One of the rules of Charcutepalooza is that you do your best to purchase locally grown and humanely raised meats. I special-ordered my pork bellies from Caw Caw Creek Farm in South Carolina. They treat their pigs with love and care, just like I treat my garden. Their mission is provide the best-tasting pork ever. That’s a nice mission, isn’t it? Oh, they treat their customers as nicely as their pigs, which I mean as a compliment. I received a personal phone call, we talked pork for a few minutes, and I got my very well-packed pork bellies in just a couple of days, delivered to my gate. Meanwhile, I will search for a local devoted pig farmer to save the cost of shipping. I think I’m going to need one!
To make pancetta, you need to gather a symphony of wonderful herbs and spices to mix with the salt and some dark brown sugar to create the special, magical cure. I’m sworn to secrecy about the ingredients, but you will find them in Michael’s book. Does hand grinding herbs sound like a chore to you? Banish that thought! Have you ever inhaled the scent of freshly cracked black peppercorns, or crushed juniper berries, or crumbled fresh bay leaves? There’s a reason it’s called a cure! Just taking in the lyrical scents of the herbs and spices cures the winter blues, or boredom, or most other things. I loved it! I’m considering bathing in it.
Once the pancetta cure is well mixed, you simply massage it into the fresh pork belly, making sure the belly is really well-coated on all sides. It’s a beautiful thing. It makes you feel smart and creative. It connects you to the thousands of cooks that have preserved meats since the beginning of mankind. It makes your family feel loved and cherished, unless you decide to hide it, and eat it all yourself. I won’t tell.
Now the bacon and pancetta are carefully placed in plastic bags put into the fridge for a week. I’ll turn them every other day, to make sure they are curing evenly. Tune in next weekend…the bacon will be ready to cook and eat, and the pancetta will move on to its next stage of curing. I can hardly stand the anticipation.
If you are interested in learning more about charcuterie, I recommend you join Charcutepalooza and buy Michael Ruhlman’s book! It’s a wonderful way to rediscover an important part of cooking, and it’s a lot of fun, too. Make some bacon!