We're out of the last of the pancetta! Disaster! Lunacy! Conspiracy! Ok it's not so bad. But I demand more salty cured pork. Time to make some Guanciale. So on Sunday I picked up two pig cheeks from Seabreeze Farm, which I figure will tide me over until I order another full belly from them.
These rang in at just over a pound each, which will make quite enough Guanciale for a couple months. I never really cooked with Pancetta, until I had pounds and pounds of it around, and now I can't live with out it. It is the beginning to so many tasty things, so many easy and quick pasta dishes, so many soup and bean things that just need a bit of salty porky. And Guanciale is just more interesting Pancetta.
So step one is to trim them. First I take the skin off. Some leave it on. I think that it basically turns into football leather, makes it hard to slice thin, and keeps the spices and cure from really properly getting into that side of the meat. But to each their own. It does give a bit more texture when it's cooked up.
I use a scary sharp filet knife to remove the skin, just pull the skin up and slice parallel to the meat. I'm going to use the skin for something, I just haven't figured out what. I'm thinking I'll fry them up for a crispy topping to a salad, like I did with the pigs' ears a while back. Maybe braise them a bit first.
Next you need to take the glands out of the cheek. I'm not sure exactly what these do, I presume they're salivary glands, but I'm not a biologist. For all I know they produce the venom that the pig uses to catch its prey. (Alpacas, in case you were wondering.) But the glands need to go. Here's a graphic and gross photo. The Internet Guanciale Recipe World has many descriptions of them, but no pictures. "They look like little bubbles." WTF. So yeah, they're these sortof grey-green-tan marble things. Cut them out as best you can.
Yeah. Totally gross.
Next comes the cure. Last time I sortof skipped over, well, amounts. So in the interests of fairness here's what I used this time:
For two cheeks, about a pound each:
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 T cracked black pepper
- ½ t nutmeg
- 1 T Juniper berries, smashed with the bottom of a frypan
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled
- A pinch of dried basil and savory
- 3 sprigs of thyme, stripped
- 1/8 cup of Dry Cure. The basic dry cure from Ruhlman's Charcuterie, a mixture of dextrose, kosher salt, and sodium nitrite. I'm not entirely sure this will be enough, but ¼ cup is enough for 4-5lbs of pork belly. I think in the future I will just dredge the cheeks in it first, then put the spices on.
Mix all the spices and the cure and coat the cheeks. Into a big ziplock. They'll spend a week or so in the fridge, being flipped ("overhauled") every day. Then I'll remove all the spices, give em a coat of kosher salt for good measure and hang them to dry for three weeks in the basement. It's about 10 degrees cooler this time of year, so I don't anticipate any problems, though I did get a second-hand humidifier that I will employ if necessary. So now we play the waiting game, follow up post in a month.