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Curing: Pancetta

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Two weeks ago, I picked up a pack of Pork Belly from HMart without knowing what I was going to do with it. I had planned on cooking it, but then realized that my schedule was suddenly packed. Instead of throwing it in the freezer and forgetting about it, I decided it was time for another cure. After the success of the guanciale, I wanted something sort of similar. Like the guanciale, pancetta has some of the same seasonings, cures for about a week and hangs and ages for another week.

To see how I turned that into this:
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follow the jump...

I adjusted the cure from Ruhlman's recipe a bit. Many of the spices he called for are also in the pickling spices I recently used for brining corned beef. I used some of the leftover spice from that for the flavor base of the cure. Think bay leaves, juniper berries, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and so on. I added to that minced garlic and the sugar, salt and pink salt that provide the magic of the cure.

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After rolling the pork belly strips in the cure, I put them and the cure in a bag and sealed it up with my foodsaver. Vac sealing actually helps a lot here, as the one thing you want during the curing process is constant exposure of the meat to the cure.

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By Saturday, 3 days later, the meat was no longer tightly packed. The liquid that salt pulled out of the meat has become a brine that it soaks in. By Wednesday, when I took the meat out, there was half a cup of liquid in the bag.

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The meat had firmed up considerably by this point. I rinsed off the seasoning, leaving a speckling of pepper and herb embedded within the folds of the pork.

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I wrapped each of the three strips up with cheesecloth and they've been hanging in the basement with the rest of my curing experiments ever since. Since these were strips, not a whole belly, I didn't roll the meat up in the traditional method.

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Today makes 6 days, the minimum aging time Ruhlman recommends for unrolled pancetta. He advises that since pancetta is not a dried meat, that it's not necessary to age longer than 7 days. Since I have 3 pieces, I'm going to leave one hanging until I need it. I'm curious to see what the meat is like after another couple weeks of aging. The third piece I'll be freezing or giving away if anyone is interested.

Watch this space for the final pic.



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