How to Make Pancetta




Introduction: How to Make Pancetta

About: We’re working on a “quick” book, in the style of our family ring-bound cookbooks, where all the recipes are 45 minutes or less. I’m currently working on the pizza and sandwiches chapter. It’s a lot of cheese...

Until recently, if you had a craving for some thinly sliced, salty cured pork, your best bet was to head to the local grocery store. But with specialty cuts of pork particularly pork belly now becoming more widely available in most supermarkets, the door is opening for the adventurous cook to try his or her hand at making charcuterie at home.

I had been eager to try making charcuterie in my own kitchen for quite a while and finally decided it was time to get started. Looking for a simple first project, I quickly set my eyes on pancetta. A close cousin to bacon, pancetta has similar salty, rich pork flavors, but without the smoke. Moreover, pancetta is infused with bold flavors from the black pepper, dried herbs, and spices added to the curing mixture.

For a beginner in the world of home curing, pancetta was the ideal choice. As far as curing went, the method was pretty basic and didn’t require much hands-on time. Plus, the little equipment required and short grocery list made it perfectly suited for my small apartment kitchen.

A note on buying: Whole pork belly is usually sold in 11-pound slabs, though for my recipe, I stuck with about half of a slab (5 pounds) to keep things more manageable. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can buy a whole belly, cut it in half widthwise, then double the spice mixture to make two slabs of pancetta. In either case, pay close attention while selecting your pork and only choose belly that has a fresh, clean smell, light pink skin, and deep-red meat.

Step 1: Skin It

To prepare the pork belly for curing, remove the skin. To do this, I started by separating the skin from the fat layer in one corner of the pork belly. Then, holding the knife almost parallel to the belly with one hand and the corner of skin with my other hand, I made short horizontal cuts, pulling the skin back as I moved across the belly.

Step 2: Trim It

Once the skin is removed, flip the belly over, trim it to a uniform thickness, and square off the sides. This helps produce a pancetta that rolls evenly. Once trimmed, set the prepared pork belly aside in a large nonreactive baking dish while mixing the cure.

Step 3: Mix It

For a 5-pound pork belly, most reliable recipes I found called for ¼ cup kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pink salt (also known as curing salt). Since the balance of salt to protein can be delicate when it comes to achieving a proper cure, I kept to these quantities. Adding a variety of fragrant ingredients to the basic cure infuses the belly with flavor. I used black pepper, brown sugar, rosemary, juniper, garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, thyme, and nutmeg. Mix them together thoroughly to make sure they are distributed evenly.

Step 4: Rub It

Spread the cure over the belly and rub it into the sides and edges.

Step 5: Sprinkle It

While researching recipes for my pancetta, I found one that called for sprinkling a little red wine onto the cure for added flavor. I gave it a try with one of my batches of pancetta and really enjoyed the added fragrance it brought. When you do it, make sure to sprinkle the wine gently to prevent the cure from washing away.

Step 6: Cure It

Once the belly is coated with the cure and wine, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cure until the soft fleshy texture of the belly turns firm. Over the course of fully curing (it took me about 7 days), flip the belly daily and redistribute the rub mixture.

Step 7: Rinse It

After the pancetta is fully cured, rinse off the cure mixture thoroughly, making sure to remove any herb or spice pieces that remain stuck to the meat. After rinsing, pat the belly dry with paper towels.

Step 8: Spice It

With the meat side of the pancetta facing up and the long side facing you, sprinkle on 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper a typical addition before rolling pancetta. The fresh pepper adds additional pungent notes to the final pancetta.

Step 9: Roll It

It’s important to roll the pancetta as tightly as possible to avoid any air pockets in the center of the cylinder, which could provide space for bacteria to grow. To roll the pancetta, start with the closest side and tightly roll it away from you.

Step 10: Tie It

Beginning in the center of the pancetta and working your way out to the sides, tie the cylinder with kitchen twine at ½-inch intervals the tighter, the better.

Step 11: Dry It

Once the pancetta is completely tied, trim away excess twine. After forming a loop on one end of the pancetta for hanging, hang it in a cool, humid place, away from sunlight, and let it dry for 2 weeks. The ideal conditions are somewhere around 60 degrees with 60% humidity (my basement was a good spot).

Step 12: Slice It

After drying, your pancetta will be ready to slice.

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    14 Discussions

    Also pepper tastes will increase the longer it is in the meat. So use sparsely, also if smoking leave the garlic out it'll turn bitter.

    Also you can do curing like this in a wine fridge, that's the closet to the caves and cellar like they do in Italy. Just put a bowl of water in there also and check daily. Also you need to weigh the meat before hand, you want to cure until 30% of the weight is gone, you can keep going but it'll get drier. Also make sure you wrap the meat in a casing of some sort either natural or brown paper. Brown butcher paper works great and can accommodate any size roll. Also you have to make sure that the salt is of proper ratio to prevent botulism forming its not just to taste. Also cleanliness is a must!! Just "hang it in the garage" is not proper. There are molds, bacteria, filth, car fumes, dangerous fumes, all which will leech into the meat and ruin the taste. It's not just a throw some salt on meat and hang it. Your going to get sick.

    Not being rude but if your serious about trying this you really need to read a book on it, this instruct able left a lot of steps and items out. Which could result in illness or death.

    Instead of putting wine on it while curing, they actually rinse the finished meat in wine to wash the herbs off.

    At step 6, where you cure it, you say "Over the course of fully curing (it took me about 7 days), flip the belly daily and redistribute the rub mixture". But at step 5 it looked like you only spread the curing salt on one side? Is it actually spread on both sides then? ahoffman2's comment about the gallon ziplock bag to help with this step seems useful too. Thanks for the Instructable!

    A trick a friend of mine used was to wrap it in cheesecloth and use a bamboo mat to tighten the roll. It provided even preasure during the bind and the bamboo achieved a very tight roll.

    Another trick here would be a large (Gallon+) size zip top bag once every thing is in you can flip it at your leasure and never break the seal.

    if you use a squirt bottle with a fine mist sprayer setting it'll dampen everything evenly with out worring about washing anything away.

    I made a similar, but unrolled pancetta last winter.
    Quite tasty, just as is yours, I am sure!

    I notice the fat to meat ratio on yours is as dismal as mine was.
    When I buy bacon at my local butchers, there is far more meat than this.
    Are they saving the best pork bellies to cure themselves?
    Is there a kind of belly that we should know to ask for that comes from an area with more meat?
    Let me know if any one has any insight.

    You can hang the pancetta in a cold closet or the garage --- but you don't want sunlight on it. Is it really necessary to roll the pancetta, could I wrap it in cheesecloth and hang it that way? I make my own sausage and the comment by t. roher is interesting. I use a small household grinder yet that's enough for breakfast sausage for a household. Making your own pancetta, Weisswurst, or breakfast sausage, Italian sausage is fast (the second time you do it) and a great way NOT to have all those awful additives. and making it yourself you get get a much better flavor. One note, be crazy hyper-conscious of cleanliness; clean the block, the implements beforehand and after, use a bactericide solution like 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gal water. Use new twine and keep your twine in a clean place. For sausage, cleaning a grinder & grinder parts takes time and is worth the effort---plan to scrub it multiple times.

    Very nice instructable

    I also love to brine, cure and if needed, cold smoke...

    For Christmas i made 44 lb of smoked salmon.

    Two weeks before i made bavarian "Weisswurst" with the empoyees of a company, as a event. Everyone took a sixpack of selfmade Weisswurst home.
    I would have made a instructable of sausage making, but the equippment needed for such fine sausage doughs is cost prohibitive. (I paid 1500$ for my used small meat cutter, household cutters won't do, i tried and they went up in smoke.
    Normal meat grinders are not fine enough for sausages like Wieners, Frankfurters or Weisswurst.)

    Maybe you should learn a faster way to tie the pancetta. (I learned it long ago for electronic cabling ;-) I'd take the so called "telephone hitch".

    Or look here: It's in German, but you should get the point.

    Keep on brining, because most mass produced charcuterie is just not worth the money...