Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cured, aged, sometimes smoked

The hunk of meat above is homemade pancetta. Let me explain why it's hanging in my pantry.

Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn published a cookbook some time back called Charcuterie. I got a copy for my birthday last year and have been sampling cured meat tricks and processes from time to time since then. Experiments so far have included smoked salmon, chicken and garlic sausage links (made them on the afore mentioned birthday, as a matter of fact), cured duck breast (like the stuff I ate in Southwestern France a couple of Christmases ago), and some really fine pastrami. Lately I've turned to pig meat.

This fall we got half a hog from a local farmer. Pastured; raised without antibiotics; allowed to eat bugs, acorns, pecans, snakes, and just about anything a happy pig could desire to eat. It is very good pork, slightly gamy, but delicious. The bacon I made from part of the belly is some of the best I've ever tasted. That's it above in the iron skillet.

The pancetta up top is the most recent addition to my stock of cured pork. Since that photo was taken, the pancetta has finished its two-week stint of air drying and is now in the fridge.

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