step

1: Make the cure mix: kosher salt, curing salt, fresh coarse ground black pepper, crumbled bay leaves, fresh ground nutmeg, crushed juniper berries, brown sugar, and fresh thyme. The complete recipe can be found in Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.

2: Trim the belly. Square the edges. The slab I had also happened to have the skin on, which must be removed. Try to leave a thin layer of fat on the belly, as it will protect the meat during the drying period. You can see below that I cut too deep, into the meat, in a couple places. Not the end of the world, but not ideal, either.

3: Rub the cure mix onto the belly.

4: Place the belly in a non-reactive container or large resealable bag. Refrigerate for one week.

5: Every couple of days, take the belly out and redistribute the cure. This is called overhauling. It's like giving the pork belly a massage.

6: After about one week, the belly will be firm to the touch. Rinse off the seasoning and dry the meat thoroughly. Give what will be the interior of the rolled pancetta (that is, the side that did not have skin on it...) a fresh coat of cracked black pepper.

7: The hard part: roll and tie the belly. I start with a single loop in the middle just to secure the roll.

Then I tie a loop roughly every inch across the length of the roll.

For good measure, I tie a loop between each of the other loops, so there is one loop every half inch.

8: Hang to dry for two weeks. This is tricky, here in Edmonton. Ideal conditions are between 8°C and 15°C, and between 50% and 60% humidity. Michael Ruhlman says that he hangs his pancetta in his kitchen, with his pots and pans. This leads me to believe that temperature is not so critical. Improper humidity, on the other hand, can really mess up a pancetta. If the air is too moist, not only will the meat not dry, but mold may develop. Too dry, and the exterior will harden and trap moisture within. I carried a humidity probe through the different rooms in my house, and they all were between 30% and 40%, even the concrete prison cell that is the laundry room. Once it poured rain for a few days and the humidity crept up to 50%.

As I don't have a naturally cool, damp cellar, I hung the pancetta in a closet, and ran a small cold-air humidifier in the adjacent room. I managed to keep the humidity between 40% and 70%, and the temperature just under 20
°C. Over the two week drying process, some of the small, protruding pieces of meat on the two ends dried to diamond-like hardness, but the properly tied portions became firm, with just a little give.

9: Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. My husband, Vanja, comes from the former Yugoslavia where artisan meats are cured in almost every home. We should do something together in the fall for the winter. This summer, when we are there, we are going to make fresh sausage - and maybe other things... his dad has a smokehouse on the property. They raise their own chickens and pigs and do everything themselves. It has been an incredible education for me!
    Can you e-mail me this recipe? I don't have the book and would love to try this.