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!
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...