02 January 2009

Home-cured pancetta

Last month we were in an Asian grocery store in St. Paul and when we passed the butcher counter a few guys were cutting up pork bellies. I asked if I could get a five pound slab and one guy walked into the cooler and brought out a whole pork belly. He cut off a big piece and I was on my way to making pancetta for the first time. Pancetta is similar to bacon but it isn't smoked; the seasonings are more aromatic and I think it's a lot more versatile than bacon.
Pancetta begins with a salt cure, a dry rub that includes kosher salt, pink salt (sodium nitrate), garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries, brown sugar, pepper, and a few other herbs and spices. The meat cures in the refrigerator for a week or so, after which the cure is washed off. The meat (not the fat) side is then coated with cracked pepper, and the whole thing is rolled tightly and tied with string. It ages in a cool, dark place for two weeks and it's ready to eat.
We've been slicing it thin, frying it briefly, and pouring a beaten egg over it for breakfast. It's great with pasta and leafy green vegetables, too. After making confit for two decades, I'm really excited to begin curing meats. There are so many traditional sausages and other forms of charcuterie, and I'll be trying my hand at them in the coming year. Happy New Year!


  1. The Ganey Salumeria! Happy and HEALTHY (all that matters) New Year.
    Dan Gina Ellie Dwyer

  2. I'm really interested in this, Patrick -- could you direct me to your full recipe (or post it!) as well as the name of the place where you bought the pork belly?


  3. Hi, Being a beginner in the curing department, I followed the recipe in Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, published in 2005. If you don't have pink salt (sodium nitrate) I have plenty. I'm happy to lend you my copy if you'd like. I bought the pork belly at Shuang Hur on University in St. Paul.