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Recipe: Pancetta Tesa, Italian cured pork belly, from 'Salumi'

Here's one of the simpler recipes from "Salumi," by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, featured in today's Buffalo News.

Pancetta Tesa

This is one of the easiest and most satisfying salumi preparations to make at home: belly cured with salt and lots of aromatics, rinsed, and hung to dry. That’s all there is to it. You don’t even need any special drying area: you can simply hang it from a hook in your kitchen for a couple weeks, and it will be fabulous (though if you have a drying chamber, by all means use it). And you don’t have to dry it if you don’t want to: maybe you’ll be so hungry for it that you won’t be able to wait and you’ll want to cook and eat it right away. However, when you dry it, you intensify its flavor and make it a little more dense and chewy than if you were to cook it right away. Pancetta is usually used in cooking, but if you want to serve it with other salumi, thinly sliced and not cooked, we recommend following the basic dry-cure procedure and drying it until it has lost 30 percent of its original weight. Because we use a lot of aromatics in the cure, we’re providing exact measurements, but feel free to use the salt-box method (see pages 79–80) to cure the belly if you wish.

Pork belly can come with skin or without. Buy it with the skin if possible. The skin will help the belly to keep its shape as it dries. But skin must be cooked in order to become tender; if slicing the belly to eat without cooking it, as for a salumi board, remove the skin. The skin can be added to stocks and soups for great body, or it can be braised until tender and fried for cracklings. If you’re unable to buy skin-on belly, don’t worry; the belly itself will be just as good.
4.8 ounces/135 grams sea salt (salt-box method, see pages 79–80, or 3% of the weight of the meat)
3 tablespoons/18 grams black peppercorns, toasted and roughly cracked in a mortar with a pestle or beneath a sauté pan
¼ cup/20 grams juniper berries, crushed
8 garlic cloves, minced
8 bay leaves, crumbled
8 rosemary sprigs
One 10-pound/4500-gram fresh pork belly

1. Combine the cure ingredients in a nonreactive container large enough to hold the belly flat (or use a zip-top plastic bag; see page 106). Add the belly and rub the cure all over it. Refrigerate for 5 days, flipping the meat and rerubbing it to redistribute the cure at least once, midway through curing.

2. Remove the belly from the pan and rinse off the cure ingredients under cold running water.

3. If you’re using weight to determine doneness, weigh the meat and record the result. Poke a hole through one corner of the belly, run a piece of butcher’s string through the hole, and knot it. Hang the belly for 2 to 3 weeks, or until it’s lost 30 percent of its weight.

Yield: One 7-pound/3000-gram pancetta

“Reprinted from Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Photographs copyright © 2012 by Gentl & Hyers. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.”


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