Panchetta hanging blog

Photo by Donna

When my friend Heidi Robb asked recently to split some hog belly from Tea Hill Farms, I said, "You bet!"  I didn't really need it, but it is a personal moral imperative that, when offered pork belly, I must accept pork belly.  Also, I was low on pancetta, a grievous situation to be sure.

Happily I had some "Basic Dry Cure" on hand, so it literally took me less than five minutes to have the belly curing in the fridge.

This is all covered in Charcuterie, but I hope to encourage people here by saying that there is no reason home cooks shouldn't regularly be curing their own bacon.  Especially given such wonderful era in food, a time when I can go to my farmer's market in this rust belt city and buy belly of a hand-raised pig. You will have to mail order pink salt, sodium nitrite, but it's very inexpensive if you get it from butcher-packer.com. Strictly speaking you don't need it for safety in this case, but the pancetta won't have quite the same flavor and it will turn gray when you cook it.

The basic dry cure consists only of kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt.  I make a pound and a half of it and store it in a plastic container.  You can cure just about any of the thinner cuts by simply by dredging the meat in this mixture and adding aromatics. I've never tried it with, say, flank steak, but you could and you'd have a form of really easy corned beef (aromats for which would include pepper, mustard seed, chilli flakes, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger along with basic dry cure—hm, that's a really good idea! Will have to try this!).

Basic Dry Cure from Charcuterie
1 pound/450 grams kosher salt (2 cups Morton's coarse kosher salt)
8 ounces/225 grams sugar (about 1 cup)
2 ounces/50 grams pink salt (10 teaspoons)

Combine and mix till pink salt is uniformly distributed. Store indefinitely in air-tight container.

To make pancetta, salt the belly liberally with the basic dry cure; it should have a uniform coating on it, almost as if you'd dredged the belly.  Put the belly in a two-gallon zip-top bag and add brown sugar (a quarter cup or so should do it), garlic, peppercorns (preferably toasted and cracked in a mortar or beneath a saute pan), bay leaf, and if you happen to have them on hand, coriander seeds (also toasted and cracked), thyme, juniper berries.  Rub this stuff around on the belly, seal the bag, and store it in the refrigerator for a week, turning it and redistributing the cure at least every other day.

After 7 days (9 if it's a very fat piece, more than 2.5 inches), remove it from the bag, rinse all the cure off it, cut a hole in one corner and hang it to dry for a week.  And there is your pancetta (unsmoked bacon).

So, so good.  I took the skin off some of it (to use when cooking beans or making stock).  But the first thing I did was to wrap two thick slabs in foil and roast them for a couple hours at 250 degrees to make them tender.  I chilled them till I was ready to cook them: I sauteed them till they were crispy on both sides, then cut them into bite sized pieces and served them as an hors d'oeuvres when some friends came over for cocktail.  The slow roasting in an enclosed (therefore moist) environment, followed by searing, is a great technique, results in meltingly tender bite with the crispy exterior (and no loss of flavor to a braising liquid). No end to what you can pare with this, with scallops, with peas, with braised greens,  beneath a poached egg, or even as the featured ingredient in what would be a most excellent BLT!

No excuses, if you like to cook, for not curing your own pancetta.

Share

57 Wonderful responses to “Home Cured Pancetta!”

  • jdw

    I picked up a whole Berkshire belly (along with a cooler full of other cuts) at Newman Farm this past weekend that I plan to cure with this recipe. I went as part of a tour/pig roast party and I could not have been more impressed by the food, the Newman family or the farm! Michael Newman is running a VERY impressive operation. If you’re reading, Michael, a chapter what they’re doing way down there in the Ozarks would make an excellent read in a future book.

  • Lorri

    I have made pancetta twice according to MIchael’s recipe in Charcuterie. But, it has been very, very salty (and I like salt, so if it’s nearly too much for me, that’s too much). I now have a 3rd batch curing. Has anyone else had this problem and, if so, what have you done to correct it?

  • ruhlman

    Lorri, are you weighing your salt? if your belly is very thin that can be an issue too. just rein in the salt. just need a coating of it. if too salt, soak in water for four hours, and retaste!

  • Ben McLachlan

    Hello Michael,
    I followed this, to make pancetta at work,

    It turned the meat a blue color?

    any ideas, does this fade out, or is it normal.

    thanks
    ben

  • Fuji Mama

    I don’t know why I hadn’t ever thought to try this! I do have a couple of questions though. Any suggestions on how/where to hang it to dry? Also, once it has completed its requisite week of hanging, how long will it keep?

    I am ordering the pink salt today. Homemade BLTs here I come!

  • ruhlman

    i hang mine in my kitchen. anywhere where the temp doesn’t get higher than the low 70s. cooler the better.

  • Chris

    Michael,

    We have a wine cellar that is set at about 48* I believe. Would this be too cool to hang the meat?

  • David Nguyen

    Michael, thanks for all the great info! At home, I have Carl’s Ready Mix Curing Salt…however, the ingredients are Sea Salt, Sugar, and 0.8% Sodium Nitrite. The 0.8% worries me as it seems low. Should I just get the curing salt from butcher and packer?

    Also, can I wash out an old garbage can and use that to hang my pancetta. Maybe put a bowl of water and salt in with it?

    Thanks
    David

  • Wendy

    Michael–I didn’t see an answer to Henry’s question about the mold. I made pancetta for the first time two weeks ago, using your recipe (my nephew turned me on to the book) but my lovely roll ‘o pork belly developed green and white mold on the surface after abt 10 days of drying. I put it in the freezer to wait until I figured out if it was poisonous or not. Is it? Why did it mold? Thanks!

  • David

    Michael – Got your book as a gift years ago and have made countless pancettas, bacon slabs, and many of the other recipes, just wanted to say thanks for the great book.. We especially like the garlic sage pork chops.
    BTW to everyone worried about hanging their pancatta you can skip this step and still have a product superior to most you can buy.

    I’m considering a proscuitto next, any advice?

    Thanks again and keep up the good work

  • sbp

    I’ve got 4 sides of Berkshire pork belly cut into 16 slabs (about 2.5lbs each) curing in my refrigerator. Per “Charcuterie”, the drying/pellicle formation step takes place in the fridge. I just don’t have enough room for this! But the pancetta drying takes place at room temp, with similar cure ingredients. Is refrigerator drying bacon prior to smoking a MUST, or can I lay them out in pans on my ping-pong table with a fan blowing for a day?

  • ruhlman

    chad, you want the pink salt or TCM. don’t know what the yellow is, ask terra spice. pure sodium nitrite would be very dangerous!

  • Henry

    so I just pulled my first go at pancetta up from the basement, where it was hanging wrapped in cheesecloth for 10 days and I had mold (green and whitish and slightly fuzzy) on the lower 2/3.

    trimmed it up and fried a slice, delicious but thoughts on why I got the mold would be great. hanging in basement 60-65 degrees with fairly high humidity (all the rain here in DC keeps the basement pretty damp) also just not as firm as I had expected (felt very hard in fridge but softened up while hanging) just how firm should it be when its done hanging.

    I’ve got a piece of the fatty end of the same belly up as a lardo w/ some meat hanging in the same spot so I’m a bit concerned for its turn out as well.

    sorry for the length.

    cheers,
    H

  • Chris

    Again, echoing the concerns of others, I’m absolutely terrified to hang a hunk of meat in my house for a week (the smell, the bugs, the cat). But I guess I’ll give it a go since I’m determined to complete this BLT project. Oh, my husband is going to flip out!

  • Promethius

    Wow!
    I got show this to my mum! thanks for the cool recipe!
    it looks so good! any suggestions for side dishes for kids?! :)

  • Maria

    Would love to see some follow-up posts on how everybody uses the rest of the pancetta they make at home.

  • chad

    Hello, Michael.
    I have 2 types of cure salt bought from terra spice.
    One is labeled ‘pink curing salt,’ but says ‘TCM tinted cure mix 6.25% sodium nitrite).
    The other is labeled ‘yellow curing salt,’ and is pure sodium nitrite.
    What is the difference between the two. Your recipe calls for pink curing salt, so is that a 6.25% sodium nitrite mix?
    The difference is obviously huge, so I want to be sure on this.
    Also, are these blends standard as far as you know?

  • ruhlman

    neal, try and do at least a couple pounds, but better to do five! adjust amts accordingly.

    stumptown savory and carrie, you’ve given me an idea!

  • Whineaux

    I can’t wait to try this. Pancetta is crazy expensive in the store and what I can get in Orlando is not good quality. Thanks so much!

  • Brad Keller

    I am also wondering if hanging in a 65 degree basement will work. I need to keep it away from my dog. He loves bacon.

  • Andrew

    Again, I ask: how/where to dry meats when the temps and humidity are as high as they are during the summer months?

  • ruhlman

    andrew, you can cure a whole muscle for a week in warmer temps. if you have a cool cellar, that’s good too. a mini fridge also works great for curing, everything from pancetta to sausages.

  • Patrick (Pat) Macke

    When you state “I can go to my farmer’s market in this rust belt city and buy belly of a hand-raised pig.” where is that? West Side Market? I live in Kent, so a trip to WSM or some place reasonably equivalent would not be out of the question. Thanks in advance,

    Pat

  • Mike

    I’ve tried making bacon from the Charcuterie book using the dry cure from dextrose. It always seems to crisp up too much as if there is too much sugar in the cure. In this blog I noticed your recipe using granular sugar is nearly half the weight of using dextrose. Would I have better luck using the sugar ratio?

  • Neal L.

    How large a peice of belly should be used for this as far as poundage?

  • Carrie

    Oh lord, now I’m totally obsessed with making a BLT from scratch. It was a real mistake reading this post before I had my breakfast this morning. Luckily our tomatoes are still a couple of weeks away from maturity, so I think I have time to order Chacuterie and whip out some bacon. You’re making it all look too easy Michael! I have to stop buying your books – you’re blowing up my budget! Of course think of the money I’ll save making things from scratch instead of buying processed foods. Yeah yeah, that’s the way to spin it. :)

    My family already thinks I’ve gone a little nuts with the whole making everything from scratch revolution happening in the house (not that they’re complaining) – I wonder what my husband will say when he comes home to find meat hanging in the cabinets?

  • luis

    Again with the bacon? again with the bacon. Curing a piece of pancetta looks easy enough. Thanks for the link to internet store. I have been meaning to order a bunch of stuff to cure meats and make sausages. Someone said on Mings show tonite that “You are what you eat” and if you don’t know what you eat? It follows you don’t know who you are. The older I get the more I wish to retire to a place zoned for small farms. Close the gulf of Mexico, Make goat cheese, grow vegetables and cure my own meats.

  • David A. Goldfarb

    Jo–I find it holds up very well vacuum sealed and frozen. I use an ordinary Rival Seal-A-Meal vacuum sealer designed for home use. I usually have a chunk in the fridge as well, and find that that also stays quite well vacuum sealed. Vacuum sealer bags come in rolls, so I make the bag a bit on the long side, so that I can cut it and have room to reseal it afterward.

    I find that air dried meats benefit in general from vacuum sealing when they’re at optimal hardness. I picked this up from an old friend whose father was in the wholesale meat business and made soppressata for himself and his family. When the salami or dried meat is taken down, it’s dryer at the edges than in the middle, but after a few days or a week in a vacuum bag it has a more uniform texture.

  • Livia

    “cut a hole in one corner and hang it to dry for a week”
    Okay, I have a different question about this line. You have removed the pork belly from the bag… so did you put it back in the bag? If it’s not in a bag (as the picture appears not to be), in what are you cutting a hole?

  • Bob delGrosso

    Bridget
    Pink salt is a generic term for a mixture of sodium chloride (plain old salt) and sodium nitrite. It also refers to a mixture of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. In both cases they are colored pink to avoid confusion with plain salt (they all taste salty and smell the same so only a change of color is sufficient warning).

    Prague powder no.1 is a mixture of sodium chloride and sodium nitrite. Whereas Prague powder no. 2 is salt, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

    I suspect that the “Pink Salt” in the recipe is the same as Prague powder no.1 since it would be dangerous to use no.2 in a meat that is not going to age for a long time.

  • ruhlman

    you’re right david, it’s a lean meat, would have to serve with braising liquid, perhaps, or a fat based sauce. or cure a fatty piece of meat! though would you have to cook it through–don’t know what it would taste like if it was cooked medium rare…?

  • Natalie Sztern

    my local korean grocer has sliced pork belly which I happened to see today, amazing…can it be cured by the slice? I know nothing about pork belly…

  • jo

    Ok, I’m sold…not that it was a hard sell. But I am curious. Given the size of the chunk, how do you store it for long term – say 3 months or so? Hang it? Wrap it? in What? Freeze chunks to pull as needed?

  • Russ H

    With some of the new information you’ve given us here, have you considered an updated edition of “Charcuterie”?

  • Andrew

    Great post, but one problem: where to hang pancetta to dry now that we are in the warmer & moister months. It’s no problem hanging guanciale in my back stairwell from November to March or so, but now, not so much. Any tips?

  • Walt Smith

    Timely post Michael,

    I have some belly curing even as I write this and I’ll be hanging it up tonight. Last night we had flank steak and topped it with garden fresh arugula cooked down with some onion and home cured bacon.

    I love the flank steak idea. I think I’ll try and cure the next one.

    Thanks!

  • David A. Goldfarb

    I think flank steak would make kind of a dry corned beef, but might make a good bresaola.

    Sydney–I’ve made pancetta and other air dried meats and sausages in my apartment, and it’s worked well. Click on my name to see some photos.

    I have an otherwise useless nook in my poorly designed cabinets where I’ve hung some hooks for hanging meat. It’s a cool spot, and I use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity. If it gets too dry, I spray the meat with water every day or two, particularly for the first week, to keep the outside from forming an impermeable skin before the inside has a chance to dry.

  • Brigit Binns

    I have a bag of Insta Cure # 1 (“formerly Prague Powder #1″) from the Sausage Maker. It’s about 10 years old, leftover from when I tested a cured lamb thingy for Hans Rockenwagner’s cookbook – is that the same as pink salt? I’m getting ready to make your pancetta from Charcuterie…Also, I have a bunch of domino-shaped pieces of Ossabaw skin in my freezer, carved from roasts past…other than McLagan’s Cracklings, do you have any suggestions for it?

  • sygyzy

    This sounds great. I wonder where I can get a deal on a second fridge to temporarily store all the food displaced by the 2 feet by 3.5 feet space I’ll need for the hanging curing pork? :)

  • NWCajun

    Michael, do you see any real lose of flavor by not rolling it up with pepper? I’ve made your recipe from Charcuterie to rave reviews. Not rolling would alleviate any chance of mold in the crannies at the end of a roll, but I don’t want to sacrifice flavor. Thank you, Al W

  • ruhlman

    almost slowfood,i wouldn’t leave it out indefinitely or will turn into jerky. refrigerate for up to three weeks or freeze well wrapped for 6 mos.

    NWCajun, rolling it and hanging it for two weeks results in superior flavor, and aged alomst gamey savoriness. but this is quicker and easier and less intimidating for beginners.

  • NWCajun

    Thank you Michael, I’ll keep rolling and hanging. It really is fantastic stuff. Love “Charcuterie”. In fact, this weekend I’ll be making 30 lbs. of Smoked Andouille to serve at a 4th of July party. Thanks again.

  • Scotty j

    “cut a hole in one corner and hang it to dry for a week”
    I should know this but where do I hang it? Garage (80 degrees), house (72 degrees) or basemnent (65 degress)or do I need a refrigerator set at 50 degrees?

  • Hank

    What, no tight roll on that pancetta? ;-)

    Just put a slab of bacon cured with quatre epices and honey to hang, as well as a bigger slab of red-wine & black pepper cured tesa.

    You ever candy the rind after you cut it off a smoked side of bacon? Crunchy piggy goodness…

  • wm. christman

    i was scared to death the first time i made pancetta from the Charcuterie book. would it work? would i poison myself? etc… all of that turned out to be UNTRUE. as long as you maintain a level of cleanliness and are meticulous, you can easily do this.

    since i now make both on a regular basis, i very rarely buy bacon or pancetta from the store….some of my curing adventures are chronicled at the URL attached to my name in this comment.

    thanks Michael for encouraging this essential craft!

  • Almost Slowfood

    Wow! I know it will be amazing, but how long does it keep? Indefinitely? When you cut a slice off, do you just hang it back up ’til the next time? I am a bacon fanatic and would love to try this at home!

  • devlyn

    Thank you so much for Charcuterie. I have been curing my own bacon now and it is ridiculously good… so good it was almost a sin to cook it, so I would just shave off very thin slices and eat them up with everything… it was cooked to 160, so I figured it’d be safe. I’m almost out now, though, so I definitely need to pick up another pork belly. Nom nom nom.

  • StumptownSavoury

    That looks so good!

    Okay, fine. I’m already growing tomatoes and lettuce and baking bread. Mayo isn’t hard to make. I guess it’s only right to make my own bacon. Bet it’ll be a really fine BLT.

  • Vivian

    Definitely getting pork belly today. It has been too long since I made pancetta and that just sounds way too good right now.

  • Elmer

    I still remember watching you demo this when you were touring for Elements. I sat there thinking “that’s it?!? Why have I been talking about this, but haven’t tried it yet.” 2 1/2 years later, I have a small cave setup in the house that currently contains two rolled pancettas. They’ve been hanging for about three weeks now. Time to pull them.

    I have so many friends who have tried the bacon and pancetta, and swear it is the best they’ve ever had. It is world’s apart from Hormel or Boar’s Head, that is for sure.

  • Sydney

    I’m nervous about hanging meat in my apartment.

    Does anyone have any encouraging words of experience?

  • ruhlman

    sydney, it’s cured! nothing will happen, though keep it higher than the dog can jump. if you’re concerned, you can wrap in cheesecloth.

    Stumptown Savory: you hit the nail on the head with that one!