There is often some confusion about the difference between pancetta and bacon. While both pancetta and bacon are made from the same cut of pork (pork belly), the methods of making each are different. In fact, pancetta is much easier to make and can be made at home with very little effort. This is because while bacon is cured and cold smoked before it reaches you in a packet, pancetta is simply cured, but for longer.
Bacon is often substituted for pancetta in Italian recipes outside of Italy, but to me the flavour profile and texture of pancetta is quite different. Pancetta is often cured with spices and herbs that elevate and add extra flavour and a complexity to the pork, while bacon has a simple curing mix and then a smokiness that comes from its final cold-smoke.
Pancetta is much more commonly available in supermarkets these days, so there is no need to substitute bacon for the real thing, but if you want to elevate your pancetta dishes that much further, then why not try curing your own homemade pancetta. All you need are herbs, spices, salt and a vac seal bag.
Pork belly is a wonderful cut of meat. While it’s not very heathy with all of that delicious fat, it is incredibly flavourful and should definitely be enjoyed with reckless abandon. I love to order it when I am out, but try not too cook it too often at home for fear of having it slip into my regular diet. My friends at Murray Valley Pork sent me a great piece of pork belly a little while ago and so I used it to make both homemade pancetta, and this Twice Cooked Caramelised Pork Belly.
The homemade pancetta process begins with a salt cure. For mine I used salt juniper berry, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and pink peppercorns. After trimming the excess fat from the pork belly, you simply rub the mix all over, vac seal it and leave it in your fridge for 7 days, turning the bag over every day. After the 7 day mark, the pork will have released juices from the cure and you simply cut open the bag and wash the salt cure off under cold water.
After that, you prepare a second cure without salt (I used black peppercorns, more juniper berry, bay leaves and chilli flakes). You pat that all over the pork and place it on a metal stand (this allows air to circulate around the meat so it can cure evenly) and place it at the back of your fridge and leave it for 3 weeks. That’s it…Really! Patience is all you need really.
Then it is just a matter of finding your favourite pancetta recipe and using your own special homemade pancetta. It will taste all the more special if you made it yourself.
To help with some ideas for how best to use your homemade pancetta, why not try these great dishes:
- Chew Town’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara – just replace the guanciale with pancetta.
- Lucio Galletto’s Baked Quail wrapped in pancetta
- Scallops with Pancetta
- Herbed Pea and Pancetta Risotto
- Frisee Salad with Roasted Figs and Pancetta Croutons
- Polpettone Wrapped in Pancetta
- 500g pork pelly
- 15g sea salt
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Begin by removing excess fat from the top of the pork belly. Pat the pork belly completely dry with paper towel and set aside.
To make the salt cure, grind together juniper berries, coriander and fennel seeds and pink peppercorns in a spice grinder until roughly ground. Combine with the sea salt and rub the cure evenly on all sides of the pork belly, using the whole cure. Place in a vac seal bag and seal with your machine to remove all the air. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 7 days, making sure that the turn the bag over once a day.
After 7 days, wash the salt cure off the pork completely under cold water and then pat the pork dry. You then prepare the spice cure combining the ingredients in a spice grinder and grinding to a rough powder. Pat all over the pork and then place the pork on a small wire rack ensuring air can circulate around the pork. Place the rack at the back of your refrigerator and leave it for three weeks. You want it to be at the back because you want to put it in a spot that has the most consistent temperature and won't be too affected by you opening and closing the fridge door.
After three weeks, the pancetta is ready. You can slice it or cut it into cubes and use it in to cook your favourite recipe.
Chew Town was not paid to develop this recipe, but was gifted the Pork from Murray Valley Pork with thanks. Visit here for a list of Murray Valley Pork butchers. To read Chew Town’s disclosure policy please visit the About page.