Monday, December 21, 2009
Posted by Kate at 7:53 AM
I thought an in-progress report would be appropriate for my first home curing experiment. After removing the guanciale from the refrigerator, I succumbed to temptation and smoked one of them in my homemade garbage can smoker, with wood chips from our own apple tree. This is entirely inauthentic, and I'm not even sure I should continue to call that jowl guanciale. But what can I say? We like smoked pork products, and I thought a side-by-side comparison would be interesting. I smoked the one jowl for about four hours. The smoker was quite warm during that time, but not what I would call truly hot.
The jowls have now been air curing for over two weeks. I rigged up a pretty crude hanging system in the unheated garage, using a tomato cage plucked from the garden supplies. I just wanted to make sure no critters could climb up to them. If rats were a concern, this simple design wouldn't cut it. But all we've ever seen evidence of in the garage is mice, and none lately. So this should be fine.
I was surprised to find that the jowls started dripping again after bringing them into the garage. When they hung in the refrigerator, they lost enough moisture to drip for a day or two, and then stopped for three or four days. I suppose the slightly higher temperature of the garage changed things. Even with very low overnight temperatures, the garage has been consistently in the low- to mid-40's F. I keep them over newspaper so that salty meat goo doesn't fall on the garage floor.
The smell of the jowls is nice. The smoked one obviously smells smoky and delicious. The unsmoked one has very little smell at all, just a faint meaty scent like what you'd get from a very firm hard salami. I can see that both of the cuts are getting smaller as they lose moisture. Unfortunately, I didn't weigh them before I started the curing process, so I have no idea what the figures are. They are also becoming noticeably stiffer as they cure.
The plan is to let the jowls cure for at least two more weeks. After that, it's carbonara time, baby! I recently picked up a couple good sized hunks of Asiago-style grating cheese from a local grass-based dairy. I'd prefer a pecorino for carbonara, but I'll take what I can find in my own area. Since the cheese is so well aged, it'll hold for months in the refrigerator. Not that it's likely to last that long.