The bacon and pancetta have completed their seven day curing process. If you want to see part 1 of this series, please check out Charcuterie – Bacon and Pancetta. The first article explains how to prepare a pork belly for bacon and pancetta and getting them into their cures.
The key with the curing is that the pork belly is somewhat firm, indicating that it has released some moisture in the curing process. The bacon cure was much more liquid (like a brine) than the pancetta cure was, as expected based on the ingredients used in each. Both pieces were firm, yet soft. The bacon was easiest as it has a day to dry in the refrigerator before I smoke it. I took it out of the cure, washed it off in cold water and patted it dry with paper towels. Then, it goes on a rack over a pan in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours.
Tonight’s task was the pancetta. Same deal, remove from the cure, wash with cold water and pat dry. Next, sprinkle cracked black pepper over the meat side. I grind peppercorns in a spice grinder. Vary the grinding time to get your desired fineness (or lack thereof). I like my pepper a bit finer than standard cracked pepper.
Now, for the fun part. Rolling the damn thing up tightly and tying butcher’s twine around it using butcher’s knots. The butcher’s knot is fairly easy, but rolling the meat up and getting the knots tight is a learned skill, especially with everything slipping through the fat on your hands that can’t be avoided (gloves might help). I laid the twine sections under the pork belly slab, rolled it with both hands, pulled up the twine and tied the knots, then tightened them as I was trying to keep the meat in a tight roll. I doubt I looked very elegant. I am sure an experienced chef can do this in a heartbeat.
Finally got the thing rolled and tied decently. This one was not perfectly rectangular or square, but it will do. I hung it in the kitchen. It will hang for around two weeks unless it dries out too quickly. My humidity in the kitchen is pretty good, the temperature is more than I would like. Pancetta is not eaten without being cooked, so this is not as critical as other cured meats like salami. I am dying to try some cured meats like salami, but need to build a container where I can control temperature and humidity.
I can’t wait to try it. I am sure it will make a hell of a spaghetti carbonara. The pancetta smells great, mainly from the juniper berries. The bacon is more neutral in smell at this point. I am sure smoking will change that. Stay tuned.