Curing bacon is not difficult. Buy a nice lump of pork belly, coat with cure, refrigerate, turn every day, done. Turning bacon into pancetta essentially just involves finding somewhere to hang it until it’s lost 20% or more of it’s body weight.
This post on the daily brine says it all really – read it. All I can add is this handy cure calculator and some feedback about Kyle’s technique based on the dozen or so times I have followed it, and a bit of practical advice on how to hang it and store it at home.
NOTE: This is the sort of pancetta that needs to be cooked, non-cooked edible pancetta needs a different cure and a much, much longer hang – will update when I’ve had a go!
A Word on Salt
Many recipes online call for ‘kosher salt’. This is just American chat for salt with a larger grain, rock or flake, much like Maldon. You should never use table salt for curing as it usually has iodine in it, and anyway its too fine. You can use sea salt but I avoid it as it will have other minerals that may or may not be good for your cure. Just stick to a good quality, pure, rock or flake based salt.
- Before you begin, consider cutting the belly up into manageable pieces. I prefer to do lumps that fit into a gallon sizes ziplock bag
- Mix all the ingredients together to make the cure and coat the meat. Carefully drop the meat into a bag, or even more carefully wrap it in lots and lots of clingfilm (it’s going to leak, so wrap it one way, then the other at least 2 or 3 times)
- Pop it in the fridge and turn every day for a fortnight – your belly is now bacon!
- Wash off the cure under a cold tap and pat dry – now you need to find somewhere to keep it for another 2+ weeks!
Option 1: The Fridge
- If a modern fridge is your only option then put it on a cake rack over a plate with water on it. This is not ideal, eventually the outside will dry faster than the inside and will go hard, but you might get 10 days or so before it happens.
- Alternatively, you could wrap in ‘peach paper’. Its a sort of breathable butchers paper. Personally I think this is ok for bacon, but my feeling is it’s going to not allow enough air circulation for the 2-4 weeks it takes to dry a pancetta
Option 2: The Home
- If you like in the UK or other climate that rarely goes over 20 degrees C, then you can hang in the home. I have hung pancetta over the sink, in a cleaning cupboard, in a home office and various other places well out of the reach of my dog! Problem is at some point I usually loose my nerve, convince myself its being infested with flies when I’m not looking. Wrapping it in cloth just makes me worry its going mouldy as it seems to me to get a bit sticky.
- I hear other places like sheds, garages and man-caves in general are good, but just don’t think I am comfortable with that.
- Before I invested in the next option, I generally gave it a week to 10 days in the cleaning cupboard and then moved it to the rack in the fridge – after that if it starts going hard its time to either freeze it or start giving it away if you have loads left!
Option 3: The Curing Chamber
- A little investment, but essential if you’re developing this as a hobby, I made mine out of an old wine cooler (you can use an old fridge too, but a wine cooler defaults to the right temperature).
- Find some plans online (courtesy of Jamie Oliver), but the basic idea is to use a humidifier and a hydrometer (regulates humidity) to maintain the right conditions for perfect curing. If you plan to do anything more complex than pancetta this is pretty much essential.