Pancetta is one of my favorite cured muscles, mostly because it is very similar to bacon. Pancetta is made with heavy, earthy spices such as juniper and black pepper, but is not limited to using only those. My favorite attribute to a good pancetta is its fermented flavor. It isn’t strong in a good quality pancetta but it adds a great flavor. The process can take up to 3 months with curing and air drying. I found it difficult in the beginning to roll the pancetta tight enough to remove the air so my first few batches were a flat Venetian style pancetta. It is very important that when you do a rolled pancetta, that you roll it tight and tie it properly or the meat will rot from the inside out.
This recipe comes from the book Ruhlman, Michael and Polcyn, Brian. Charcuterie, which I use as a reference to curing all meats.
4ea Garlic Cloves
2t Pink Salt
2oz Kosher Salt
2T Dark Brown Sugar
4T Coarse Black Pepper
2T Crushed Juniper Berries
4ea Bay Leaves
5# Pork Belly
- Combine your sugar, salt, and pink salt
- Combine all of your spices (only half of the black pepper) and grind them in a blender
- I usually buy skin on pork belly, if this is what you have then remove it.
- Mix the spices with the curing salt mix and liberally apply to the pork belly
- Wrap the pork tightly with plastic and place it into a pan.
- Place another pan on top of the pork and place weights on that. Cure in the fridge for 7 days, flipping the pork over everyday.
- After your 7 days are up, remove the pork from the plastic and rinse thoroughly. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and let sit in a drafty area for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the pork to get slightly tacky and to make it easier to roll.
- Once it has warmed up, lay the pork out like a sideways book, it should be longer vertically. Begin rolling by grabbing the portion of the pork that is furthest from you. As you roll, press on the pork to ensure it is very tight.
- Once rolled, you will need to tie the pork very tightly to ensure that there is no room for air in the middle. You can read about tying roast and pancetta here. Always start the tying from the middle and work your way out to force any air or gaps outwards.
- Once tied, wrap the pork with a double layer of cheesecloth and tie both ends leaving a loop in one to hang it from.
- The great thing about pancetta is that you don’t need a larder to cure this. The ideal temperature for “aging” the pancetta is 50°F-55°F with about 60% humidity. A normal fridge will work but it may take a little longer to dry. This drying process takes anywhere from two weeks to three months, but you will know when it is done because it will be firmer than when you put it in the fridge.