Monday, December 26, 2011
I have written about both of my adventures in creating bacon. I just finished my most recent foray. In this case, I made pancetta. Known also as Italian bacon, pancetta is also made from pork belly but there are some significant differences. It starts with a salt cure like American bacon but the skin is removed before the cure is started instead of at the end. It is cured with salt for a week like American bacon but whereas bacon is essentially finished after a week, either being slow cooked or smoked, Pancetta is then rolled up, tied, and hung to dry for several weeks. The cure does have a lot of salt but the recipe that I had also included garlic, bay, coriander, sage, and juniper berries. While it did lose some liquid in the refrigerator like the bacon, it didn't lose as much. I assume that was by design so it wouldn't be completely dry before it was hung up. It did look really good in any case. The rolling and tying was a job. It took about an hour and then I had to tie it up. That was also a job. I tied it under my sink and let it hang for two weeks. The ideal conditions for drying meat is about 60°F and about 60% Relative Humidity. I keep my place relatively cool when I am not home or sleeping but it's more than 60°F. I did keep it in the dark and kept a pan of water near it to try to maintain some humidity. I did check it every few days and saw that it did stay firm without getting hard. There was a little mold along one edge but from what I had read, as long as it was white (it was) and the meat looked fine (it did) you could just wipe it off. As you would cook the meat anyway it would be fine. After cleaning it off, I bagged it and put it in the refrigerator. I was planning on saving it until I came to my family's house later in the week but someone asked me how it was so I had to try it. The meat is more firm than bacon and it had a stronger flavor but it is really good. Now comes the fun of trying to find recipes in which to use it. While I could use it just like bacon, I have an idea that there are a world of other possibilities.