Pancetta arrotolata

Pancetta is Italian cured and dried pork belly. Pancetta arrotolata is exactly the same, except it’s rolled and tied up before hanging to dry. If it hasn’t been rolled it’s called pancetta “tesa” (flat).

To make it, buy a good quality piece of pork belly, with the skin on. Trim any uneven, flappy bits off, and square the edges so that it cures more evenly.

Weigh the meat and calculate the cure ingredients (as % of total weight of pork belly, that way you can’t overcure it)

  • 2.75% sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 0.25% Cure #2
  • 1.75% Demerara sugar
  • 1.8% Black pepper
  • 0.5% Juniper berries
  • 0.5% dried chilli
  • 0.25% bay leaf
  • 0.25% garlic powder
  • 0.25% thyme

 

Grind up all the cure ingredients in a pestle and mortar or a herb grinder (I use a coffee grinder) then rub it really well into the meat, all over. For some reason I find this part quite therapeutic. Bonus points if there’s a nipple or two on the pork 🙂

Anyway, put the meat and any remaining cure into a ziplock bag, or vacuum seal it and put it in the fridge to cure, turning it over every few days and giving it a rub. It should take about 2 weeks and will feel firmer once done. If in doubt, leave it a few more days, as we’re using the equilibrium (% cure by weight of meat) curing method, so it can’t overcure and end up really salty.

Once it’s fully cured, take it out of the bag, then rinse all the cure from the meat and dry it with kitchen paper or a (completely clean!) tea towel. Discard the liquid and the bag.

Fresh out of the cure
Fresh out of the cure, waiting to be rinsed
Ready to be rinsed
Ready to be rinsed
Cured pancetta skin side up
Cured, rinsed and dried – skin side up
Cured, rinsed and dried - skin side down
Cured, rinsed and dried – skin side down

You can now hang it in the shape it is (flat / tesa), or roll and tie it. If you’re rolling it, cover the entire meat side completely with freshly ground black pepper. I found this instructional video very useful.

Coating the meat side with loads of black pepper
Coating the meat side with loads of black pepper
Pancetta tied and ready to hang
Pancetta tied and ready to hang

Note down the exact weight on a label and attach to the string, then hang in your drying chamber. If you don’t have one, anywhere which maintains about 50-75% relative humidity and a coolish temperature (10-18C) will do. Could be an understairs cupboard, or a garage, outhouse, whatever. If the humidity’s not high enough, you can make a makeshift drying chamber by making a salt/water slurry in a bowl and place it underneath where it’s hanging. That’s what I did with my first bresaola, it worked out ok.

It may get a little mould on it when drying, especially if there are other meaty things hanging in the same space. Generally, White and powdery = good, but anything black, or green, or hairy is a no-no. You can see some mould on mine in this photo.

Pancetta and bresaola hanging
Pancetta and bresaola hanging

 

If it gets some of the “bad mould” and you catch it in time, just take it out and wipe the mouldy bits with vinegar, or a 50-50 water-vinegar solution.

Weigh it occasionally, it’s ready when it’s lost about 25-30%. I cut mine straight through the middle

Pancetta arrotolata
Pancetta arrotolata

You can slice it wafer thinly and eat it raw at this stage, all porky, herby and lovely. You can also cube it up and fry it, put it into casseroles, pasta etc, as you see fit. Whichever way, it’s delicious. I’ve portioned mine up vacuum sealed it, and it’s in the freezer.

Portioned up ready to seal and freeze
Portioned up ready to seal and freeze

 

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