For me the “Holy Grail” of Post Apocalyptic Cookery and charcuterie in general is prosciutto. Yes, there are sausages that are more complex and technically difficult, but the sublime taste of prosciutto is for me meat perfection. In order to have the confidence and cooking chops to produce a consistent product one must have practice. Pancetta (not prosciutto) provides a perfect first step into the world of air dried pork. Dry cured and then hung to dry, pancetta is an Italian style bacon that is foundational to much of that country’s cuisine. Where as prosciutto comes from the hind leg, pancetta is made from the belly. With its higher fat content, it is more forgiving and easier to dry with than its cousin prosciutto. With a little patience in three weeks you can have your fridge full of delicious pancetta so that you too can become one with your inner Italian and really impress your friends!
What you need:
- 1 whole pork belly about 2-2.5 kg, skin removed
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 15g pink salt (sodium nitrite)
- 50g kosher salt
- 25g brown sugar
- 25g black peppercorns, cracked or coarsely ground
- 5g juniper berries, crushed
- 5 bay leaves, crushed
- 10g dried oregano
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 20g crushed black pepper (for after the cure)
- 5g crushed juniper berries (for after the cure)
How it’s done:
- Trim and square up the pork belly.
- Combine the ingredients (except the pepper and juniper berries as noted) in a bowl and mix well.
- Rub the cure mixture liberally onto all surfaces of the pork belly, making sure it is spread evenly.
- Place the belly in a large ziplock and refrigerate it for 7 days.
- Flip the ziplock bag every day to evenly distribute the salt and seasonings.
- After 7 days the belly should be firm. Remove from bag and rinse well.
- Pat dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with the remaining pepper and juniper berries.
- With the meat side up, starting from the long end roll up the belly tightly and truss it as shown in the picture. It is important to roll it very tight to avoid any air being trapped inside.
- Hang in a cool humid place below 15C (I used my refrigerator set at about 6-8C) for two weeks.
- Once ready, it can be kept in your fridge or freezer ready to be sliced and used.
- It is important to note that pancetta is meant to be cooked before eating so once it is ready, slice it thin and add it to anything that needs an extra meaty kick.