Sunday, January 30, 2011

The February Challenge: Guanciale

I've only just begun the process today, so look for updates later in the month.  Here we have a Cane Creek pork jowl.  Wish I could tell you the breed; the pork chops were larger than usual this week, so I'm guessing it was a Crossabaw, or perhaps Old Spot (like one of these lovelies) 

The jowl will become guanciale (that's Italian for, uh, "jowl") after a cure.  Here's how I'll do it:  The jowl is covered in a mixture of equal parts salt and sugar (it's a one pound piece, so I went with 35 grams of salt and sugar, each) and some well-ground black pepper, paprika, allspice, and dried thyme (as I can't be bothered to go buy some fresh stuff).  What you see is the jowl after being well rubbed with this combination. It will then be put in a ziploc bag, into the fridge for a week (turning it over once or twice to distribute the brine as it extracts moisture). Then, you thoroughly wash off the jowl, pat it very dry, and tie it up as I've done to the meat you've seen below. Traditionally, one pokes a hole through a thick corner of the jowl, and ties the string through the hole, and hangs it from that corner.  I usually truss the meat, and hang it.  I may put the whole thing in "the Box," as the duck SHOULD be done by then.  

This is the fourth or fifth time I've made guanciale - the easiest cure to do.  I really recommend it as an introductory meat, if you're thinking of trying to cure for yourself.  Just hanging the meat in the garage  - or any cool, well ventilated, preferably slightly humid place -  for, oh 2-3 weeks, works wonderfully. I haven't died yet, so I'm most optimistic.  The fat from the jowl is much more complex than that of belly fat, as in bacon (or pancetta, for that matter).  If you think about it, the pig uses it's head and neck much more than its belly, so the muscle gets worked much more, which - typically -  makes for meat that is a little less bland. Also less tender, but tenderness is not really prized in cured meat, is it?

More to come. . . 

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