I wanted to start my venture into curing with something a little idiot-proof, so I tried some guanciale, which is salt-cured hog jowl.
Ever seen a fresh, whole hog jowl? I hadn't.
To make everything more manageable, I split it into two halves.
Here's a close up of what I was looking at.
After trimming, I found the combined mass.
The recipe had 3% salt, so I had some math to do.
It got an equivalent amount of pepper.
I split the pepper in half. The first half would go with the jowls into the fridge, the second half would be applied for the sit in the curing chamber.
Ready for the fridge.
I had a second jowl, and wanted to see what difference (if any) that pink salt would do. The book said that it would make it have more of a bacon flavor. There was only one way to find out.
I started by splitting it in two, just as before.
Trimmed and combined mass was found.
Math and stuff.
Salt weighed out.
Pink salt measured.
To tell them apart, I marked which bag had the pink-salted jowls.
Here they are, under some weight for a few days in the fridge.
After their spell in the fridge, I tared the weight for some more measuring.
Here's one jowl after its time in the fridge.
The recipe said to use some white wine to rub it down. Well, if you insist....
Rinsed and rubbed with white wine, and a fresh coat of black pepper was applied.
I found its pre-hang weight and calculated a 30% weight loss target.
I used a knife to pierce a hole a ran some string through it to hang.
Here we go! The humidity is reading a little high, as I was still fine-tuning the new curing chamber.
I differenciated the labels so that I would know which jowls had used pink salt and which ones hadn't.
All four jowls were hung!
After a few weeks, I noticed that the weight loss had started to taper off, and had just about stalled. I was concerned that the skin was preventing the water from evaporating properly. In the interest of science I should have removed the skin on one of each of the two styles.
Knowing that I had a backup of each, I decided to see what was going on. So I picked one regular and one "pink" guanciale and went to see what was going on.
Here's what it looked like sliced.
Here's the other one.
To see if it indeed had more of a "bacon" flavor, I placed a slice of each in a pan. Interestingly, the fat turned clear when heat was applied.
Here they are, cooked. I don't recommend it. The stuff is great as part of a sauce or something, pretty good raw as part of a charcuterie course, but awful as "bacon."
I made the executive decision to leave it a couple of more weeks, as it didn't seem to hurt it any. They kept losing a little each week, but never really came down to their target weight. I blame the skin.
So here we are, 3 months later, and I finally pulled them, just out of boredom. They pretty much became stagnant in weight. They were as ready as they were ever going to be.
I sliced them up, and vacuum bagged them in chunks. They are amazing when added to something like a sauce or soup. The depth of flavor that they add is indescribable, and well worth the time and effort.