Cured Meats – Red Wattle Pancetta

Between the arrival of the pig parts, and the speed of ripening fruits, I haven’t had the time to write about all of the kitchen action as I’ve gone.  I decided to make pancetta out of the pork belly pieces from the Red Wattle pig.  This will be the first pancetta I’ve made with heritage breed pork.  I’m looking forward to comparing it against previous pancetta for quality.

Red Wattle Pork Bellies

These pork bellies weigh about 10 pounds each.  They’re not quite as large as the other pig bellies I’ve made bacon from in the past, but they have nice dark meat, and soft fat.

Pork Belly, Cut to Fit in Zipper Bag

My first step (after the usual cleaning and sanitizing of the equipment, which is done before I put the bellies on the table here) is to cut the bellies in half, so that they’ll fit in the big zipper bags I use for curing.  Then it’s time to make the cure.

Tools to Prep the Cure

Here’s a basic scale (I’ve since gotten a digital one), a spice grinder (doubles as coffee grinder), and a garlic press.  These are three key tools for pancetta rub preparation.  Pressed garlic releases lots of the flavorful juices in the garlic.  The coffee grinder allows me to roughly grind pepper, juniper berries, and other spices together when I am making the rub.  The scale, of course, is for measurement precision, so that I can control the amounts of each ingredient according to the recipe, by weight.

The all-important DQ Curing Salt, aka Pink Salt

This is the secret ingredient to having deep red color in cured meats, and to protecting yourself from nasty bacterias.  This pink salt, which is toxic in large quantities, is colored to distinguish it from regular salt, so it won’t be mistaken.  I keep this in a separate cupboard from other ingredients, just to be sure that I’m re-alerted to the risks each time I use it.  I consider it a good sign that I’ll need a new bag of this soon, which means I’ve been curing a LOT of stuff, since this tends to be used in half-teaspoons at a time.  I get mine from Butcher & Packer, who also sell casings and plenty of other good stuff for charcuterie.

Here’s the finished rub, the pepper for the drying stage, and the fresh thyme springs, which will be put in the curing bags whole.

Belly Rub, part 1

This shot shows about a half cup of my rub mixture, rubbed on the top of one piece of the belly.  I then rubbed the cut edges and bottom side with the rub.

Belly Rub, Part 2

Then I threw a few sprigs of thyme onto the belly, and put it in the zipper bag.  It’s important to make sure you get a lot of the air out of the zipper bags before sealing them, otherwise, the bags are hard to stack in the fridge.

All Bagged Up, Ready for Fridge

As you can see, I’ve double-bagged, to protect against leaks.  These then went to the fridge for a week or so, with overhauling every two or three days.

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3 Responses to Cured Meats – Red Wattle Pancetta

  1. Joel says:

    Seriously, I know this stuff is good to eat, but all the pork jowl/belly/fatty-other-parts-of-the-animal-that-I-don’t-recognize can’t be that good for you . . . right? Nonetheless, it all looks wonderful, and I’d love to try some sometime! I thought of you the other weekend. We saw Julia Child’s kitchen in the American History Museum.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Believe it or not, I don’t eat this stuff all the time. Not even every week. I end up sharing a lot of it with friends, in regular bacon slices. It is delicious stuff, but I would argue not necessarily any worse for you than, say, something from a vending machine.

    I’m hoping to go see Julia Child’s kitchen some time. I’d like to see the range of ages of the equipment there.

  3. Joel says:

    If you do that, please let us know! We’ll be around till next April-ish.

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