in the name of all things pancetta

Posted on April 23, 2012

Goodness me, we’ve reached a whole new level of pork devotion and oh it is glorious. During the past month, we’ve been busy—busy curing our own pork! Inspired by our friend Jessi and in collaboration with our supper club (food nerdom complete), we made pancetta. Pancetta is basically the Italian version of unsmoked bacon—pork belly that has been seasoned, rolled into a log and hung for a few weeks to cure. It’s typically cut into thin slices or small cubes then sautéed and added to pasta or vegetable dishes.

Because it takes about three weeks total to prepare, pancetta is certainly a commitment—of both time and closet space. But it is worth it, especially if you have a few friends to split the resulting 8 pounds of pancetta with.

Home-cured pancetta is complex. It is herby and slightly sweet, porky but also a little beefy. We were surprised by how many different flavors the pork belly acquired during the three-week curing process.

We followed the recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. You can also find a step by step guide of the recipe complete with videos from Chow. Because their instructions are so thorough, I am going to skip the detail and just go with a photo overview of the process.

First you rub the slab of pork belly with herbs (rosemary, thyme, juniper berries), pepper, sugar and salt.

Make sure you really massage those seasonings into the belly.

Then wrap the pork belly in large plastic bags and put it in your fridge under a heavy pot or pan. Refrigerate it for a week, flipping it once a day.

After a week of refrigeration, take the pork belly out and wash of the seasonings. Pat it dry and sprinkle a bunch of cracked peppercorns on the inside. Roll it up nice and tight and truss those puppies.

Hang in a cool, dark place with some air circulation (and out of puppy’s reach) for two weeks. Ours replaced our jackets in the hall closet. Oh it just made us smile when we opened the door to grab our shoes and saw two gigantic logs of pork hanging there.

After two weeks, cut the pancetta down and slice off any little bits of mold. Slice into one-inch thick slices and share with your best foodie friends!

So far we’ve made spaghetti alla carbonara and pasta with vodka sauce. I’m thinking pancetta wrapped asparagus next. Any other ideas for me?

-Emily