I joined last year’s Charcutepalooza competition a month late, which meant that I never officially prepared duck prosciutto or guanciale, even though I had made them both previously. I also skipped over a basic panceta, choosing instead to make my own bacon, which had earned me watch list status from the local fire department.
I figured I’d ease my way into Salumi by making pancetta arrotolata, rolled pancetta. I bought a lovely slab of meaty pork belly the same day I acquired my pork loin.
I rubbed it with a cure of pink salt, black pepper, brown sugar, crushed juniper, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme.
I let it sit in a plastic bag in the fridge, where it served double duty as a weight for the lonza I was also curing. Once it was ready, I washed the belly clean and removed just enough skin to allow me to roll the pancetta with a layer of skin on just the outside.
Once tightly rolled and tied (no elastic netting for this one) there was a narrow strip of exposed meat, which I figured would improve the dying process.
I hung the pancetta to cure, checking the weight every week. After a while I noticed that while the skin had firmed up, the interior was definitely still squidgy. Thinking I might have a problem similar to the case hardening that can occur with cured sausages, I went right to the source, emailing Michael Ruhlman and describing my problem. In less than 24 hours I had this informative response from Jay Denham:
Unroll it, there is to much moisture in the middle and the skin is preventing it from escaping. The skin should be trimmed enough that it is not rolled into the pancetta. It should be salted and then rinsed just like a ham then hung to dry. Let it start to dry and when the weight has started to drop and equalization has started then roll it with the skin trimmed enough that a ribbon size bit of fat extends from top to bottom. It will take longer to cure with the skin on but the result in unmatched to skinned pancetta.
I realized he was telling me I should have started with an unrolled slab, but I untied and unrolled my three-week-old pancetta, which was decidedly not dry in the interior.
I let the untied slab hang for ten days,
then re-tied it and let it hang for another two weeks. Today I cut a slice off of and end that was clearly cured (see top photo). It was sweet, spicy, and had a slightly bitter finish, tasting like a very intensely flavored guanciale.
I may serve some of it thinly sliced wit the skin removed, but I plan to chop off pieces as needed for carbonara and other bacony treats.