There’s simply nothing better than having a piece of Pancetta readily available as a standard part of your kitchen pantry arsenal. I use it to add flavor to a variety of dishes aside from the usual Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe. To me, Pancetta is like the older and more mature brother of American bacon. Both are made from pork belly, however bacon is cured differently and generally not consumed unless it’s cooked. Pancetta, can be eaten cooked, or uncooked and is commonly seen rolled and tied with string, similar to salami.
Pancetta is easy to make and cure at home, and the results are much better than any commercially produced product available here in the US. This is especially true because because you can control the quality of the meat used, which is the most important part in the Pancetta making process. I purchased a whole pork belly from a locally raised, antibiotic, and hormone free pig. I cut the belly into two equal sized pieces, (about 5 lbs each) and rubbed in the cure and spices. The bellies were then put into a large container with a lid and placed in the refrigerator. Every other day I rotated and re-rubbed the bellies to ensure an even distribution of spices. After 8 days the pork bellies were slightly firm to the touch and ready to be tied. I rinsed them under cold water to remove the curing salt and spices and patted them dry with a paper towel. After which I re-applied a small amount of cracked black pepper and rolled the bellies as tightly as possible so there were no air pockets. Even though they were cured, it was still very important to roll them tightly so no harmful mold or bacteria could develop. I then began the arduous task of tying the Pancetta, which was probably the hardest part of making it! It was tied every half inch or so around the entire circumference leaving extra twine for hanging. When I was finished I rubbed both pieces of Pancetta with some red wine to prevent them from being covered with mold (the good kind) which was covering my other salumi in curing chamber.
I dried them at the same temperature I use for salame, at 55˚ and 70% humidity. Pancetta can also be left to dry at a normal refrigerator temperature, or even cooler house temperatures with lower humidity. I usually let mine cure for at least a month, or more before using it, as I tend to like it on the firmer side. The taste on this batch of Pancetta was close to a perfect 10. I think the slightly heavy amount of fresh rosemary from my garden I used made all the difference!
- One whole Pork Belly, cut in half, trimmed, and squared off
- 150g Sea Salt
- 25g Whole Black Pepper (partially cracked)
- 18g Juniper Berries (crushed)
- Several sprigs of fresh Rosemary (I didn’t weigh)
- Small amount of fresh Tyme
- 6 Bay leaves (crushed)
- 3 Cloves of Garlic (crushed)
- 14g Cure #2
- 27g Brown Sugar