Monday, March 28, 2011


Welcome back to Sarah and Derek's Charcuterie Experiments!

We make bacon, which is cooked and stored in the fridge... so it feels safe. Who needs safety? Not Derek and I. Nope. We need adventure, new things, variety.

The farmer convinced us to buy a pork jowl when they did not have any belly in stock. He told us all we need to do is cover it in salt and let it cure in the refrigerator. Then we need to hang it up for three weeks. Yes. Hang it up, outside of the refrigerator. RAW PORK. Hanging. At room temperature. Fortunately, this is a really cheap cut of meat.

We did some research. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat, similar to pancetta. It is unsmoked and made from the pig's jowl or cheek. It is traditionally used in Italian pasta sauces and spaghetti carbonara.

It is delicious.

from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

1. Obtain pork jowl or cheek. We got ours from these great folks at our farmers market, but most butchers should have them. Every pig has two, but they are not a popular cut so some butchers probably will not carry them. Check your local butcher or carniceria.

2. Remove any pieces of skin, tough tissue, or glands you can see.

3. Make dry cure. Combine 70 grams (1/2 cup) kosher salt*, 70 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, 2 mashed cloves of garlic, 15 black peppercorns (cracked with something heavy), and 1 large bunch thyme.

4. Rub cure all over jowl, make sure to cover the whole jowl. Place this in a large plastic bag. Put this bag in the refrigerator for 1 week. Turn the jowl everyday to redistribute the liquid that will collect. This process draws moisture out of the meat so it does not get gross during the drying process.

4. After a week in the refrigerator, take the jowl out and rinse as much of the cure off as you can. Then pat the jowl dry. Make sure you get it really dry.

5. Then poke a hole in a corner of the jowl and run some butchers twine through the hole. Then hang this up in a cool place with plenty of air circulation. The temperature should not get above 70 degrees Celsius. Our reading suggests the jowl should be gently caressed by the winds of Tuscany. We settled for a ceiling fan.

Now if you were really organized you would weigh the meat before hanging it and then you could know it was done when it weighed 30% less. We did not weigh ours. We just waited for three weeks until it felt firm to touch.

6. Watch the jowl. It may grow some mold. Apparently, white mold is okay and black mold is bad. When it is done scrap off any molds that look nasty (black mold would indicate the meat has spoiled). Then eat it...

So pretty...
This meat makes me hungry.
P.S. Best knife ever.

It should not need to be cooked before consumption, it has been "cooked" in the salt. We definitely crisped it for some applications. I would also recommend checking out Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book. It is really well-written and has many more details about the recipe.

Coming soon guanciale recipes...


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  2. We will wait to have this at your house. sounds good!
    E, D, J