Homemade Guanciale – Smoky GEDROOGD KEELSPEK
Although nowadays many associate Italy with olive oil, it has not always been customary to use olive oil in the preparation of dishes. Before the olive groves made their advance, the Italians made more frequent use of pork fat. The salting and drying of pork made it possible to extend the storage time and made this source of fat more accessible to ordinary people. Nowadays, this use only lives on for the sake of taste. Think of Pancetta, prosciutto but especially the tasteful Guanciale. Wondering what it is and how you can make it yourself? Then this post is definitely something for you!
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GUANCIALE – ORIGIN
Guanciale has its origins in central Italy. Think of the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Rome where until today Guanciale is still often used in dishes such as Pasta Carbonara. The term “Guanciale” is derived from the Italian word “Guancia” meaning jaw or cheek. In these regions the fat rich cheek of the pig was used. In other regions they look for it a bit lower on the head and often use throat bacon (which I also used in this post).
As with many delicious dishes, the preservation of ingredients is at the origin of this delicacy. In rural families it was customary to keep one or more pigs for their own use. Since this meat could not be consumed in one day and they also wanted to keep some pieces for the colder winter months, they decided to find out how to keep these pieces. Pickling in salt and pepper was the first way to preserve the meat. Then they airdried the meat and fat dry. Although the smoking of Guanciale was not common, I do add an extra touch of smoke to this post. Just because it can add value to the dish.
Although Guanciale can perfectly be eaten raw as cold meat in fine cuts, it is less common. Its high fat content may make it less healthy as a snack than a carrot with tapenade. But once in a while we must also dare to live without thinking of all kinds of rules andconsequences. However, this dried cheek has a rich tradition as a fat and flavouring in traditional Italian dishes. Animal fats have a higher combustion temperature which makes them more suitable for hot dishes than olive oil. When used, you can melt the fat as a base for frying. The pieces of meat and the fat give your pasta (or other dishes) a spicy smoky depth that you as a meat lover will undoubtedly enjoy!
A brine is a delicate process that many people look against because of the use of Nitrite salt. Partly understandable. At first it scared me too. But by reading in carefully and adhering to the legal provisions, you have nothing to fear. The limits are very strict, so eating certain vegetables contains even more nitrite than the amount that ends up in your meat. Nevertheless, be careful and do NOT confuse nitrite pickling salt with Prague Powder. Use this calculator if you want to know the maximum amount of nitrite salt you can put in your brine. If you still need salt to comply with a recipe, you can add coarse salt if necessary. In this recipe we use the technique of balance brining. In this post you can find some more information.
NOT CONVINCED YET? NO PROBLEM! IT WOULD BE A SHAME IF EVERYONE SUDDENLY STARTS BUYING SKULLCAP TO MAKE GUANCIALE. THEN THE PRICE OF THE BACON WILL RISE AS MUCH AS THAT OF THE PORK CHEEKS AND I’D RATHER NOT SEE THAT HAPPEN BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE THIS MORE OFTEN. FORTUNATELY I’M SELFLESS IN SHARING THESE RECIPES AND I’M HAPPY TO RUN THE RISK OF INSPIRING YOU. IS IT LUCKY? THEN I’D LIKE TO HEAR IT
More delicious homemade recipes:
Mama Mia! How delicious is this? You sometimes read about Guanciale in traditional Italian dishes but what is it? And can you just replace it with bacon if you can't find it? No! Just make it yourself! It's not that hard and the taste is phenomenal! What are you waiting for? To the butcher for a piece of pork throat (neck fat?)!!!
- 700 gr pork neck fat
- 18 gr nitrite salt
- 4 gr coarse salt
- 18 gr brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground laurel powder
- 1 tsp garlic granulate
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp allspice
Mix all the ingredients of the brine! You can easily vary the added flavours as long as you respect the base of minus 3-4% curing salt of the total meat weight.
Rub the brine thoroughly with the salt and place it in a vacuum bag. Make sure that all the salt from your brine mix goes into the bag. Vacuum the meat with a food saver.
Place the meat in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. When curing a larger piece of meat, it may take up to 3 weeks for the curing salt to penetrate to the core.
Remove the brine from the bag rinse the piece of meat with water and pat dry. Now you are ready for smoking.
Fill your cold smoke generator with beech moth, but don’t push it. Experience shows that the coarser pieces of smoke moth go out. You can buy very fine sawdust or grind the coarser pieces in a blender.
Light the sawdust with a fire torch or candle. As soon as you obtain a thin blue smoke, place the meat on your grill and smoke the piece for 10 hrs.
Attention: for safety reasons, the dome temperature may not exceed 25°C. Otherwise bacteria get the chance to grow…
After 10 hours of smoking, remove the bacon from the BBQ.
Roll the smoked throat bacon in a muslin and knot carefully with kitchen string.
Hang the packed pieces of guanciale in your fridge to dry. Make sure that the pieces of meat don’t touch each other and the wall of the fridge to prevent spoilage.
Let the meat dry until it has lost 30% of its weight. These are the meat juices that are extracted from the meat leaving you with a delicious piece of bacon with a delicious concentrated flavor.
Read carefully about the use of nitrite salt! This blog is not responsible for misuse.