Pancetta and air drying
I’ve made panchetta a few times, most recently late spring. It’s a savoury dry rub on pork belly that’s cured for a week, rolled and hung for several weeks: I follow the Charcuterie recipe. Pancetta is an Italian bacon that has a nice savoury flavour.
A key part of the process is the air drying or curing. It reduces the liquid and concentrates the flavours; with smoked products the low heat does the same thing. My issue is finding the right spot to air dry: it’s recommended to air dry in a 60% humidity spot with a temperature of 55-60 degreees.
I have a cold room that maintains about that temperature in spring and fall with humidity about 65%: I know this because I picked up an inexpensive hygrometer for $20 and it gets the job done. Summer got too hot in there and this will be my first winter measuring so we’ll see. Lots of people online use an old refrigerator for curing but I don’t have one and am not sure I want to do that route anyway.
Above is my pancetta: it hung for two months. Half of it was dry and very nice, the other half not so dry. Since it hung that long I’m not sure what would stop the drying but am going to point the finger at stagnant air. During the curing I had light mold develop several times that I cleaned with an oiled towel on the suggestion of Michael Ruhlman. Some mold got into one end and I cut that off and threw it away. I can roll it very tightly to keep mold out using a surgeon’s knot but the ends open slightly and I haven’t developed a nice tying technique to keep them closed.
My strategy this fall is to put a small oscillating fan in the cold room on a timer to get the air moving now and again.