Want to give some elementary pork-curing a try?
The Hainers were kind enough to share their master treatment behind bacon, pancetta, and guanciale. As for acquiring the raw materials, the Hainers say, “Talk to your local butcher or farmer. If you can get meat from a humanely-raised heritage-breed hog, you’ll appreciate the difference!”
• 5 pounds of pork belly meat (for bacon or pancetta) or jowl (for guanciale)
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
• 1 tablespoon juniper berries
• 1 teaspoon whole mace or 1/4 of a whole nutmeg
• 3 garlic cloves
• 3-5 dry bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon each dried oregano, thyme, and marjoram
• 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup Morton’s Tender Quick curing salt*
OR 1/4 cup kosher salt + 1 teaspoon Prague powder #1 (available online).
THE POST-CURE RUB
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, ground
• 1 tablespoon dried herbs of choice
Pound, crush, or grind together the cure ingredients. Rub the mixture well into the meat. Enclose meat in non-reactive airtight container—plastic bag, glass vessel, or resealable food-grade plastic tub.
Refrigerate 10 days, turning and redistributing the meat each day, and pouring off the juices.
Rinse and dry meat. (For pancetta, skin the belly, roll tightly and tie before proceeding.) Rub with post-cure ingredients. Wrap tightly in cheesecloth. Place on a rack and refrigerate 2-4 weeks to finish. (If you have a cold humid attic or garage—55 degrees F and 75% humidity is ideal—skip the fridge and hang it up there!) For unsmoked meat, that’s it. Use in recipes calling for pancetta or guanciale. If there’s more than you can use soon, cut off and freeze a portion.
Want smoke? The Hainers finish their bacon with a spell in the smoker with applewood and oak. You can also submit the jowl to the same treatment.
Whatever kind of smoker you use, expect to try to keep the temperature in the neighborhood of 180-200 degrees F for about 3 hours (longer for the jowl, due to its thickness). Remember that the very first smoke that comes in contact with the meat will have the deepest impact, so start right out with the nicest applewood. Keep it low and slow until the meat’s internal temperature tops 145 degrees F.
Chill the meat quickly and wrap airtight. Slice and fry within a few days; freeze any portion you won’t use within a week.
*Confession: edible South Shore & South Coast made ours without the curing salt because we knew that we would cook, eat, or freeze the cured meat soon after completion. For any meat that is meant to keep longer-term, especially unrefrigerated—think prosciutto—the nitrites and nitrates in the curing salt are more essential.