Pancetta - Part 2

For updated information about making a curing chamber see - Converting a Fridge into a Curing Chamber

The Pancetta I started on the 13th November was left to cure a week longer than I had planned as I was curing other things like ham in the fridge that I use. The temperature requirements for curing and drying are different, curing at below 8°C and drying at 12-15°. With the types of cure that I use, this is not a problem as the salt and cure that is put on the meat is the same as the level I require in the product; unlike some older curing methods, the finished meat can never get too salty.

The pancetta has now been washed, dried off, and coated with a light dusting of black pepper, bay leaves and a little dried red chilli.

It'll hang in the fridge to air-dry for anything from two weeks to a month; ideally at 12-15°C with a relative humidity of around 70%. Now, the temperature I can control easily 'cos my good mate and electronic wizard Malcolm (some say he can actually see electric) Tarratt has made me a special controller to do just that...

Temperature control

Controlling the humidity is a little more problematic, not least because my digital thermometer/hygrometer seems to be on the blink! Usually a tray of damp salt will get the humidity to hover around 70% - at the moment it's reading 95%. Whether this is just the hygrometer reading incorrectly, or whether it's because the humidity at the moment is high anyway, is yet to be seen. Certainly, in the past, the problem has been getting the humidity in the 'fridge' up to 70 not down to it! This is not a major issue with Pancetta but will need sorting out before I air-dry sausage, where the humidity is more important. Anyway, here's the Pancetta now...

The Pancetta drying

The spots are the the black pepper mix - not mould or muck!

For the curing instructions please see the previous entry... Pigs and Pancetta>
For the finished product please see - Pancetta Part 3 - ready to use

Cornish Pasties

A recent BBC news item about a group of pasty enthusiasts travelling 220 miles just to eat pasties reminded me that I photographed a pasty making session a few months ago, but didn't post the pictures, as I thought I could do better. The remarkable thing is that the pasties in the photo on the BBC look remarkably like mine! So here goes...

Dice potatoes, swede and onion and season well with salt and white pepper. Cut some beef into small pieces - use something like skirt, collar, blade or chuck. Make shortcrust pastry using half lard to plain flour, don't try to make a good pastry with as little water as possible, make it badly and even add a bit of lemon juice - if you make a delicate pastry it just crumbles apart when you cook it.

Roll out and cut out circles of pastry - rest these against your rolling pin while you put the filling in...

Filling the Cornish Pasty

Seal the edges together using a bit of water and 'crimp' by pinching the dough and folding it over - easier to do than explain...

The Cornish Pasty ready for the oven

Egg wash it then cook at 190°C for ten minutes, then cook for about 30 minutes more at 170°C-180°C.

The finished Cornish Pasty

They're great for the 'post pub' munchies!

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Pigs and Pancetta

Many local farm suppliers are only too happy to sell you half a pig, usually rare breed; Gloucester Old Spot and the like. They generally weigh around 55-60lbs for the whole side before boning and making into whatever pieces you require.

For curing, I want a side off a much larger pig, a 'baconer'; a side of this will weigh between 80-100lbs. The one I picked up last week from Don Hutton at Warwick Bridge Farm, Littlethorpe weighed 93lbs and has given me 75lbs of usable meat (60lbs excluding hocks, trotters, liver, heart and cheek). By the time it's converted into ham, bacon, sausage, faggots etc I'll have about 70lbs of edible products, with a value had I bought them, of £200-£300. This photo of a piece of loin being dry cured for back bacon shows the size of this 'beggar'.

Loin of Pork

Don also sells 'normal sized' pigs in ¼ pig packs ready butchered for the freezer!


I've made all the usual things like , and and decided that my first venture into air drying meat would be pancetta. This Italian streaky bacon is made by dry curing bacon with a load of spices added to the cure, and then hanging it up to dry for a month or so - apart from the spices, that's how we made bacon a few years ago! Supermarket price is between £7.50/lb and £13.50/lb - mine about £1.50!

Firstly, take a nice chunk of belly pork:

Belly Pork

Make up the following cure:

Weigh the meat and mix the following percentages of its weight.
Salt 2.4%
Black Pepper 1.9%
Brown Sugar 1.1%
Cure #2 0.26%
Juniper 0.43%
Bay Leaves 0.07%
Nutmeg 0.19%
Dry Thyme 0.12%
Garlic 2 cloves per kg

You can buy cure #2 from You will need scales accurate to at least a tenth of a gram to weigh it: these can be bought cheaply on ebay for about £10.

Click here, there's more to read...

Slow Food & the Electicity Monitor

When we changed to a new electricity tariff a couple of months ago, we were given a free? electricity monitor; the effect has been amazing. We now have the alpha male (me!) running around like a headless chicken turning everything off!

Slow CookerPart of the current economy drive (lousy pun) has been to buy a slow cooker, or crock pot; I like crock pot best 'cos crock's what I am!

So far we've had beef casserole, chicken casserole, and as I speak a chunk of brisket is happily chugging away in it. The only problem is that when food takes 8 - 10 hours to cook, you have to be up far too early in the morning to turn it on. However, casseroles are great cooked one day: eaten the next.

Now, without wanting to upset the millions of people who think Jamie Oliver is God - when he says that there is no need to brown the meat for stews, he is just plain wrong; I tried it and there was nowhere near the same depth of flavour, the same also applies, almost more so for some reason, to the onions and stewing vegetables. It's like using water instead of stock, you'll make a nice stew - but it won't be as good... When you start telling people to cut corners, it's OK if they just cut one, but when they have heard loads of corner cutting tips, someone is bound to cut them all at once... better not to start in the first place.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know what Jamie's trying to do, and commend him for it; if people cook 'proppa' food 'cos they don't have to brown the meat, instead of eating ready meals, then I'm all for it. However, in my experience people, once introduced to good home cooking, become almost evangelical and will be quite happy to brown the meat etc.

Looking again though at his recipe, he actually says that it tastes better not browned; mind you his recipe looks highly flavoured in other areas - I prefer to let the flavour of the meat shine through, that's probably why we probably differ - as if he cares what I think anyway!

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