Paprika Cured Pancetta

Finished bacon. Ready for slicing. Rolled to fit through my slicer

I’ve been wanting to make something like this ever since I visited the London Charcuterie Festival last year and saw a brick-red piece of cured pork on sale among the other treats on the Flavours of Spain stall. After a brief chat with them on Twitter, they confirmed that it was a cured pancetta dusted with paprika. Not having had a recipe to work from, I’ve had to use a lot of guesswork and the result is quite different to the bacon I saw that fateful day; it is, however, absolutely delicious and one to be recommended if you have the patience to wait four weeks for your bacon. I’ve already used mine in a smoky tomato soup, as a wrap for chicken and, of course, in a sandwich.

Weighing out paprika.

Jon’s Paprika Cured Bacon
800g belly pork
28g salt
12g dark brown sugar
4g black pepper
5g smoked paprika
5g sweet paprika
4g garlic powder
3g red pepper flakes
3g Prague powder #1
2 or 3 crumbled bay leaves

Take your belly pork and carefully remove the skin, taking care to leave a decent layer of fat on the meat.  Set aside whilst you weigh out and combine your salt and spices.

Rubbing spices into pork

Place the piece of pork in a freezer bag and rub it thoroughly with your seasoning mix, being sure to work it into all of the folds of the meat.

Bacon, rubbed with cure and ready for the fridge.

Seal or wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge for a week to cure, turning and rubbing as per usual to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. After about a week, remove the bacon from the bag and place on a rack in the fridge to dry. By this stage,  some of the moisture will have seeped from the meat and helped to further distribute the cure.

Leave the meat in the fridge for anything up to four weeks by which time the flesh will have dried out and darkened and the flavour will have intensified considerably. This bacon is now ready to use however you want. I had to roll mine to fit it through my slicer but you could easily cut rashers off with a knife. It has a heady smoky paprika aroma and a deeply savoury taste. I want to make this again and maybe try smoking it as I think that will really intensify the flavour even more. I’ll update this post if I do.

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Pancetta

Pancetta, Pork, Bacon, Cured, Herb Crust

Pancetta, cured and ready for slicing.

One of the great advantages to curing your own pork is that it’s a great way to develop zen like levels of patience. The actual hands on effort of making your bacon or whatever is minimal and the only investment is in waiting time.

The sweetcure bacon that I made recently was cured for two weeks which resulted in a delicious, firm rasher that tasted amazing. However, I wanted to try making a bacon with a longer cure time that had an even more intense flavour. Italian stlye pancetta seemed like the ideal candidate as it had both toothsomeness from the longer cure and an intensity of flavour from the herbs used to season the cure.

While I was in Nottingham recently, visiting relatives, I managed to pick up some really good pork belly in Gonalston farm shop. Gonalston is somewhere between a traditional farm shop and a branch of Whole Foods marooned in the Nottinghamshire countryside and they take real care to ensure that their meat is both ethically and locally sourced.

With a really good bit of pork as a starting point, the next step was to devise the cure. This was based very loosely on the basic bacon recipe in Charcuterie with aditional salt and of course the selection of herbs and spices that elevate the dish far beyond ordinary bacon.

The recipe follows:

Jon’s Pancetta
850g Belly pork (trimmed weight)
25g Salt
12g Dextrose
5g Celery salt
4g Fennel seed
3g Red pepper flakes
3g Fresh thyme leaves
3g Oregano
3g Black pepper
3g Garlic powder
3g Prague powder #1
3 small bay leaves – crumbled

Pork, Thyme, Bay, Fennel Seed, Red pepper flakes, Oregano

Trimmed pork and pancetta cure ingredients

The first step in making your pancetta is to skin your pork and cut the meat away from the ribs. Cut the ribs away from the belly and set aside for another meal. Pork ribs, smoked, marinated, or just plain make a great dinner for one and are a perfect accompaniment to beer and televised sport.

Separating the ribs from the meat.

Once you meat is deboned, trim it so it’s roughly square (again, set aside the trimmings and use next time you make sausages) and set aside whilst you make your cure.

Roughly crush the fennel seeds and combine with all of the other ingredients (except the pork – yet!) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the cure.

Sprinkling the pancetta with cure.

Take the trimmed pork and place it in a bowl large enough to accommodate it comfortably. Next take your cure and spread it evenly across the meat, being sure to work it into all of the meat, using your hands if necessary.

Meat rubbed with cure. Ready for refrigeration.

When your meat is fully covered place it in a plastic bag along with any excess cure and place it in the fridge for five days to a week, turning every couple of days and massaging the meat through the bag to really help the cure penetrate the meat. After a week or so, take your pancetta and place on a rack in the fridge. Some people like to wrap the meat in muslin at this stage but I didn’t bother.

Set aside the pancetta for anything up to four weeks. Anything longer than this and you probably want to use Prague powder number #2 as this is better for longer cures.

After this time your pancetta is basically ready. By now, the meat should have got much darker and be very firm to the touch.  Compare the photo below to the raw meat above.

Pancetta after 4 weeks.

Before you slice the meat, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to use it. Pancetta is great in a posh bacon sarnie or for wrapping meat  but it’s equally good cubed and stirred through pasta or even sliced very thinly and eaten raw. I decided to cut half of my bacon into thin rashers using the meat slicer and half into one centimetre cubes using the slicer and a knife.

Cubing Pancetta. 'Dead Homies' T Shirt optional.

The pancetta is absolutely fabulous. Gently fried or grilled, it gives a really herbal fragrant bacon with a distinct but not overpowering tang of fennel that provides a wonderful base for a variety of dishes. Raw, it’s just as good, with a taste like Parma ham and the complexity of flavours from the Italian herb blend. Try it!

Finished pancetta. Sliced and cubed.