Pancetta has to be one of the more accessible charcuterie preparations that someone without a curing chamber can tackle. It can be done in your home kitchen, in the same refrigerator that you use everyday.
And while pancetta may not get as much praise in America as smoked bacon, it's every bit as versatile and tasty. This stuff is good on or in just about everything and also can served as the star of the plate. If sliced thinly, its great on from sandwiches and pizzas to cheese boards and salads. It's also great diced into 1/4 inch pieces and rendered down into little crispy nuggets of porky goodness. I like to throw these in soups, on top of deviled eggs and hotdogs for a little extra texture and flavor.
Curing Time: 5-7 days
Drying Time: 2-3 weeks
Equipment: Butchers Twine
Optional Equipment: Digital Kitchen Scale
Using a scale and weighing the meat to determine doneness is optional for pancetta since it will be cooked before eating. The 2 to 3 week drying time is simply for the flavor profile and texture. You can actually slice into the pancetta and cook it immediately after the curing, although the flavor and texture will not be the same as with a proper drying.
5 pound - wild pork belly, skin on or off
3 ounces (85 grams) - salt
1 teaspoon (6 grams) - pink salt (Instacure #2)
2 tablespoons - ground black pepper (for the cure)
1 tablespoon - ground black pepper (for dusting before hanging)
2 tablespoons - brown sugar
2 tablespoons - juniper berries, crushed
2 teaspoons - fennel seeds, cracked (you can use the bottom of a skillet)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 bay leaves, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Combine all of the cure ingredients (minus the 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper) into bowl. Stir to combine.
Rub the cure all over the pork belly.
Place the pork belly into a "zip-top" plastic food storage bag.
Place in your refrigerator for 5 days, flipping the meat and rubbing the cure over the meat to redistribute.
After 5 days remove the pork belly from the bag and rise well with cold water, removing all of the cure.
If you are weighing the meat as a guide for doneness, weigh the belly on a scale and record the results.
Roll the belly as tight as you can (fat or skin side facing out) as tight as you can. Secure with butchers ensuring that the belly stays tightly rolled.
Hang the meat in your refrigerator or curing chamber ensuring that it has ample space and air flow around it. Let the belly hang for 2 to 3 weeks or until it has lost 30 percent of its recorded weight from step 6.