Guanciale - Salt cured pork cheek

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    • Guanciale - Salt cured pork cheek

      Guanciale is my all time favourite meat product. Made by salt curing pork cheek (or jowl) it is full of yummy goodness.
      The depth of flavour and flexibility of Guanciale is second to none. It is unbelievable used in pasta sauces, but also shines in soups, sliced thinly with eggs and pretty much any dish that lists bacon or pancetta as an ingredient.

      The bad news is that it is quite hard to find in the shops. The good news is that it is very easy to make at home, as long as you have a bit of patience to go through the curing process.

      Where do you start?

      You need just 3 items:
      Pork cheeks:


      A large container such as this plastic box (Styrofoam boxes will work also):


      And a bag of rock salt:


      The next step is to prepare the pork cheeks by removing any loose bits. I normally also remove any glands that are left on them, but I ashamedly forgot to do it this time (so I removed them before use which still achieves the same outcome):
      Pork cheeks or jowl start out looking like this:


      and after a quick tidy up they are ready for curing:


      Make some small holes in the corner of the box. These will be used to drain away the dripping fat generated during the curing process:


      Place a layer of salt at least 2cm thick on the bottom of the box:


      Place the pork cheeks inside the box, making sure you keep them well away from the sides of the box:



      Place the box at an angle, with the holes on the lowest corner (I hope you like my lego adjustable platforms :D ).
      Place a large container under the holes of the box to catch the dripping fat. The plate you can see in the picture had to be emptied twice for the amount of Guanciale that I made in this batch:


      Now cover the meat with salt and make sure you don't leave any gaps.
      For the next 3 weeks all you'll need to do is check on the container of drippings and empty as necessary. Please be sensible and remember that the 3 week period of curing should be at reasonable temperatures. I wouldn't attempt this in the middle of summer unless I had a cool room to do it in, but if you have an area where the temp doesn't go above 25 degrees Celsius you should be ok. I've never had anything spoil and I've always made guanciale at room temperature. Trust in the preserving power of salt, but please use your nose and your brain as backups.


      After 3 weeks, you can remove the pork from the salt and it should look like this:


      Remove as much salt as you can by hand and wash the rest off in the sink. I use cheap white wine for this rinsing process:


      Pat the Guanciale pieces dry, then brush the tiniest amount of olive oil on it. Use your hands and pat it dry if you get too much oil on, otherwise it will drip when you hang it:


      This is the final step, use white pepper and black pepper to dust the guanciale generously, making sure it gets in every nook and cranny. Do this step more than once if you have to, but make sure the Guanciale has a nice thin coating of black and white pepper. This is what it should look like:


      At this point the guanciale is ready to be used, but if left to dry for a period it will continue to develop its flavour, so thread some twine in one of the corners and hang it for a few more weeks:


      Slice, fry, mix and Buon appetito!
      Cheers,
      Narm Naleg
      Maximus Wood Fired Oven | GMG Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Weber Genesis E320 | Weber Go Anywhere |
    • Narm Naleg wrote:

      Nath wrote:

      Could you do this in the fridge?
      I can't think of a reason why you couldn't. Maybe it would take a little longer as everything would slow down a bit?
      It's the humidity in the fridge in the hanging phase you need to think about.

      Now we need to get a copy of this into Recipes! :thumbsup:
    • Urban Griller wrote:

      It's the humidity in the fridge in the hanging phase you need to think about.
      The hanging is not as temperature sensitive, I normally just hang in in a room that doesn't get much sunlight. After a few weeks of hanging it can be cut into pieces, vac sealed and frozen.


      Urban Griller wrote:

      Now we need to get a copy of this into Recipes!
      Yep, I better get onto that! :D
      Cheers,
      Narm Naleg
      Maximus Wood Fired Oven | GMG Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Weber Genesis E320 | Weber Go Anywhere |