February 26, 2013

So Cheeky

If you've been following along, at least since Christmas, you've heard us mention guanciale a time or two.  I know I keep telling you I'm going to post about how we made ours, and that day has finally come.  Huzzah!

So, if you remember, back in December when Justin unwrapped his Christmas present of a pig head, and we made porchetta, we cut off one of the cheeks to make guanciale.  If you're not familiar with guanciale, it's basically like bacon, but instead of being made from the pig's belly, it's made from the cheek.  It's quite easy to make too.

Once you have your cheek, you want to make sure that all surfaces are as smooth as possible.  Since it's going to cure, and be exposed to air, you want to minimize the amount of nooks and crannies where the bad bacteria/mold can grow.  So if you're cutting the cheek off the face yourself, make as smooth of cuts as possible.  Then rub 'er down with your salt and spices.  We used a combo of Kosher salt, black peppercorns, juniper berries, star anise, red pepper flakes, and coriander.  Pretty much the same mixture we used for the porchetta.  Once it was rubbed down, we put it in a ziploc bag and stored it in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  You really only want to cure it for about a week, otherwise it'll turn out a tad salty, as ours did (womp, womp!)
after a week of curing
Before you hang it to dry out, you want to rinse off the salt and spices you rubbed all over it.  Pat it dry, and hang it up over the sink.  You want it to lose about 30% of its weight.  If you notice any fuzzy or colored mold starting to grow on it, you'll want to wipe it off with a towel.  But if you see the white mold, like you'd find on salami, you're in good shape.
Day 0
Day 7
Day 14
So after 2 weeks, our guanciale had lost 40% of its weight, and we could finally eat some! At this point, you can just slice it up and cook it like bacon.  We've had some for breakfast in place of bacon, and we've added it to our meals, like when we made gnocchi the other night.

Now, go get yourself a pig head and start curing!

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