I love cured meats, charcuterie, smoked-goods, etc...
Yes, there are a wide range of products that you can purchase from the supermarket, all of which are mass-produced resulting in the use of "not-so-friendly" chemicals to your body and lacking the most important factor...taste.
Having Croatian heritage, a father who was a butcher, and working school holidays in the butchery during my teenage years, I developed a joy for creating my own meat products.
This instructable is just one branch of a greater tree of homemade meat related products. I hope you enjoy.
Step 1: Starting With Good Quality Pork Belly
Quality is everything when it comes to making your own.
Any products I wish to create, I'll usually procure from farms that adopt sustainable growing practises for both the animal and the farm.
A friend put me onto an online butchery that does the above and makes these products available to consumers. Here's a link to Feather and Bone. I'm sure you could find similar butchers in your are by just searching online.
The piece of pork belly I used ended up being just under 1kg after filleting the skin off...yeah, my knife skills weren't that great that day.
Step 2: Creating and Applying the Cure/rub
Call it a cure, call it a rub, call it a marinade. Whatever you want to call it, this is the mixture the pork belly will be sitting in for a few weeks.
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Curing salt #2
- 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
- 1 tbsp sugar or honey
- 1 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
- 1 clove (whole)
- 10 juniper berries (bruised or crushed)
- 2 bay leaves (finely chopped)
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
I mashed up all the above in a mortar and pestle and rubbed it all over the piece of meat.
Once covered evenly, I vacuum sealed the meat and placed it on the top shelf of the fridge.
Short of the long is I left the meat in the fridge for a 2 week period rotating it ever 3 days
Step 3: Seasoning, Rolling, Smoking and Air-dying
Once the 2 weeks of curing is up it's time to season and roll the meat.
Take the meat out of the fridge and rinse off the curing mix, pat dry with a paper towel or any towel that won't leave any fibres behind.
Once dried, it's time to add the seasoning. I went traditional and used 1 tsp of ground nutmeg (make the effort and grind it yourself) and 1 Tbsp of crushed black peppercorns. Rub all over ensuring the whole piece of meat is covered.
Here comes the fun part or rolling this bad boy...instructional video care of River Cottage...thank you
I enjoy a bit of smoke on my pork, so what better to use that apple tree wood chips.
After some experimenting with a homemade contraption, I found the UFO cold-smoker to be the easiest and quickest way to generate smoke without affecting the temperature of the smoke box.
I like to smoke the meat for about 4hrs...the awesome thing with the UFO cold smoker is when it is fully stocked with chips, it will smoke for about 8hrs without having to restock.
Ok, so the smoking is complete it's time to air-dry the meat. Without the use of expensive curing equipment to moderate the temperature and humidity, it's a tricky thing to dry meat at home. After chatting with some like-minded individuals, I was put onto 'Banquet Bags'...these bags allow you to safely dry in your own refrigerator and take out the potential of the meat picking up germs from the environment. The bags form a bond with the protein in the meat, allowing them to age without the risk of picking up unwanted germs or fungi, while still allowing the meat to 'breathe'.
I used these bags to vacuum seal the pancetta and place it in the fridge rotating it every 3 days.
Step 4: Waiting, Weighing, Waiting, Weighing...final Product
So, remember how I wrote the starting weight of the pancetta?
This helps to determine when the meat is safe to eat. After much reading up on the safety of eating air-dried meat, I determined that the pancetta needed to lose 30% of moisture before I could partake. This took about 2.5 months. How did I ever wait that long?
Each to their own, but I'm satisfied with simple quality...a ploughman's board with homegrown spring-onions and tomatoes. Unfortunately the crackers and yoghurt a store bought, but a satisfying meal and a result.
So there you go...the taste beats anything store bought...enjoy.