Tag Archives: pork

8-hour pork belly

20 Jan

I am a patient man.

When my friend Fredo announced one recent morning that he would be driving from New York to my home in Maine later in the day, I decided that there are worse things than having the oven working all day on a low-and-slow roast to feed him for dinner.

This is just under 5 pounds of pork belly, skin off. I’ve liberally seasoned the meat side with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then added chopped garlic, thyme and rosemary.

Layer the bottom of a fairly deep roasting pan with large hunks of celery, carrots and fennel, along with plenty of crushed garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme and rosemary.

Roll and tie the pork belly, place it over the vegetables and herbs, then add a generous amount of white wine and/or broth (I used nearly a bottle of chenin blanc and homemade chicken stock).

Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven pre-heated to 225 degrees F.

Every so often make sure to baste the belly. I did every half hour or so.

At around the 6-hour mark I removed the aluminum foil and turned the heat up to around 350 degrees F.

And after another couple hours (that’s 8 total, if you’re counting) this is what I wound up with.

Fredo had just arrived from his journey and so we enjoyed cocktails and then a first course while the pork belly rested a bit.

That was around the time that my friend shocked and delighted me by revealing the true nature of his visit. He had overheard me bemoaning the lack of my favorite morning baked good in the place that I live, and made it his duty to lend an assist.

These are some very fine New York bialys, and the very excellent friend who delivered them to me.

Grazie Fredo!

How to make mortadella

3 Jan

I’ve waited a long time for this.

Every year that the entire crew gathers together at my house, for a weeklong visit between Christmas and New Year’s, I say the same thing.

“How about we make us some mortadella this year?”

And, well… You are familiar with the expression “crickets,” yes?

Tom always finds this an ideal time to shut his eyes and pretend to be asleep (even when standing upright and carrying a drink in his hand). Beth Queen of Bakers often rushes to check what’s cooking in the oven, despite the oven’s not even being in use. Scott and Giovani’s iPhones suddenly turn silent and out of text range. My (long-suffering) Associate, ever the practical member of the group, simply ignores me altogether.

Not this time.

Weeks before our annual gathering this year I circulated the following missive:

Per my repeated (and, to date, scorned) appeals to enlist your assistance in the manufacture and distribution of an authentic Mortadella di Bologna, you are hereby informed that:

Your aid in this project is considered mandatory and non-negotiable.  

In other words, this is no longer a democracy. 

Deal with it.

Ever the consensus builder I provided my friends an authentic recipe with which to familiarize themselves, as well as a video based on that recipe.

The ingredients were awaiting their arrival. I allowed them a good night’s sleep, but in the morning it was time to go to work.

Mortadella is, to put it simply, a giant cured pork sausage. Its main ingredients are lean pork (here we have two boneless pork loin roasts weighing in at a little over 3 1/2 pounds combined); 1 pound of pork belly; and 1/2 pound of pork back fat. (The complete list of ingredients is printed at the end.)

Grinding meat is always easier when it’s ice cold, or even frozen. Cut all the meat into slices and place in the freezer for a good couple hours. At the same time start getting your grinding equipment as cold as possible. (I put the whole grinding attachment to our KitchenAid mixer in the freezer.)

Mix together 1/2 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of water and place in the freezer as well.

When the lean pork and pork belly are nearly frozen remove them from the freezer, cut them into cubes and mix together. DO NOT add the back fat at this time; it will be cut into cubes later on but it will not ever be ground.

While the meat is still ice cold run it through a large grinding plate for a coursely ground mixture and return the ground meat to the freezer. Put the grinding attachment back in the freezer too, as well as the smallest size grinding plate you’ve got, as you’ll be needing it soon.

While the meat and grinder are chilling you can put together your spice mix. You’ll need 3 tablespoons salt; 1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt); 2 teaspoons white pepper; 1/2 teaspoon coriander; 1 teaspoon garlic powder; 1 teaspoon anise; 1 teaspoon mace; and 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway. Make the spice mix as fine as possible. I ground everything together into a fine powder, using a spice grinder.

When the meat is nice and cold add the salt and spice mix and thorougly incorporate. (This being our first time making mortadella we fried up a tiny bit to taste and make sure that the seasoning was okay. It was perfect.)

Grind the meat again, using your smallest grinding plate this time.

At this point you’ll need a food processor. Place the ground meat in the processor and add the semi-frozen wine/water mixture. Process the mixture until smooth. (You may need to do this in a couple batches; that’s what we did.)

Here’s where the half pound of back fat that’s been chilling in the freezer comes into play. Cube it up like so.

Then quickly blanch it by pouring a little boiling water over it.

Also run boiling water over 1/2 cup pistachios and 3 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.

Add the blanched fat cubes, pistachios and peppercorns to the meat.

And thoroughly mix with your hands.

Get yourself an 8″ x 11″ plastic bag that’s suitable for boiling and tie the sealed end with a cable tie; this will allow for a rounded shape to form.

Then stuff the bag with the meat mixture. (I did this by hand because the extruder attachment on the KitchenAid wasn’t up to the task.)

Close the bag’s open end with cable ties as well, then wrap the bag in buther’s twine (this helps keep the shape intact while cooking). Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it rest for several hours or even overnight, as we did.

The traditional way to cook mortadella is slowly and in a water bath, with the oven set at around 170 degrees F. This is the method most people continue to use today. It will take around 7 or 8 hours before the mortadella reaches an internal temperature of 158 degrees F, the point at which it is fully cooked.

Due to the quick thinking of My Associate, we decided to take another path. A sous vide cooker resides in our kitchen, you see, and we couldn’t think of a reason why we shouldn’t use it. Set at 170 degrees F it took less than 5 hours to cook the mortadella this way.

No matter which cooking method you use, once the internal temperature reaches around 158 degrees F, remove the mortadella from the heat source and plunge it into ice-cold water to quickly cool it down.

Then comes the really hard part: Toss the still-wrapped mortadella in the fridge and forget about it for a couple days. I know how hard that’ll be, but the flavors will develop over that time.

Since this was our first attempt we cut into the mortadella right away in order to test it, but then it went into the fridge for two days before we tasted it again. The difference was clearly noticeable.

Here’s an outside view.

And the inside.

The flavor was spot on; everybody in the house was in agreement on this.

More important, the next time I suggest making mortadella to the crew, I won’t be hearing any of those crickets again.

Of that I am pretty sure.

What you’ll need
A meat grinder
A food processor
An 8″ x 11″ plastic bag suitable for boiling
Butcher’s twine

The ingredients
3 1/2 pounds lean pork
1 pound pork belly
1/2 pound pork back fat

3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt)
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon anise
1 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway

1/2 cup chilled red wine
1/2 cup ice water

3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup whole pistachios (unsalted)

How to make porchetta

5 Sep

I lost a lot of sleep over this porchetta. Literally.

It was the main course for a Labor Day lunch with some friends, you see. And since I’m a big proponent of the “low and slow” method of cooking, that meant getting to work really early.

There are a lot of ways to make porchetta, from the most traditional (a whole roasted pig that’s stuffed with garlic and herbs) to the more modern (belly only) variations. I leaned closer to the traditional by using (l. to r.) a pork loin, a belly, and the skin. The loin gets wrapped by the belly which is wrapped by the skin. All told the entire thing weighed in at just under 7 1/2 pounds raw. (A note about the pork: Use the best you can get your hands on. This pork is from a small family farm around half and hour from my home. The hogs are raised naturally and even work the fields, as hogs do.)

There’s no one way to season porchetta. I just went out to my garden and grabbed what I could get my hands on, then chopped everything up as finely as I could. There are leaves from my celery plants, fennel fronds, rosemary and thyme, plus an entire head of this year’s garlic crop. In addition there’s the zest of one large lemon.

Put everything in a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.

Lay the skin flat (outside down) and lightly cover with some of the herb mixture.

Then lay the belly over the skin.

Cover the belly with more of the herb mixture.

Then lay the loin on the edge of the belly. (My butcher butterflied the loin and also scored it so that the seasoning could be more evenly distributed.)

At this point spread the remaining herb mixture over the loin and start rolling. To roll the porchetta leave the skin laying flat and first roll the belly around the loin, starting from the loin side. Once you’ve done that then wrap the skin around the entire thing and tie.

Like so.

Once it’s all tied up take a sharp knife and score the skin all over. Look closely and you can see all the cuts I’ve made throughout. You can now either start cooking right away or wait a while. (I let things marinate overnight.) When you are ready to cook place a rack in a deep oven pan and set the porchetta on top. Make sure it comes up to room temp before it goes into the oven.

As for what temperature to cook the thing at, well, “low and slow” is best. That’s why I was up at 1:30 in the morning to take the meat out of the fridge, then again at 3:30 to turn on the oven, wait for it to come up to temp, and then put the porchetta in — at 225 degrees F.

Around seven and a half hours later (the last 15 minutes at 500 degrees F just to crisp the skin a little bit more) the porchetta was done. Don’t cut it up right away, allow it to cool down. Honestly, I like it at room temp, which is how I served it yesterday.

Removing the skin makes things easier to slice—thin is best, I think—but if you get the skin to the right degree of crispiness it’s a treat to eat.

Just one more piece of advice: Make this for dinner, not lunch.

You’ll sleep a lot better. Believe me.

Pork Bolognese sauce

8 Nov

When it comes to Red Sauce I am a very patient man. Nine times out of ten I don’t serve the sauce on the day that I make it; I serve it the next day, after the flavors have had time to knit together some. My friend Fred has on occasion given me grief over this practice, wonders if I am a tad overzealous.

I do not invite my friend Fred over for Red Sauce anymore.

I did invite my friends Marc and Beth over for some last Saturday, but it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I’d planned on making a Bolognese sauce that afternoon, only it was supposed to be for Sunday dinner. I use veal in Bolognese, but since we’d be eating that same day I switched gears and decided to use pork instead. My reasoning was thus: pork has more flavor than veal, and so it’d make a much tastier same-day sauce.

As it happens, this reasoning turned out to be pretty sound. I’d not used pork in Bolognese sauce before, but I absolutely plan to again.

Finely chop two large carrots, two celery stalks, one small onion, three garlic cloves and some hot pepper (optional, though I used a whole fresh cayenne here) and saute in olive oil under medium heat until softened.

Add 1 1/2 pounds of ground pork, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, incorporate and cook until browned.

Add one cup of dry white wine, increase the heat to high and reduce until the wine has evaporated.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and one cup of whole milk. Cook until the milk has evaporated.

Add one 35-ounce can of tomatoes, turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to simmer very gently for around three hours. (If the heat is on too high and the sauce reduces too much you can always add some more milk.)

This sauce cooked for around four hours, actually.

And Marc and Beth and My Associate and myself ate the whole thing!

Sorry, Fred.

Sauerkraut, Italian style

5 Jan

You are not hallucinating. That is indeed a big old mess of sauerkraut being added to a simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Weird, huh?

Not if you are a member of my family, it isn’t. To many of us, this dish has been a staple for many decades. In fact, it was the subject of the very first item that ever appeared on this blog, back in April 2010. (Click here to see the original story.)

It being a new year I decided to start it off by giving this unusual family recipe the full step-by-step treatment, which it did not initially receive. It is the concoction of a man named Luigi, the stepfather of my dear Aunt Laura. Luigi was from Trieste, in the north of Italy and on the border of Slovenia. This would explain his affinity for sauerkraut, but in decades of research I have never once come across a recipe that, like his, puts the stuff together with a red sauce.

You may be tempted to write this off as too oddball a pairing to attempt. I know that it sounds weird, believe me. But I have served this dish to many people over the years, including serious chowhounds and even a couple of professional chefs, and rarely am I not asked to provide a recipe.

Okay, so get yourself a couple of those one-pound bags of sauerkraut you see in the refrigerated case and dump them into a colander so that the liquid drains out. (Luigi did not rinse his kraut, and neither do I, but you may choose to in order to cut down on the acidity a bit.)

Cut up about a pound of pork butt into one-inch cubes.

In a medium-size sauce pot saute two or three garlic cloves (and some hot pepper if you like) until softened.

Add the pork and allow the meat to brown.

Then add two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Then stir in the sauerkraut and turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at a slow to medium simmer.

In about an hour the sauce should be done, but you could also simmer it for longer. I usually give it a taste and decide.

If you did happen to click on the original story about this dish then you will have noticed that the headline was “Luigi’s polenta.” That’s what we call this dish in our family, and over polenta is the only way that we eat it. I strongly urge you to follow our lead here and have ready a nice potful of the stuff.

You will not be disappointed.

Have a very good year everybody!

Luigi’s Polenta
Recipe

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained of the liquid (you may also rinse it, to cut down on the acidity, though I don’t)

1. In your favorite pot for making sauce, saute the garlic in olive oil until softened. (I also add some hot pepper.)

2. Add the pork and saute until lightly browned.

3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Add the sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in the refrigerated section).

5. Turn the heat to low to medium and let simmer for at least an hour (longer is fine if you prefer).

6. Serve over polenta.

The good butcher

18 Jul

I once had a butcher in Portland. His name was Jarrod. The man made my life better.

A few days ago, while on a road trip through Maine’s lake regions, I noticed a message from Jarrod in the email box. This surprised me as we had never communicated in this manner before. We talk at his counter, sometimes in the walk-in when he wants to show me something special. Never like this.

“I am no longer at the Rosemont Market,” Jarrod My Butcher wrote. “I’d love to catch up and chat. Here’s my number.”

Six hours in the saddle of a vibrating motorcycle had wrecked havoc on an already aching back, but the pain that shot through me at this moment had a far more profound impact.

A man needs a good butcher in his life. And I no longer had one.

I’d only seen Jarrod a week ago. I had asked if he had a pork shoulder that I could prepare in the wood oven. He said that he did, but not the kind that I like. A good butcher knows what you like. Mine knew that a good pork shoulder — to me — had the bone in and the skin still attached. Jarrod had a bone-in shoulder, but its skin had already been removed.
“I think I can fix you up,” he said with the kind of enthusiasm a man must possess in order to be a good butcher. “Come back later.”

Just as promised, Jarrod My Butcher fixed me up. By carefully tying a slab of pork skin to a beautiful nine-pound, bone-in shoulder.

Which I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a touch of fennel pollen.

And stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden.

Scoring the skin every couple inches is the way to go, I think. Better for basting, and the cooked skin is easier to cut up and eat.

In a deep roasting pan went celery, whole (slightly crushed) garlic cloves, bay leaves, some thyme, like that.

The pork sits on top of all that and then two cups each of white wine and chicken stock are added. Cover in aluminum foil before placing in the oven.

Speaking of which, this is a slow-roasted deal we’re talking about here, and so the oven temperature should be around 200 to 250 degrees F.

Every 20 minutes or so be sure to baste the roast.

You can see that there’s a lot of liquid in the pan, even after more than six hours.

At around the six hour mark remove the foil. Then, when the roast is pretty much done to your liking, crank up the temperature to around 450 degrees so that the skin has an opportunity to crisp. This should only take half an hour, if that.

This baby was in the oven around 8 hours total.

And was one of the moistest, tenderest pieces of meat that I ever ate.

Grazie Jarrod!

My Butcher.

Pork braised in milk

18 Feb

When you live near a butcher who breaks down a locally raised pig at least once a week you tend to become accustomed to eating a fair amount of pork. The Italians are proficient in the ways of preparing il maiale, of course; by now you may have noticed that my cooking leans in their direction. (You noticed that, right?)

Pork braised in milk is a very old preparation, though its origin is less than clear. The Romans think that they invented it, but so do the Italians in the Emilia-Romagna, as do those in Campania.

Ask me if I care one way or the other. It’s a killer good dish, people. And a lot simpler to prepare than it looks.

This is a 3-pound piece of pork shoulder (which is also called pork butt for some reason). The idea here is to infuse the meat with flavors and to do that the herbs and spices are placed inside the meat. To get them in there make a series of deep cuts, maybe two inches deep, on both sides of the roast.

Like so.

Then begin stuffing each opening. I went with the recipe from David Downie’s Cooking the Roman Way because it is about as simple as it gets. That’s just garlic and rosemary there. For the whole roast you’ll need just six chopped garlic cloves and six sprigs’ worth of rosemary to season, plus salt and pepper. Other than that all you’ll need is about a half gallon of whole milk.

Press down so that the garlic and rosemary are fairly well secure.

Generously season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then lay a spring of rosemary on each side of the roast (I used a couple on each) and tie with kitchen string.

In a heavy pot in which the roast fits nicely sear the meat on all sides and edges in olive oil.

Then add enough preheated whole milk to just about cover the meat entirely. (I used raw milk because I can get it easily here in Maine and because I think it tastes better.) You’ll need around half a gallon of milk, though all of it won’t be required at once. Cover, bring to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes, turning the roast a few times during that time. Then uncover and continue to cook at a low boil for another two hours, turning the roast every 15 or 20 minutes or so. Add more milk along the way as needed, to keep the roast nearly covered.

When the pork is done you’ve got two choices: eat it now or eat it later. I chose later, a full day later actually. Once it cooled I just put the whole pot in the fridge overnight, as the plan all along was to have it the next evening when Shyster Jersey Lawyer Friend came by for dinner. Flavor-wise it will taste better from the overnight stay in the fridge, but it isn’t necessary. Anyway, when you’re getting close to dinner time remove the roast from the milk and start boiling the milk at medium heat to reduce it to a thick sauce. This could take a little while, depending on how much milk is in the pot, so give yourself a little bit of time.

This is how my milk sauce looked when it was done. It needs to be thick and creamy, not loose and watery.

Remove the string and slice the pork nice and thin.

Then line the slices on a serving tray and top with the milk sauce.

Nothing to it. No matter who invented it.

How to hijack a dinner party

2 Feb

It looks as though I planned this thing out some, right?

Wrong.

I was not on deck to cook this particular evening. Nor even do the provisioning. The only reason I had stepped foot inside the Rosemont Market on Brighton was to loiter in the wine department and collect a few bottles to go along with my friend Giovani’s birthday dinner.

But then I just had to mosey over to the meat counter, just to say hi to Jarrod the butcher.

Next thing you know I had taken possession of all these beautiful specimens. And for no reason other than that I wanted them. There was a mixed pound of duck and sweet Italian sausage, a pound of pork belly, two giant fatty pork chops, half a pound of pork ribs, and a couple duck legs and thighs.

Hey, somebody had to go home with the things!

An hour or so later and I was in my kitchen, hoping that the comforting aroma of a soffritto simmering in the dutch oven might somehow soften the blow of my having hijacked the birthday meal — a blow no doubt felt by my associate, who had been charged with cooking it.

For the record, it did not soften the blow very much. If at all.

The soffritto, by the way, consisted of a leek, four carrots, a large onion, four garlic cloves lightly smashed but left whole, a tablespoon of fresh marjoram, two tablespoons of fresh rosemary, and four sage leaves. After the vegetables and herbs softened a bit, I started browning the meat in batches, as there was too much of it to do so at once.

After all the meats were browned, I removed them, tossed in two cups of white wine and reduced it pretty much all the way down.

Then the meats went back into the dutch oven. Some cannellini and borlotti beans had soaked overnight (for, ahem, another person’s purposes, not my own) and so I threw a bunch of them in too, along with eight cups of freshly made chicken stock (also not made by, well, me).

After a good couple of hours in the oven (covered) this mess of meat and beans was ready to go. Except that I am a big believer in such dishes benefiting from a day’s rest, and with the birthday dinner scheduled for the following day all was well with my plan.

So well that I was forgiven my indiscretion.

At least for the duration of the meal.

Ground pork & chocolate ragu

6 May

What’s an Italoamericano do in order to mark the best-known Mexican heritage celebration observed in these United States, Cinco de Mayo?

Not a thing, usually. Not this Italoamericano anyway.

And so it was quite the coincidence that I was moved to make this pretty-damn-close-to-Mexican mole sauce this weekend.

It is a Sicilian recipe, one that I had run across in a cookbook gifted to me just last week, Arthur Schwartz’s “The Southern Italian Table.” The Spaniards, Schwartz explains, introduced chocolate and cinnamon to Sicily, via Mexico, centuries ago. And as soon as I laid eyes on his recipe for “Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate” I made a beeline for the kitchen so’s I could check on my ingredients.

How was I supposed to know that it was Cinco de Mayo? All this particular May 5th meant to me was that a big dinner needed to be prepared for the evening, and that my brother Joe would be texting at some point to see if I had made my Derby pick.

Anyhow, here’s the sauce. It’s a snap to prepare, and it’s good too.

¡Buen provecho!

Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate
Recipe
Adapted from “The Southern Italian Table”
by Arthur Schwartz

Makes 7 cups

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1 quart water
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. sugar
Grated cheese for serving

In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan saute the onion in olive oil until wilted.
Add the pork and break up over medium heat until raw color disappears.
Add the wine and simmer for a couple minutes over slightly higher heat.
Add tomato paste and water; stir and bring to a simmer.
Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and sugar. Stir until chocolate melts, reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes.
Serve over pasta with grated cheese of your choosing.

How to make pancetta

30 Oct
I hope that you enjoy looking at pictures and captions. Because I have got an absolute ton of them for you here.
Making pancetta (basically Italian salt-cured bacon) at home is simple. It only takes a little bit of prep time; the rest of the time you are waiting for the meat to cure and then dry. I’m going to run through every one of the steps, if you don’t mind.
In case you didn’t know, pancetta (just as any bacon) is made from pork belly. You can certainly start out by using just a small slab of belly, but here we are making a big old mess of pancetta. What we have here is a whole belly, with the ribs still attached. It weighed in at about 14 pounds total. (Hey, I have people who have come to expect their allotment of every batch that I make.)
Here is the belly after the ribs have been cut away. You can see by the fold on the left that the skin is on (normally the case when you buy a whole belly), but it needs to be removed.
Once the skin is removed it’s time to apply the cure. (Because I am always fiddling with the actual cure, I’ve decided to reprint the complete recipe and instructions for making pancetta from a reliable source, the book “Charcuterie,” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn; they are at the very end of this post.) This pic shows the cure already spread onto the fat side of one piece of the belly, but the other piece needs it too, as does the meat side of the belly. The reason I’ve cut the belly in half is because a whole one is too large to roll. If you were not going to roll it, then leaving the belly in one piece would be fine.
After applying the cure all around, place each piece in its own big plastic bag and put into the fridge. They stay in the fridge for at least a week, often longer. And I flip the pieces over once a day. This batch was in the fridge for 11 days.
The next step is to run the belly under cool water and clean off all the cure mixture, then dry it well using paper towels. Once it’s clean and dry you put down a good dose of coarse black pepper on the meat side of the belly. Then you roll it nice and tight, the tighter the better actually, to prepare it for tying.
Once it’s rolled and tied it’s time to hang it in a cool place for at least two weeks.
So that we could also see an example of the slab type of pancetta I didn’t roll the other half of the belly. When you do it this way, though, it’s good to wrap the belly in cheesecloth before hanging it. The flat, slab-like pancetta hangs in a cool place, just like the rolled, but it’s ready quicker.
This one was ready in about 10 days.
Nice, huh? I like this batch a lot. The flavors are both rich and mild at the same time.
Here is the rolled pancetta, ready to be cut down and used. It hung in the garage for about 23 days.
I usually slice rolled pancetta into pieces around an inch thick.
Then I vacuum pack each piece individually. The ones that I don’t give away to my demanding family and friends go into the freezer, as the pancetta lasts longer that way.
The only trouble is that I do not get to keep that many of the pieces for myself.
Maybe I should just shut my big mouth the next time a new batch of the stuff is ready.
Pancetta
Recipe
From “Charcuterie”
by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
This is for a 5-pound piece of pork belly, skin removed
For the dry cure
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons pink salt (see Note below)
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons juniper berries, crushed with the bottom of a small saute pan
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme
Directions
1. Trim the belly so that its edges are neat and square.
2. Combine the garlic, pink salt, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme, and half the black pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly so that the pink salt is evenly distributed. Rub the mixture all over the belly to give it a uniform coating over the entire surface.
3. Place the belly in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or in a covered nonreactive container just large enough to hold it. Refrigerate for 7 days. Without removing the belly from the bag, rub the belly to redistribute the seasonings and flip it over every other day (a process called overhauling).
4. After 7 days, check the belly for firmness. If it feels firm at its thickest point, it’s cured. If it still feels squishy, refrigerate it on the cure for 1 to 2 more days.
5. Remove the belly from the bag or container, rinse it thoroughly under cold water, and pat it dry. Sprinkle the meat side with the remaining black pepper. Starting from a long side, roll up the pork belly tightly, as you would a thick towel, and tie it very tightly with butcher’s string at 1- to 2-inch intervals. It’s important that there are no air pockets inside the roll. In other words, it can’t be too tightly rolled. Alternately, the pancetta can be left flat, wrapped in cheesecloth, and hung to dry for 5 to 7 days.
6. Using the string to suspend it, hang the rolled pancetta in a cool, humid place to dry for 2 weeks. The ideal conditions are 50°F to 60°F (8°C to 15°C) with 60 percent humidity, but a cool, humid basement works fine, as will most any place that’s out of the sun. Humidity is important: If your pancetta begins to get hard, it’s drying out and should be wrapped and refrigerated. The pancetta should be firm but pliable, not hard. Because pancetta isn’t meant to be eaten raw, the drying isn’t as critical a stage as it is for items such as prosciutto or dry-cured sausages. But drying pancetta enhances its texture, intensifies its flavor, and helps it to last longer.
7. After drying, the pancetta can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 3 weeks or more, or frozen for up to 4 months. Freezing makes it easier to slice thin.
Note: Pink salt, a curing salt with nitrite, is called by different names and sold under various brand names, such as tinted cure mix or T.C.M., DQ Curing Salt, and Insta Cure #1. The nitrite in curing salts does a few special things to meat: It changes the flavor, preserves the meat’s red color, prevents fats from developing rancid flavors, and prevents many bacteria from growing.