Charcutepalooza, here we come

Last night my father and I made our first forays into charcuterie. I have been hoarding pork belly from the last several pigs and we finally set a date to begin our new food producing adventure.

I first heard about Charcutepalooza, a year of food projects based on Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn’s book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, on Punk Domestics. I was immediately interested but it was too late to join in on the fun. I ordered the book, read the Charcutepalooza blog posts there and on the dozens of other blogs participating, and then started reading the book. Then last month we started gathering the ingredients, and I knew when I saw the perfect three-pound thin whole pork belly from this wild hog that it was time to start.

So last night, after an insanely delicious dinner of pork belly bulgogi with fish cake and sweet lap xiong sausages, fresh winter kimchi, shredded cuttlefish, and hot rice, we got to work.

my small marble mortar and sad broken pestle was not up for this task, and we quickly resorted to the blender.

First we mixed up the basic cure using “pink salt”, kosher salt, and sugar, then the savory cure for the bacon. I know most people like sugar-cured bacon, and there is some sugar in the cure, but my husband and my father are both diabetic and I wanted them to be able to enjoy this bacon. So first we used my small marble mortar and pestle to crush peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic together. Then we slathered the bacon pieces in the cure, dropped them carefully into plastic bags, and put them in a deep casserole dish in the fridge.

This is the two pieces of proto-bacon. When this is done curing so the meat is firm and then smoked, it will then be proper bacon.

Then we started on the pancetta. As soon as I saw this large thin piece of pork belly I knew it had to be used for pancetta. It’s too thin for sliced bacon but perfect for rolling. We realized that my little mortar and pestle would not be up for this cure, we dumped the mixture in a blender and pulverized it all together, then rubbed it into the meat.

This is proto-pancetta, in its initial cure of salt, sugar, pink salt/sodium nitrite, pepper, juniper berries, garlic, bay leaves, nutmeg and thyme.

The first steps were easy. Next week: smoking and rolling!

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