Not too long ago I expressed some excitement about making a Carbonara with the pancetta from this pig. Although I love that pancetta like a brother, guanciale is the traditional main ingredient in this age old pasta dish. As a matter of fact if you tried to sneak pancetta in the dish with a true Roman at the table chances are they wont even eat it after the first bite. Before ever eating this hard to find cut, I thought , “what’s the diference, they are basically the same right?” 75% fat and the rest meat and skin they both must taste the same.
You know what they say about assumptions right…this is a totally different animal. When you bite down on a little sautéed cube of guanciale it bursts a flavor bomb of salty, herb infused pork fat in your mouth with a tender chew of the meat which runs through the center of the jowl. Pancetta tends to be a bit more on the tough side in my opinion.
Just so everyone is on the same page this cut originates on the head of the hog. It is essentially its whole cheek from the lip up the jaw line all the way around below the ear and under the eye. That whole piece is cut off and dry cured for 5-7 days depending on how thick the jowl is. Mine was in the cure for 6 days and I felt it was too salty after the taste test. I will reduce the cure time by a day next year. I added black pepper and dried rosemary to the cure but could not really taste the rosemary. I will stick to using fresh spices next time, traditionally thyme is used.
If you can get your hands on a jowl, this is one of the easiest ways to start curing meat. for the cure you need 3.5% salt (% of total weight of the meat) 1% black pepper and 1% of whatever spices you like. Rub down the meat and transfer to a zip loc bag with all of the cure mixture. Let it stay in the fridge for 5-7 business days rubbing and turning every day. When it feels firm take it out rinse in cold water and dry off. Hang in a cool damp place for 2-4 weeks and your in.