Making do

Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.
That doesn’t mean all is lost.  In cooking, as in life, adapting and adjusting is key to success.
For instance: A couple of weeks back, I got an email from Bobolink Dairy an artisinal bread and cheese making operation in Vernon, NJ announcing the availability of some whey-fed pork for sale.  Besides the bread and raw milk cheeses (of which their traditional cave aged cheddar is a favorite in this house), Bobolink also raises grass-fed beef cattle and pigs fed on the whey leftover from the dairy operation. (check out their online store here)
I’ve previously tried some of their pork chops and found them quite tasty.  When I saw that they had some fresh pork belly and pork jowls available, I thought I’d order some.  The belly was either going to be bacon or pancetta.  The jowl would be my first attempt at guanciale…a traditional Italian cured meat used for seasoning pasta sauces and such. 

Guanciale in the making

My enthusiasm was attenuated somewhat by the fact that the pieces of meat I ordered were smaller than I had hoped.  No matter, I thought, I’ll adjust my plans to fit what arrives.  The jowl I did cure for the guanciale.  It’s currently hanging to dry for anywhere between one and three weeks.
The two pieces of pork belly are about three-quarters of pound each.  Too small to turn into pancetta but the right size for testing the recipe for sweeter cure that included some maple syrup.  The plan, was to smoke the cured pieces over some maple wood to enhance the maple character.  Alas, when the day came to smoke the pork, we were in the middle of a snowstorm and the thought of tending the grill for even a couple of hours in the winter weather was unappealing. 
The cured meat would hold for up to three days in the fridge, but I was going to have to do something with it. I opted to finish the bellies in a 200 degree oven.  It’s essentially the same process (low and slow) as the smoking…minus the smoke.  The finished product won’t be quite as tasty as the smoked version, but it will give me a better chance to evaluate the flavor of the cure itself.

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One Response to “Making do”

  1. Pig parts and more « Dj'eat? Says:

    […] noted previously I have become interested, some would say obsessed, with the art and craft of curing […]

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